Is there a more perfect food than the humble french fry? All signs point to no. The fried potato with a crispy exterior and mushy inside, topped with salt and dipped into your choice of condiment, has become an American mealtime staple.
But not all fries are created equal, especially when it comes to the frozen variety that you can make at home in a pinch. Despite being baked in an oven or tossed in an air fryer, they don’t always achieve the crunchy perfection you’re craving, leaving you unsatisfied and, at times, downright disappointed.
So we decided to put five popular grocery store brands to the ultimate crisp test so that you can take the guesswork out of which to buy going forward (and focus more on the perfect honey mustard to serve with them, because that’s equally as important).
How we chose the fries
There are dozens of frozen fry varieties on the market, but we selected what was most readily available on Amazon Fresh and in major grocery stores. The five contenders:
- Ore-Ida Golden Steak French Fried Potatoes
- Cascadian Farm Organic Crinkle Cut French Fries
- Grown in Idaho Super Crispy Steak Cut Fries
- Red Robin Seasoned Steak Fries
- Market Pantry Crispy Crinkle Cut Fries
Fry type (i.e. crinkle vs. steak) is obviously a personal decision and can certainly contribute to overall crispiness. We simply purchased what was in stock, perceived to be the most popular, and/or advertised as "crispy."
Air fryers may be mainstream appliances and they’ll undoubtedly offer the best crunch (other than deep frying, of course), but we decided to go the traditional route and test these products in an oven.
Keep in mind that no matter the fry, smaller pieces will cook and crisp quicker, so we were looking for consistency across all sizes and baked a handful of each.
To start, we separated the bags by suggested cooking temperatures and times. Ore-Ida Golden Steak French Fried Potatoes and Cascadian Farm Organic Crinkle Cut French Fries required 450 F, with the former lasting about 10 minutes longer and requiring a mid-way flip.
The remaining three — Grown in Idaho Super Crispy Steak Cut Fries, Red Robin Seasoned Steak Fries and Market Pantry Crispy Crinkle Cut Fries — all shared similar cooking instructions, but at 425 F. We cooked them for 25 minutes and flipped them at the 15-minute mark.
Ovens tend to have a mind of their own, so adjust cooking times and temperatures accordingly.
There wasn’t really a "bad" option on this list. In fact, beyond crunchiness, they all had unique qualities that they excelled in, like taste, bulkiness, price and shape, though there was one that stood out and was the hands-down winner. Check out our final ranking below:
5th place: Cascadian Farm Organic Crinkle Cut French Fries
Unfortunately, Cascadian Farm was the experiment’s biggest letdown. The fries were not only too soft, but also wet, which was quite-off putting. A tad less canola oil would probably remedy this issue, though we did like the nostalgia these conjured since they’re nearly identical to the fries served in any middle school cafeteria.
4th place: Market Pantry Crispy Crinkle Cut Fries
These Target-based fries were comically long. Some went over six inches, which made them fun to eat but difficult to dip (unless folded in half). We’re not sure what’s up with frozen crinkle fries (which actually tend to be some of the crunchiest when ordered in restaurants), but these also didn’t hold up to the crisp test. That being said, they weren’t absurdly greasy and would make any fry connoisseur happy.
3rd place: Red Robin Seasoned Steak Fries
Red Robin’s fries had an edge because they were pre-seasoned, but we liked how the spices weren’t overpowering. Obviously the fast-food franchise makes these an even stronger sell, but they don’t live up to the hot and fresh ones made to order. The crunch was perfectly fine, though, making them more than deserving of a bronze medal.
2nd place: Ore-Ida Golden Steak French Fried Potatoes
Ore-Ida is, perhaps, the most recognized brand on this list — and rightfully so: These held up a perfect level of crispness and an overall pleasant mouthfeel. The only problem is that they’re fantastically crispy right out of the oven, but are the first to get soggy after coming down to room temperature. If you let your fries get to room temperature, then you probably shouldn’t be eating them in the first place, but this is something to keep in mind if you’re preparing a meal for a large group of people.
1st place: Grown in Idaho Super Crispy Steak Cut Fries
It turns out that "super crispy" isn't just a marketing ploy. These Idaho-based spuds more than delivered on their promise to provide an elevated crunch. They also tasted the most potato-y, which makes sense considering they were the only iteration to leave some of the skin on.
If you’re looking for a more gourmet fry-eating experience, these are absolutely the ones for you. Bake an entire bag, pair them with the aforementioned honey mustard and serve to friends. You can tell them you hand-cut the potatoes, fried and seasoned them yourself and they won’t even question it.