Steak fries is an American term for a particular type of French fries, usually more-or-less analogous to what the British call chips. As there are many different types of preparations for French fries, the terms used to describe them vary from country to country and region to region. Steak fries usually, however, refer to thickly cut wedges of potatoes prepared in the same way as normal French fries.
The actual origin of French fries is a matter of some debate, with different countries claiming responsibility for their origin. The Belgians hold that they were the progenitors of French fries, as far back as the 1680s, where potatoes were held to be fried as a substitute for small fried fish during the coldest winter months. Others hold that Spain was the first country to dine on fried strips of potatoes, mostly pointing to the fact that Spain was the first European country to have the potato introduced from the New World.
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The country most believed in America to have originated the dish, however, as attested by the most common name, is France. The French, however, tend to subscribe to the belief that the dish is Belgian. Thomas Jefferson, at the beginning of the 19th century, described a dish of potatoes deep-fried while raw, in small cuttings, which he called "potatoes prepared in the French fashion."
These early fries were akin to what are now referred to in America as steak fries, and not as similar to what are called French fries. The thin French fries seen most often in America did not become popular until the 1950s, when the J.R. Simplot Company of Idaho introduced the frozen French fry. In the following years, fast food chains like McDonald's and Burger King popularized the thin French fry in the United States, making it the dominant form.
In the United Kingdom and many Commonwealth Nations, the most common form of fried potatoes are chips, which are roughly analogous to what in the United States are called steak fries, not the thin crisps of potatoes called potato chips. In the United States, however, the traditional dish of fish and chips is usually served with thick French fries, not the fries that would better replicate British chips. In other countries, American-style French fries are often referred to as shoestring fries.
Because steak fries are quite a bit thicker than shoestring fries, at around half an inch (1 cm) thick, they have a considerably different texture. They are not as crunchy on the outside as shoestring fries, and are quite fluffy on the inside, almost like a baked potato. These fries are normally deep fried twice, as well, but because of their high volume to low surface area, a comparable amount of food is quite a bit less fatty than if shoestring fries are eaten.
Making steak fries is quite easy, but to make traditional steak fries requires a deep fryer. To begin with, a potato is cut in half, and this half potato is then cut along its length into strips to create long, thick wedges. Usually steak fries have the skins removed before slicing, but they can be left on to create what are called potato wedges in the United States. These strips are then just deep fried, dried, and deep fried again until golden. For a lower-fat version, they can be baked for around 20 minutes instead.