There are many articles on the internet that will tell you how to cook things “perfectly,” but I ask you, fair reader, what exactly is “perfect”? Is there really one absolute way to savor anything? Sure, there are ideal states for some dishes, but isn’t there also beauty in foods that are interesting ducklings and not flawless swans? What of those who covet the skin on pudding, or fight for the overdone corner from a pan of brownies? There are people out there who like their steaks cooked well done, and while I may believe these people are monsters, shouldn’t they be allowed to live their lives how they want?

There are flavors and textures that are rarely spoken of and yet impossible to resist. One of the most seductive textures is also one of the most elusive: the near-burnt. I'm talking about the piece of pizza cheese that sticks to the box; the nub of fat that hangs off a steak bone; the tiny French fry that gets stuck in the basket and endures multiple dips in the fryer before breaking free and taking its place with its golden brown brethren. There’s no need to cross your fingers and hope to win the French fry lottery when, in reality, you can make scandalously crispy potatoes in the comfort of your own home. They may not be traditionally good looking, but, in their own way, they will be the sexiest potatoes of them all.

What you'll need:

  • Cast iron or nonstick skillet
  • A flat-bottomed pot slightly smaller than your skillet
  • A large can or two small ones
  • Frozen French fries, any cut
  • A big microwave safe bowl
  • A small sheet pan or platter, lined with paper towels
  • High-heat oil, like Canola
  • Salt

Directions

  1. Dump the entire bag of fries into the bowl with about two tablespoons of water. Cover with plastic wrap, cut a small slash to vent, and microwave for five minutes until totally thawed and pathetically limp.

  2. Dump the fries onto the sheet pan and spread them out to let all the steam escape. While that’s happening, heat your skillet over high heat and brush with a bit of oil.

  3. Dry out the bowl and put the fries back in with a few tablespoons of oil, then cover with the sheet pan and shake aggressively. By bruising up the outside of those fries, we’re creating lots of mushy surface area to turn into crispy bits.

  4. Lay out the fries across the pan, working in batches if necessary. Place the flat-bottomed pot over the fries, weigh down with the cans, turn the head town to medium and let it brown for a minute or two. Remove the can, flip potatoes over, and repeat.