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June 6, 2010 7:56 PM   Subscribe

Reverse Engineering McDonald's French Fries Although not good for you, one dedicated man determines how you can make them at home, and improves on the recipe.
posted by zabuni (90 comments total) 81 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is thorough. However; (1) McDonalds fries are definitely not as good as they used to be, when they fried them in beef tallow (he alludes to this in the article), and (2) Burger King fries are now better, since they have (apparently) perfected the art of coating the fries with a slightly sugary glaze prior to frying.
posted by yhbc at 8:07 PM on June 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


See also: The Quest For French Fry Supremacy and The Quest for French Fry Supremacy 2: Blanching Armageddon. Unfortunately my local grocer doesn't carry Pectinex SP-L.
posted by sanko at 8:08 PM on June 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


When my wife was pregnant, she craved french fries practically everyday. After going to McDonalds and Wendy's multiple times a week, I decided to just make my own at home. Easier said than done. I sliced potatoes all the same, uniform size, which was a pain; I didn’t have a French fry slicer. Then came the oil. I used regular vegetable oil in a deep frypan (no FryDaddy or anything), and turned that gas on HIGH. But it still wasn’t quite hot enough to cook the fries properly. As a result I ended up cooking them for longer than what you’d do with a deep fryer, and the fries ended up too brown, with a bitter, burnt flavor. But the wife liked them that way, so all was well.

Tl;dr Making fries at home (without a FryDaddy) is hard.
posted by zardoz at 8:09 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I tried this recipe. It was a disaster. Inedibly oily.

I suspect it's because of a few things.

1. I used a blend of oils with Grapeseed instead of peanut.
2. The fries were cut too small.
3. I might have been a few degrees too low.

Any ideas if the grapeseed oil would be why they were so oily? I used a probe thermometer and the temp wasn't more than a few degrees off...


The vinegar trick to hold the potatoes together post-boiling is awesome though.
posted by Lord_Pall at 8:10 PM on June 6, 2010


Holleee Shit! The importance of this discovery cannot be understated. My dream meal to make at home would be steak frites - juicy juicy rib eye, huge bowl of bernaise to swim in, and piles and piles of golden thin fries. All that would be needed is for me to eat the meal in a Snuggie (naked otherwise of course), and then I would be ready for the electric chair.
posted by helmutdog at 8:10 PM on June 6, 2010 [15 favorites]


Always put your cut potatoes in the fridge or a bucket of ice water before you fry them.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:14 PM on June 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


As for the flavor, if I tasted really hard, I could pick up a faint vinegary undertone, though I wouldn't have if I didn't know it was there.

FEATURE, not bug. Seriously, vinegar plus salt plus pepper improves any fry.

Burger King fries are now better, since they have (apparently) perfected the art of coating the fries with a slightly sugary glaze prior to frying.

I'd have to taste them to believe that. The coated fries I've had at BK and (sadly) Harvey's have been AWFUL, like bland, mushy deep-fried M&Ms. If Swiss Chalet ever changes their fries to follow Harvey's recipe, I will have no reason to keep on living.
posted by maudlin at 8:15 PM on June 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Say what you will about McDonald's, they're good at what they do.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:19 PM on June 6, 2010


If capital punishment consists of naked-in-teh-snuggie, bearnaise laden steack-frites, I don't wanna be law abidin'.
posted by darkstar at 8:19 PM on June 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


One way to improve on them might be to ... you know ... actually COOK them.

Thanks to the pressure to keep that line moving, we've raised a generation of people who think french-fries are supposed to be white. They simply have no concept of how they are supposed to taste.

Limp, white and mushy are the norm.
posted by RavinDave at 8:19 PM on June 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


"we've raised a generation of people who think french-fries are supposed to be white. They simply have no concept of how they are supposed to taste.

Limp, white and mushy are the norm."


Are you still talking about the fries, or the people?
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 8:21 PM on June 6, 2010 [13 favorites]


Are you still talking about the fries, or the people?

Shazam
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:21 PM on June 6, 2010


MetaFilter: Limp, white and mushy are the norm
posted by neroli at 8:22 PM on June 6, 2010


"Always put your cut potatoes in the fridge or a bucket of ice water before you fry them."

In ice water WITH SALT, to leech out the excess starch.

/Wait too long and they will get discolored.
posted by RavinDave at 8:24 PM on June 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


The holy grail that McD's has managed is *how long they stay yummy!*

Burger King is fairly good, the local diner is better, but damn if that frakin' clown can't outlast them all. By an order of magnitude.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:30 PM on June 6, 2010


This is bitchin' and I will make these fries
posted by Greg Nog at 8:30 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh God, this is dangerous. In my household, we are already prone to a) crafting a reasonably healthy dinner at home and then b) basically throwing it all to hell by walking down the street to Duff's (a wing joint) and buying an order of fries and a side of (hot) wing sauce. We can already make a decent wing sauce at home; I hesitate to think what might happen if we could duplicate the quality of their fries, too.

