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A familiar sight at fairs and flea markets is an enterprising individual with a deep fryer, and a potato cutting machine powered by a hand drill. One version of the cutter produces curly spiral-shaped french fries, while the other produces a continuous paper-thin ribbon of potato that fries up like commercial potato chips, but hot and fresh. Both are descended from hand-cranked machines used by chefs to quickly turn out garnishes in volume. Using the hand drill as a self-contained drive unit makes it possible to turn out fried potatoes at high volume.

Curly Fries Cutter

The first type of cutter creates curly fries, similar in cross section to a regular french fry but cut in tight spirals. The main cutting blade on the assembly is set to cut the fries to a given thickness, usually 1/4 or 3/8 inch, while secondary blades cut the potato into strips of the same width. The potato comes away from the cutter in a mass of interlocked curls, which must be separated before cooking. Curly fries are cooked in the same manner as regular french fries, and are often sprinkled with seasoning salt when they are done.

Spiral or Tornado Fry Cutter

The spiral cutter turns each potato into a continuous light, curly ribbon. Because the potato is so thin, it cooks very quickly in the deep fryer. In half the time needed for conventional fries, the spiral fries are golden brown and completely crisp. They are usually served on a flat plate, since one potato makes an impressively large nest of fried potato. Salt, pepper, ketchup and vinegar are provided for sprinkling and dipping.

Set Up and Use

The cutter mechanism itself consists of a horizontal metal frame of rods, with the cutter mechanism at one end and a crank at the other. The cutter can be attached permanently with screws, or temporarily with clamps. The cutting mechanism consists of a blade mounted at a right angle to the potato, with a very narrow gap for the potato to pass through. Some brands are sturdier than others, and better suited to high-volume use. The end of the crank mechanism is designed to fit the chuck of a corded or cordless drill.

Entrepreneurial Opportunities

The proliferation of these potatoes at fairs, church bazaars, flea markets and similar venues demonstrates their appeal. For entrepreneurs, a fried potato business has much to recommend it. The initial investment is limited, with a deep fryer and tank representing the largest investment. Potatoes are among the cheapest of ingredients, but these venues are places where food vendors are expected to charge a premium. That combination adds up to low food costs and solid profits for the vendor.

About the Author

Fred Decker

Fred Decker is a trained chef, former restaurateur and prolific freelance writer, with a special interest in all things related to food and nutrition. His work has appeared online on major sites including, and the websites of the Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle; and offline in Canada's Foodservice & Hospitality magazine and his local daily newspaper. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.