McDonald’s french fries are basically an American treasure. There’s something about seeing those golden arches that make your mouth water in anticipation of the salty goodness. And you’d probably be lying if you said you’d never reached into the bag on your drive home and started shoving those fresh fries in your mouth because you just can’t wait. When you go to McDonald’s, chances are the answer to the question, “Do you want fries with that?” is never a no. All of this raises the question, though, as to what exactly the secret is behind their massive success? We are here to answer that with our Top 10 Untold Truths About McDonald’s French Fries.
10. Yes, The Potatoes Are Real
Many people out there have thrown accusations at McDonald’s for using fake ingredients in its products, the most notable of which is the “pink slime” conspiracy. So, of course, some people are skeptical when it comes to the ingredients of the french fries. However, McDonald’s fries are made from a few different types of real potatoes. According to the company website, these potato varieties include Russet Burbank, Russet Ranger, Umatilla Russet and Shepody. In fact, according to a story published in Inc.com, McDonald’s actually buys 3.4 million pounds of potatoes every year and serves about nine million pounds of french fries every single day. That is a lot of real potatoes. To make the fries, the suppliers wash and peel the potatoes, and then send them through precision blades that cut them into the shape we know and love. They move through this blade at speeds of up to 60-70 miles per hour. Then, they are partially fried, only for about one minute or so, and then flash frozen so they can be shipped out to all of the stores in the country. Once they reach the store, they stay in the freezer until needed, and then they’re fried and served.
9. It’s More Than Just Fries and Oil
There are actually 19 ingredients that go into the fries. However, don’t freak out about it. In 2015, McDonald’s hired Mythbuster Grant Imahara to dig into their seemingly large ingredients list. Here’s the complete list: potatoes, canola oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, natural beef flavor, hydrolyzed wheat, hydrolyzed milk, citric acid, dimethylpolysiloxane, dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate, salt, canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, TBHQ, citric acid, and dimethylpolysiloxane. Notice anything unusual? Some ingredients, particularly the oils, are listed twice because the fries are fried twice in those oils. That means the grand total is actually 14 ingredients, which is still a lot for what you’d think would just be fried potatoes. Most of the other ingredients on the list are different types of oils and FDA-approved ingredients designed to preserve the color of the fries as well as their consistent taste, shape, and texture. For example, dimethylpolysiloxane is an anti-foaming agent that McDonald’s uses just to keep the oil from splattering, while dextrose is a sugar that coats the fries and keeps their color consistent. Antioxidants such as TBHQ and citric acid are safe to consume and used to keep the oil fresh. The bottom line is that your McDonald’s fries are still just deep-fried potatoes. They’ve just been mixed in with some other ingredients along the way to help maintain that delicious taste you know and love.
8. They’re Not Actually Vegan
As a vegan, there’s a chance you may be excited when you go to McDonald’s because you’d think you could still eat the fries. But if you take a hard look at the ingredients list, you may be surprised to see two non-vegan ingredients jump out; natural beef flavor and hydrolyzed milk. Yes, you read that right. McDonald’s fries are made with natural beef flavor. According to the burger giant, the natural beef flavor is the secret to that addictive, can’t-get-enough taste its fries are known for. It goes in with an oil blend used in the initial frying of the potatoes before they reach the individual franchise locations. So while there isn’t actually any physical beef in the fries, there are traces of this natural beef flavor infused in the potatoes. This little ingredient landed the chain in hot water in 2002 after a group of Hindus and vegetarians filed a class-action lawsuit for misleading them into believing the fries are vegetarian. While the company had made the vegetarian claim after switching to vegetable oil, they failed to inform the public about the natural beef flavor. As a result, McDonald’s agreed to donate $10 million to Hindu and vegetarian organizations and issued a public apology to those groups. McDonald’s locations in countries that have widespread practices that abstain from eating meat products, such as India and locations with large Hindu populations, actually leave this particular ingredient out. It’s not used in the UK, either. But in the United States, it’s used nation-wide. Which brings us to our next point.
7. They Used to Be Cooked in Beef Fat
Saturated fat has been enemy number one when it comes to fast food. So much so that many fast-food companies have tried to change their products to make them more appealing to heart-conscious consumers. McDonald’s is one of those companies. Initially, McDonald’s actually cooked their fries in beef fat to give it that greasy, addictive taste. They did this for a while until the pressure for healthier food options reached its peak in the 1990s. Malcolm Gladwell actually made an entire podcast about this on Revisionist History. In the podcast, he talks about his first time trying one of those crispy, delicious fries, and his disappointment when they changed the fries, claiming they betrayed him. According to his deep dive into the subject, this happened on July 23, 1990, and it’s because of a man named Phil Sokolof. This man launched a campaign against McDonald’s, as well as other companies, and spent millions of dollars trying to get them to stop using so much saturated fat in their products. He made national headlines for his efforts to take on these large corporations. Eventually, his tactics worked, and McDonald’s caved. Now the fries are cooked in vegetable oil with that natural beef flavor we talked about earlier. It did alter the taste of their fries, but if you weren’t eating them decades ago, then you probably will never notice.
6. Don’t Believe The Rumors
You may be thinking, “Who would make up rumors about McDonald’s french fries?” And you’d be correct in thinking that people have too much time on their hands to create stories about a fast food product. But the reality is that there are some pretty ridiculous myths out there. Some people think that McDonald’s french fries will actually help you get pregnant. This is a rumor that was reported on by the U.K. parenting website The Bump, which revealed that 3% of women immediately eat McDonald’s fries after sexual intercourse to increase their odds of conception. Of course, there is no scientific data to back this up, but it’s supposedly because of the high sodium content. High sodium means your body absorbs extra fluids, so ideally the body would absorb the fluids it needs to after the intercourse. In February 2018, some people began to claim that McDonald’s french fries help with hair growth. It’s because a study was released around this time that stated that a chemical, dimethylpolysiloxane, stimulated hair follicle growth. Dimethylpolysiloxane just happens to be one of those 19 ingredients in everyone’s favorite french fries. But is the cure for baldness really to eat more McDonald’s french fries? Of course not. If it were, there would definitely be less bald people in the world.