So, I hate you for posting this. But I also kind of love you.

(Also: if you have never tried dipping your fries in wing sauce instead of ketchup, you are missing out. Seriously, writing that one sentence has made me salivate. It's that good.)
posted by chalkbored at 8:33 PM on June 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Erm... while I'm sure this produces lovely french fries, it really doesn't need to be this complex. McD's fries are--the steps taken in production notwithstanding--textbook perfect pommes frites. Feed 'em to Escoffier and he would weep tears of pure joy. The writer of the article complains that the twice-cooking method isn't foolproof and results in overcooked fries. This is only true if you, y'know, overcook the fries.

Slice your taters (not the hardcore ones, regular taters will do) to proper pommes frites size; not coincidentally, this is the size of McD's fries.

As you slice them, drop them in a bucket of aggressively salted cold water. Leave them there overnight. (You may omit the overnight step, but do try for an hour or so at least).

The next day, drain the water and pat dry with a paper towel. A salad spinner also works fine.

Blanch at 250F in a deep fryer until just barely cooked through. If you see the colour changing, you've gone too far.

Remove, drain, cool. Crank your fryer up to 350. Cook until just past straw-coloured (they will darken in the carry-over heat), remove, drain, salt immediately (or toss with grated pecorino, parm, or grana padano), and serve as fast as possible.

(Yes, yes, animal fats will result in more flavourful omnomnomness. Particularly duck or goose, and I am told horse. Veg oil is fine, peanut oil is better than veg, because frankly who has enough duck fat sitting at home to make fries with? Besides, if you've got that much duck fat, you'd better be making confit or I will hunt you down.)
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:33 PM on June 6, 2010 [19 favorites]


Everyone loves Mickey D's fries, but check out this cut scene from SuperSize Me and recoil in horror to oh christ just what the fuck are in those things? It's the Botox of fast food.
posted by zardoz at 8:35 PM on June 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


If you don't know to blanch your fries by now the Internet has failed you.
posted by Cyrano at 8:39 PM on June 6, 2010


Are you still talking about the fries, or the people?

Shazam


Awesome! Thanks! I needed a new "oh, snap!"
posted by sourwookie at 8:43 PM on June 6, 2010


Thanks for the link. I've been working on a plan, and this might help the plan come to fruition. If, on the off chance that Mrs. Ghidorah agrees to hatch little Ghidorlings, at some point, they'll inevitably get suckered by the siren sound of McD's. The toys, let's say, or their peers telling them about it. They'll say 'I want to go to McDonald's.' I'll say, sure, we'll go tomorrow. And that night, I'll make them hand-ground burgers with quality cheese and homemade bacon (that part has blissfully been perfected). On the side, beer battered/egg white onion rings, and a proper homemade milk shake, which we'll make together, letting the kids choose which kind of ice cream/fruit/flavoring they want. Then we'll gorge ourselves on delicious, properly made greasy goodness.

The next day, we'll go to McDonald's. The kids can order whatever they like. I'll ask them which they like better, and if they say the golden arches are better, I'll have no choice but to leave them at the restaurant.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:44 PM on June 6, 2010 [37 favorites]


Everyone loves Mickey D's fries, but check out this cut scene from SuperSize Me and recoil in horror to oh christ just what the fuck are in those things?

Lenin?
posted by maudlin at 8:46 PM on June 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


> Shazam

Awesome! Thanks! I needed a new "oh, snap!"


Just make sure you know the history before you get called Gomer!
posted by Burhanistan at 8:47 PM on June 6, 2010


Ghidorah, you might have to leave them there. Or, you could save the wrappers and keep reusing them.
posted by stavrogin at 8:49 PM on June 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


They'll say 'I want to go to McDonald's.' I'll say, sure, we'll go tomorrow. And that night, I'll make them hand-ground burgers with quality cheese and homemade bacon (that part has blissfully been perfected). On the side, beer battered/egg white onion rings, and a proper homemade milk shake, which we'll make together, letting the kids choose which kind of ice cream/fruit/flavoring they want. Then we'll gorge ourselves on delicious, properly made greasy goodness.

The next day, we'll go to McDonald's.



You, sir, are a genius.
posted by darkstar at 8:49 PM on June 6, 2010


Everyone loves Mickey D's fries, but check out this cut scene from SuperSize Me and recoil in horror to oh christ just what the fuck are in those things? It's the Botox of fast food.

