No McDonald’s meal is complete without a portion of their famous fries. It’s no wonder then that fries are the best sellers on their menu. Those delicious fried potato sticks hold many secrets, both pleasantly surprising and downright shocking, and you can check out 10 of those secrets right here!
10. They’re more than just potatoes, salt and oil!
It would be quite natural to assume that the ingredients to make fries would be very simple, probably just potatoes, oil, and salt. But that’s not the case with the world-famous McDonald’s fries. What gives them their unique taste (and shelf life) is a whole load of other ingredients, reportedly a grand total of 19! Along with potatoes and hydrogenated soybean oil, there’s a plethora of additives; from simple ones like dextrose and citric acid to complicated compounds like dimethylpolysiloxane, and TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone) that are used to impart a better taste, speed up the cooking time, or preserve and extend the shelf life of the fries. And some of the ingredients are listed twice because they’re used at two different stages of the cooking process. Who knew making fries was so complicated! But what is puzzling is the unnecessary use of these added ingredients by McDonald’s outlets in some countries while completely leaving them out in others. For example, McDonald’s outlets in the UK, Australia, Israel, India, etc. use fewer ingredients and additives to make the same fries as in the U.S. outlets. But that does not mean that the fries at McDonald’s are full of chemicals, acids and fats that are bad for you. You can rest assured that all the ingredients that go into making the fries at McDonald’s are approved by the U.S. FDA (Food & Drug Administration). And moreover, the quantities of these additives used in the fries are well within the limits that are safe for human consumption. So, you need not fret over having a delicious helping of your favorite fries – they’re quite safe to eat!
9. They’re made from real potatoes
Adding to the shroud of mystery surrounding McDonald’s fries is the rumor that they are not made from real potatoes, but some sort of fake potato substitute. Well, that’s not true at all. McDonald’s fries are made from real potatoes that are sourced from a wide variety of regions across the U.S. It is also said that the fries sold in Canadian McDonald’s outlets are made from locally sourced Canadian potato varieties. While potatoes come in different shapes and sizes, the team at McDonald’s is very selective in choosing the right type of potatoes for their fries. They have carefully selected those varieties of potatoes that are well known for creating the signature ‘crispy on the outside, soft on the inside’ fry. The most common varieties used in making McDonald’s fries are the different types of Russet potatoes – Russet Ranger, Russet Burbank, Umatilla Russet, etc. Also worth noting is the fact that McDonald’s uses non-GMO (genetically modified organism) potatoes for making their fries.
8. The fries are actually cut with a knife
Contrary to popular beliefs, McDonald’s fries do not have any ridiculous-sounding secret manufacturing process where potato pulp or mush is carefully shaped into uniformly sized fries! McDonald’s fries are made from real potatoes that are cut with a knife albeit a high-precision electronic one! Rest assured, there is no potato goop involved here. As per some reports, the process of creating the perfect fries at McDonald’s starts with the unloading of potatoes on a conveyor belt. The potatoes are then thoroughly rinsed, peeled, washed and passed into a tube with high-pressure water in it. They are then shot into another tube (at about 60 miles an hour) where a succession of razor-sharp blades cuts the potatoes into fries of precise length and width. Overall, there is admittedly a high-tech process involved in slicing the potatoes into fries, but that just adds to the hygiene value of the fries. Since there is no human involvement in the slicing of potatoes, you can be almost certain that there is no danger of any sort of contamination.
