At last, scientists have answered one of the biggest questions hanging over the future of space exploration: Where in the solar system can you find the best French fries? The answer, as it turns out, is Jupiter.
In research published in the journal Food Research International (yes, it’s real research), scientists were let loose on a European Space Agency centrifuge to see what gravitational conditions would produce the perfectly-fried French fry. Using a special deep fat frier, John Lioumbas and Thodoris Karapantsios at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, tested different orientations of “potato sticks” — i.e. French fries — under different gravitational conditions. Probes were inserted into the samples to monitor heat flow as the fries cooked.
They were able to fry said sticks as the centrifuge did its cycles, ramping-up the system from 1.8 to 9 times Earth gravity (Gs). As the relative gravity of the frier was increased, the researchers discovered that varying the gravity experienced by the fry during frying affects the heat transfer through the potato. Also, the differing orientations of the fry can influence crust thickness evolution.
As it turns out, you need to fry a French fry at a 0 degree inclination (i.e. flat) under 3 Gs for an optimally crispy French fry crust. The gas giant Jupiter has a “surface” gravity of nearly 3 times Earth gravity and therefore has the ideal gravitational conditions for cooking French fries!
It’s not all good frying news, however. The bottoms of the centrifuged fries became soggy as water vapor rushed out of the potato, insulating that part of the potato against frying. So, even though 3G fries have a lovely crunchy crust, they are half-soggy. (Pro tip: Perhaps they need a flip half-way through the cooking cycle?)
Although this research may sound rather fanciful, its intent is to reveal the cooking characteristics of foodstuffs in different gravitational environments for future space travelers. But, until we see drive-thrus on Jupiter,* probably the only optimized French frying problem we need to worry about is when you last changed that gloopy brown sludge sitting at the bottom of your deep fat fryer.
*Granted, the first Jovian fast food drive-thru will need to be of an ingenious gas giant cloud-top floating design, but at least they can pay for it with the vast profits their “Best French fries in the Known Universe” fame.