This Is Actually the Best Way to Reheat Fries

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It wouldn’t be fair to say that I bought an air fryer simply to reheat french fries, but it would be disingenuous to claim that my desire to reheat french fries had nothing to do with the purchase. A few years ago—when we were young and the air was sweet—I wrote a blog claiming that waffling sad, cold fries was a first-rate way to reheat them.

Almost immediately, the comments started rolling in. “You fool, you absolute imbecile,” they said. “An air fryer is the only tool you should use to reheat french fries, and you are an idiot for suggesting otherwise.” (I am paraphrasing, but this was the feel of the comments, at least as I recall it.)

“Maybe I should get an air fryer,” I thought, before waiting another eight months to get one. (I finally got the Instant Pot Vortex Mini, because it is small and red and $50.)

The tiny, powerful convection oven—which does not technically fry anything—is quite handy. I’ve already got a whole list of stuff I plan to air fry, but I started with cold fries (and ate them for breakfast), because that’s what brought us to this point in the first place.

My friends, you (and everyone else who yelled at me) were not lying. When it comes to restoring limp, cardboard-like fries to their former crisp, golden glory, the air fryer kicks the waffle maker’s ass (though I maintain waffled leftover fries make excellent breakfast potatoes).

How to reheat cold fries in the air fryer

Beyond reheating completely cold fries, this is a great way to revive takeout fries that may have sat in a paper bag or plastic container for too long. Just five to 10 minutes in a 375-degree air fryer perks ‘em right back up. Timing will vary from air fryer to air fryer but, unlike the Instant Pot or a sous-vide circulator, it’s very easy to check on your air fried food mid-cook—just slide the little basket out. Try not to over-pack the air fryer; you want the hot air to be able to circulate around each fry. It took my air fryer a mere five minutes at 375℉ to restore cold, lifeless, fairly thick-cut breakfast fries to their former glory, which is dangerously quick, particularly in a household that is prone to over-ordering french fries.

Reheated french fries in an air fryer basket.

While a little overlapping is fine, try not to crowd your fries. Credit: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

What makes leftover fries so sad?

Leftover fries are sad and soggy due to moisture migration, and the air fryer takes care of that nonsense in short order. Once a fry starts to cool, the water inside the fluffy starch granules moves out towards the crust, rendering the insides of the fry grainy and the outsides mushy.

Why reheat fries with an air fryer?

An air fryer can’t rehydrate those starch granules, but it certainly revives a fry’s soggy outsides. The hot, circulating air drives off moisture and gets any dormant fry grease movin’ and groovin’, re-crisping the potato’s crust. And while the insides aren’t quite as tender and fluffy as they are when you first take them out of a deep fryer, they are pretty damn close. The ones I ate for breakfast this morning were almost indistinguishable from fresh fries, though it’s worth noting that they seemed to be a “fresh-cut, once cooked” kind of fry, so this may have only been their second (not third) heating.

Tips for reheating fries in the air fryer

Don’t crowd the pan. Lay the french fries in a single layer and try to avoid a lot of overlapping. This will prevent any steam from getting trapped and allow your taters to crisp faster. If you have a lot of fries to reheat, it might be best to do it in batches.

Spritz ’em with oil. For a just-out-of-the-fryer crust, give your fries a light spritz with a neutral cooking oil. The fresh layer of fat conducts the heat from the air fryer that much more effectively.

Check on them mid-cook. Your air frying time will vary depending on the thickness of the french fry you’re reheating (steak cut? shoestring? crinkle?), so it’s important to check on your spuds once or twice. The convection air flow is so efficient, a few minutes too long and you’ll go from crisp and fluffy to hard and dry.

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