7. That special flavor that makes McDonald’s fries so tasty!
Ever wondered what makes the fries at McDonald’s taste so yummy and different from fries at other fast-food outlets? Let’s just say that there’s a secret ingredient for that too! It’s their ‘natural beef flavor’ that imparts the famous ‘McDonald’s fries taste’ to the fries. But why would McDonald’s add beef to their fries? There’s a story behind that: way back in the 1950s, when the oil hydrogenation process (conversion of liquid vegetable oils to semi-solid fats to bring about a change in their physical properties like melting point, etc.) was difficult and expensive, the McDonald’s oil supplier was in quite a jam. So, they supplied McDonald’s with a concoction of beef fat and oil. Fast forward to the 1980s, the oil supplier removed the beef fat from the oil that was loaded with saturated fats, but McDonald’s wanted to retain the ‘beefy flavor’ that their customers were accustomed to by now. So, they added in a ‘natural beef flavor’ instead. It has been debated quite often if the fries at McDonald’s are really suitable for vegetarians and vegans? In fact, the company was even sued by Hindu and Buddhist groups in 2001 for trying to pass off their fries as a ‘vegetarian-friendly’ option on McDonald’s menus. To avoid offending customers with cultural or religious restrictions, the fries sold in Indian outlets of McDonald’s completely bypass the use of any beef flavor and just use potatoes, vegetarian palmolein oil, salt and a tiny bit of dextrose.
6. You can always ask for ‘fresh fries’
Did you know that you could ask for ‘fresh fries’ at any McDonald’s outlet? Everyone loves hot crispy fries that are well salted and straight out of the fryer. Most often, it’s the delicious fries that draw most people to McDonald’s. Getting a whiff of the long golden sticks of deliciousness as soon as you open your meal bag, sinking your teeth into the crunchy exterior and biting into the fluffy interior is what comes to mind when you think of McDonald’s fries. And if there were even a slight deviation from this, it would be a terrible disappointment for most. But since McDonald’s is a ‘fast-food’ restaurant, making everything from scratch, including fries, would not be a quick or cost-effective process. As a result, occasionally, you end up receiving fries that have been sitting out for some time, probably under the warming lamp. But there’s a secret hack to ensuring that you always get the best fries at McDonald’s – a secret code word. The key to ensuring that your fries are always crispy is asking for ‘fresh fries’ when you place your order at the counter. And how do you do that? Just ask for ‘fries without salt.’ It’s that simple! The logic behind this is that when you ask for ‘fries without salt’, the employee in the kitchen is forced to prepare a new batch of fries just for you, since they cannot serve the pre-prepared fries to you; they are already salted. If you’re queasy about asking for ‘fries without salt’, you could even request for a fresh batch of regularly salted fries to be made and served to you. And if you think that the idea of fries without salt is akin to spaghetti without sauce, just ask for ‘salt-free fries’, grab a few packets of salt and season the fries on your own. Thus, not only do you get fresh fries but also have your fill of salted McDonald’s fries.
5. They come pre-frozen and are re-fried before being served to you
Believe it or not, there is an actual assembly-line production process involved in creating the perfect McDonald’s fries! As mentioned earlier, the process involves the unloading, peeling and washing of potatoes before they are fed into a high-pressure water tube to be sliced into precise fry shapes. As soon as they are out of the slicing tube, the fries are liberally sprinkled with dextrose and other additives to give them all a uniform color, and prevent them from developing a gray tinge. Then, they are partially fried and some more additives including ‘natural beef flavor’ are added to the fries. The partially fried fries are then flash frozen to lock in everything. These frozen fries are neatly packaged and shipped to McDonald’s outlets all across the country. At each McDonald’s outlet, the fries are fried again and salt is added before being served to customers in paper containers. The refrying process (and the additives) is what gives McDonald’s fries their signature crispy outer layer all the while retaining the soft mashed potato interior of the fries. With such an intricate process required to make the fries, it is no wonder that the fries are partially cooked in a factory setup, and merely re-fried and salted at the actual outlets. This partial frying, flash freezing and refrying process is what enables McDonald’s employees to serve up your fries order so quickly. So the next time you order a portion of fries, think about all the processes that went into bringing you the perfect portion of fries.
