There is nothing worse than finishing a meal and with leftover French fries. You're not still hungry, but you can't imagine leaving any of those crispy, salty bites of goodness on the plate. But it's a well-known fact that fries, especially fast food fries, are notoriously hard to reheat. Often, that's because people are using the microwave, which basically steams the fries--giving the fries a soggy consistency that's often the opposite of the texture we're looking for. Your goal is to gently reheat the inside while re-crisping the outside.
So, you ask, what should you use instead?
Option 1: The Air Fryer
TikTok user Michael Bouck took to the platform to test reheating McDonald's fries--notoriously some of the most delicious fries out there, but that are well-known for turning to a soggy mess the second they get cold. Bouck's answer to this conundrum? An air-fryer!
Air fryers are simply home appliances that use a rush of constantly circulating hot air to recreate the texture and tasty of deep-frying, but without any of the oil. Watching Bouck, he appears to reheat the fries with great success, saying, "As you can see, they're all firmed back up and not soggy."
One commenter agreed with the method, and encouraged other leftover enthusiasts to add a little salt once they're hot and ready.
Option 2: The Stovetop
If you're reheating fries that are a little heartier than fast food fries, we recommend using the time-tested cast iron skillet to warm up your fries on the stove. This technique applies to foods beyond just fries: a skillet heated over medium-high heat is the best way to reheat almost any fried food. To start, make sure you use a large enough pan; if you overcrowd the pan, you get a steam effect from the moisture as it heats up. If you have a lot of fries, reheat them in batches.
Add a little oil to the pan and let it heat until the oil shimmers; you'll want to use cooking oil like vegetable oil with a high smoke point. You can reheat the fries without the extra oil (they should retain some of the original oil in which they were fried), but using a bit more will help the potatoes crisp up again.
When the pan is hot, add the fries in a single layer. Cook for a minute, then flip the fries. Cook each side for 30 seconds to a minute, or until they are nice and crisp. Place the hot fries on a paper towel to drain the excess oil, then add a little bit of extra salt, other seasonings, or Parmesan cheese and prepare to enjoy.
Option 3: The Oven
It takes a little bit longer, but the oven method works to reheat fries almost as well as a skillet on the stove. Preheat your oven to between 400-450ºF and pop your baking sheet into the oven to preheat as well.
Once the oven is hot, spread the fries out on the baking sheet in a single layer. They'll need to spend at least four or five minutes in the oven until they're a nice golden brown, but keep an eye on them because they might need a few minutes more for if you've got a big pile of fries.
If you're hoping to reheat French fries at work where you don't have a full kitchen, know that toaster ovens work just as well as their bigger counterparts. Remember not to crowd the fries when you heat them; if you can heat the little toaster baking sheet for a minute before placing the fries on it, all the better.
Repurpose The Fries
Leftover fries also work really well as the basis for other dishes. You can chop them up and use them in a breakfast hash or in a frittata. Or you might repurpose them as hashbrowns or tater tots.
Or you could use them as the foundation for two of the best potato dishes in the world: Disco Fries and Poutine. Variations on the same idea coming to us from New Jersey and Canada respectively, both are basically fries topped with cheese and gravy. (If you're going to reheat fast-food fries, this is how to do it, because almost anything tastes better covered with gravy and cheese.)
Plain or with toppings, with a little patience and attention, leftover fries can be just as good the next day.
READ MORE: The Best Orders From McDonald's Secret Menu
This article was originally published December 29, 2020.