5. You Can Get Them Salt-Free, But The Staff Will Hate You
Some people will ask for salt-free fries because they want to make sure their fries are fresh. But, according to some McDonald’s employees, you can just ask for fresh fries and they are way happier to do this than to make un-salted fries. And guess what? Those employees say they can usually tell who actually needs salt-free fries, and who is just doing it to get a fresh batch, such as asking for salt packets at the window. In fact, one Reddit user and McDonald’s employee actually stated that at his location, they started to just make batches of un-salted fries and keep them on hand for salt-free orders, which means you could end up with fries that aren’t fresh, to begin with. So choose your order carefully. To make your salt-free order, the employees have to first wipe down the entire station, clean the scoop, and then clean out the entire area. This is to make sure that your fries aren’t contaminated with salt from previous batches. When you ask for this during a busy lunch or dinner rush, you can imagine how inconvenient that is for the employees who have to meet time targets, especially in the drive-thru.
4. They Made a What?!
Weird inventions are all around us, but McDonald’s made something entirely strange. A “frork.” It is a strange-looking contraption that looks like a fork but has a slot for fries where the prongs would go. Why in the world did they invent this? That’s a good question. It all started in 2017 when McDonald’s released a new line of “signature crafted recipes.” They wanted to convey the idea that these sandwiches were so packed with toppings that the sauces and juices would overflow and spill out while you eat it. How did they choose to convey this? That’s where the frork came in. Basically, McDonald’s released a mock infomercial showcasing the frork and how nifty it was in scooping up those overflowed toppings. You just put the fries in the frork, and then use them to scoop the toppings up and eat them. Because people can’t just soak up toppings by holding their fries with their hands like they normally do to eat them…But here’s the thing. They actually did make the frork, and released it at their restaurants for one day only, free with the purchase of one of the new sandwiches. It’s really hard to find one now, but a few people did get their hands on them at the time. However, it’s very likely that they just ended up in the garbage anyway.
3. Why Don’t They Grow Mold?
You’ve probably seen those science experiments floating around the Internet that depict McDonald’s fries after they’ve sat around for long periods of time. The fries seemingly don’t grow mold or perish like fries from other fast-food chains. These experiments are all over the Internet, particularly on YouTube. A particular BuzzFeed video showed different fast food items being stored in glass jars and rotting over the course of 30 days, with McDonald’s products standing the test of time. But this doesn’t mean that the fries haven’t gone bad, or that they’re safe to eat after you forget them in your car for a week. The real reason McDonald’s french fries don’t appear to rot is because of the chemicals they use to process them. In particular, it’s the hydrogenated oil that produces saturated fat. If you paid attention in science class, you’d know that in order for mold to grow, there needs to be moisture. When you don’t have that moisture, food just kind of dries out and dehydrates. In that case, it will still go stale, but it won’t grow moldy unless it’s exposed to moisture. So, with the layer of saturated fat coating the fries, moisture can’t get in, which basically forms a seal against mold.
2. They Actually Have Lower Calories Than Other Fast Food Fries
Compared to other fries from popular fast-food chains, McDonald’s fries actually have a lower calorie count and contain less bad fats. A few years ago, WebMD did an ultimate ranking of fast-food french fries to determine which ones were the “healthiest” based on calorie count and fat content. McDonald’s ranked second in both categories, behind only Sonic. However, it’s been reported that Sonic has altered their fries recipe in the years since this study was published, and the calorie and fat content has actually increased. Based on this assumption, it may be safe to say that McDonald’s is now number one. This is not to say that McDonald’s fries don’t contain calories and fat at all, because sorry to burst your bubble, but they do. They just have less than other locations. So, while you’re probably not eating fast food if you’re on a diet, if you’re looking to treat yourself without completely destroying the progress you’ve made, a small serving of McDonald’s fries may be okay in moderation. However, don’t be fooled into mixing up your serving sizes. Last year, a Harvard professor claimed that an appropriate serving size of french fries is just six fries. As you can imagine, the Internet world exploded with these claims. The general consensus; how could anyone only eat six french fries? It’s a question we’d also like to know the answer to.
1. They’ve Stood The Test of Time
It’s no secret that french fries are the most popular selling item at McDonald’s. But they’ve actually been on the menu since the very beginning, and have been one of the best selling items since the company’s birth. Richard and Maurice McDonald originally opened the restaurant in May 1940 as a slow-cooked barbecue drive-in joint. It was located just off Route 66, in San Bernandino, California, and featured a barbecue pit where they would slow-roast their meats over hickory chips for hours. They soon realized that their burgers were their most popular item, and did a complete re-design of the restaurant to ditch the slow barbecue thing and capitalize on this. That original menu offered potato chips as a side, but this shifted to french fries as soon as they re-opened. The business really took off after that. In 1954, they met notorious businessman Ray Kroc, who bought the rights and began franchising the company across the United States. As the restaurant grew, the french fries stayed along for the ride and have never been removed from the menu. To this day, they are the most popular item at McDonald’s, above the Big Mac, Happy Meals, and Fillet O’Fish. That’s good news for all fry lovers out there because it means these crispy golden potatoes aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.