4. These fries are not for the weight-watchers!
The calorie-count of fries at most McDonald’s outlet is seriously high. On an average, a medium portion of McDonald’s fries has about 340 calories, 44 grams of carbohydrates and 16 grams of fat. Yes, you read that right, 340 calories for just a side portion of fries! And if you’re like most people, a medium portion of fries is not the only item that you would order. Add a burger, soda and milkshake to the meal combination and you’re left with a dangerously high calorific meal. What makes McDonald’s fries so high in calories? To begin with, it is a well-known fact that potatoes are high in carbohydrates and generally not advisable for those on a weight-loss diet. Add to that the trans fats present in the hydrogenated soybean oil that is used to fry the fries, and the fact that the fries are fried twice, once at the factory and a second time at the outlet, adds enormously to the total calorie count of the fries. Responding to customer demands and legislations, McDonald’s outlets in most European countries use non-hydrogenated oils during the cooking process of the fries. Thus, the fries served at McDonald’s outlets in these countries are free of any trans fats and low in calories. The calorie-count of McDonald’s fries does not seem to affect the popularity of this menu item at all. To most customers, a burger meal without fries is simply incomplete. While McDonald’s fries are obviously not suitable for those watching their weight, it would be quite okay to consume the fries in moderation or even consider it as an indulgence and have them once in a while. After all, that’s what a ‘cheat day’ in your diet plan is for!
3. You can also ask for salt-free fries
Just like there is an option of asking for ‘fresh fries’ at McDonald’s outlets, you also have the option of asking for ‘fries without salt’. Who knew! While the option of asking for ‘fries without salt’ definitely qualifies as a hidden McDonald’s secret, it most definitely does not make the employees’ lives any easier. When you ask for ‘fries without salt’, a fresh batch of fries has to be made especially for you since the ready-to-go fries that are served to everyone else are already salted. The employee in-charge of preparing the fries has to wipe down the fries scoop and the fries counter, to prevent cross-contamination with the salted fries, before preparing a fresh batch of fries just for you. And you also run the risk of getting fewer than usual fries in your order when you order ‘fries without salt’. If any fries fall out of the container, the employee will not be able to replace them simply because all the other fries would probably be already salted. But overall, it’s quite nice to know that you have an option of ordering salt-free fries should you desire them.
2. Not just ketchup, there are so many dipping sauces to choose from!
While most fast-food restaurants offer just the usual ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise dipping sauces, McDonald’s has a plethora of options that you can pick from. Whilst most McDonald’s outlets in the U.S. offer specialty dipping sauces only with their McNuggets item, there’s nothing stopping you from asking for those same sauces for your fries as well. All you have to do is ask, and the employees will most likely provide you with the sauce of your choice with a smile on their face. And if you’re wondering what these specialty dipping sauces are, well, there are the usual suspects – ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise. But there are also combination sauces like ketchup + mayo or a DIY mayo-chup. You could even try your fries with barbecue sauce, creamy ranch, honey mustard, tangy BBQ, chipotle BBQ, sweet and sour, spicy buffalo, sweet chili or even McDonald’s Signature sauce. With such a delicious variety of sauces, you have absolutely no reason to shy away from ordering that large portion of McDonald’s fries and enjoying them with a couple of your favorite dipping sauces at hand!
1. There’s a reason why they always look the same
If you’ve always suspected that the fries at McDonald’s always look the same or look exactly ‘as shown on TV’, then you’re right – they do always look the same! And according to the people at McDonald’s, the secret to this uniformity in appearance is the dextrose that is added to the fries right after they are cut into the quintessential fry shapes. Dextrose is a form of sugar, when added to the fries, gives them a unique golden color that we associate with McDonald’s fries. In short, dextrose is a kind of coloring agent that ensures that the fries have the same color and appearance, irrespective of the season or time of the year. Since the potatoes are partially cooked at a factory, all the natural sugars in the potatoes are lost and it becomes necessary to introduce another form of sugar to counter-balance the loss. Dextrose is used in the production process of fries in almost all the outlets of McDonald’s all over the world. Now that you know why McDonald’s fries always look the same, go on and have a nice big portion of those yummy fries!