Ring fries beat French fries on health and taste: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: French fries, Potato, Us

Frying potato rings rather than straight strips produces fries with less oil, lower levels of acrylamide, less salt, and better taste, says a new study from the US.

According to findings published in the Journal of Food Science​, potato strips required longer drying and frying times in order to achieve the same colour and flavour as potato rings, which increased levels of acrylamide by 163 per cent.

Furthermore, upon processing the rings absorbed 22 per cent less oil, contained 26 per cent less salt, and were considered superior from a sensory perspective. The study taps into key trends for the food industry, including salt reduction, acrylamide reduction, and healthier yet tasty alternatives to family favourites.

“Our findings provide justification for a partial replacement of French fries with ring fries. Not only are ring fries healthier and tastier than conventional French fries, but they also have a new and unexpected shape that may be perceived as desirable,”​ wrote the researchers.

“By carefully sorting and processing optimally sized tubers, the production cost for ring fries can approach that of French fries.”

The study was performed by scientists from US food manufacturer the J. R. Simplot Company. The company is one of the largest privately held firms in the US, with annual sales reportedly of about $4.5 billion.

Led by Caius Rommens, the researchers also note that there would be an added economic incentive for food manufacturers.

“It can be most effective to produce ring fries in a processing plant that is also designed to make French fries,”​ they stated. “For example, a conventional sorting system can be used to segregate the 20 per cent of tubers that have an optimal diameter of 7.6 cm for ring fry production in an independent production line. In that case, recovery rates would be up to 70 per cent.”

Chipping away at acrylamide and salt

The J. R. Simplot researchers compared rings and straight strips of potato. Both were blanched, dipped in disodium acid pyrophosphate (0.5 per cent) and glucose (0.3 per cent), and then fried in soybean oil.

Results showed that rings absorbed 28 per cent less oil than strip from the inner core and exhibited superior sensory characteristics.

The longer frying time for the strips necessary to achieve the same crispness and flavour of the rings increased acrylamide levels by 163 per cent, said the researchers.

Rommens and his co-workers note that an average daily intake of 78 grams of French fries results in exposure to about 17 micrograms of acrylamide. However, switching over to ring fries, the acrylamide exposure could be reduced to about 7 micrograms “without negatively affecting texture or taste”​.

“A smaller improvement in nutritional value was accomplished through a 26 per cent reduction in salt content and a 29 per cent increase in antioxidants,”​ they added.

Source: Journal of Food Science
Volume 75, Issue 4, Pages H109-H115, doi : 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2010.01588.x
“Tastier and Healthier Alternatives to French Fries”
Authors: C.M. Rommens, R. Shakya, M. Heap, K. Fessenden

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