Holy shit! Food rots when you leave it sitting out for 3 months?!?! That's disgusting!!! I am shocked! </hamburger>
posted by !Jim at 8:55 PM on June 6, 2010


I'm not much of a food critic, but I do love french fries every so often. Big, crispy, nicely spiced skin-on fries. I'm guessing they slice up real potatoes real thick and deep fry them. Maybe there is some blanching involved. Don't know. I don't deep fry anything at home. Deep frying is for restaurants. At home, you stir fry, don't you? Or grill outside now that it's summer? (Sorry for assuming you live north of the Mason-Dixon line.)

I don't understand why people love those limp (and a little crispy, if you're lucky) fast food fries. Wendy's, Burger King, or ...McDonalds, iconic because, well, just because, goddammit.
posted by kozad at 8:57 PM on June 6, 2010


Holy shit! Food rots when you leave it sitting out for 3 months?!?! That's disgusting!!! I am shocked!

Wait til the end.
posted by zardoz at 9:00 PM on June 6, 2010


Holy shit! Food rots when you leave it sitting out for 3 months?!?! That's disgusting!!! I am shocked!
...
Wait til the end.


I still don't get what the reveal at the end was supposed to be. The moisture-heavy food molded but the salt-and-oil-protected food didn't.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:19 PM on June 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


stavrogin, I've heard about that, and I know it might be a losing battle. It doesn't mean I won't fight it as best as I can. My kids will already be messed up, as I can't stand branding, but Mrs. Ghidorah has much different tastes.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:21 PM on June 6, 2010


I've been spending too much time at A Hamburger Today.

Previously

This method of cooking burgers has kept me busy for the last several weeks (and I've gained almost ten pounds in the name of burger science....)
posted by warbaby at 9:23 PM on June 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Everyone loves Mickey D's fries, but check out this cut scene from SuperSize Me and recoil in horror to oh christ just what the fuck are in those things? It's the Botox of fast food.

Holy shit! Food rots when you leave it sitting out for 3 months?!?! That's disgusting!!! I am shocked!
The point was that that the fries do not rot. However, I think it's possible that entirely unprocessed potato chunks may not rot either if you dry them out first. So I'm not sure what that is really supposed to prove.

In supersize me the implication is that there are a lot of chemical additives or something, but according to the article the processing on the fries is natural, there's nothing 'special' about how they are made.

I actually cook french fries every one in a while. The 'boil slices of potato in oil' method always produces limp fries and I never had any idea what I was doing wrong. Nowadays I usually buy pre-cut (and probably pre-fried) french fries but they usually don't turn out that great. This article is really interesting.

I would love to take the time to learn to cook really well, but unfortunately, I'm quite lazy.
posted by delmoi at 9:28 PM on June 6, 2010


The one advantage to making your own McDonalds fries is that you could salt them yourself. I dunno if it's just Canadian McDonalds, but they used to be the perfect melding of fat and salt served in convenient stick form. And now they're all fat and carbs and no salt to speak of. It might be an attempt to make them healthier or something.

I guess the fact that I've stopped eating them since they now suck is, technically, healthier.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:52 PM on June 6, 2010


On the side, beer battered/egg white onion rings

You want the best onion rings ever? Slice your onions, soak 'em overnight in buttermilk. Lightly drain, toss in cornstarch, toss in the deep fryer. Add salt. Devour like a starving person.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:22 PM on June 6, 2010 [8 favorites]


great article; thanks
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:26 PM on June 6, 2010




Holleee Shit! The importance of this discovery cannot be understated. My dream meal to make at home would be steak frites - juicy juicy rib eye, huge bowl of bernaise to swim in, and piles and piles of golden thin fries. All that would be needed is for me to eat the meal in a Snuggie (naked otherwise of course), and then I would be ready for the electric chair.
posted by helmutdog


I think, deep down, you are already ready for the electric chair.
posted by lalochezia at 10:27 PM on June 6, 2010


I think, deep down, you are already ready for the electric chair.

Shazam!
posted by randomyahoo at 10:42 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


dnab, thanks for the advice. I'll give it a try. Also, for those of you trapped without access to buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to 1 cup milk, wait ten minutes, and you've got buttermilk. I tried this on with fried chicken, and a friend described said fried chicken as 'masterful.'
posted by Ghidorah at 10:44 PM on June 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Small world. Check out what I did tonight.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 10:45 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the idea of "as simple as possible, but no simpler" needs to be applied to recipes and food advice on the internet far more often.

Why peanut oil if we are not reaching into temperatures where it is necessary? I understand why animal fats provide flavor, but does peanut provide anything at 350? It might, but I have my doubts.

Soaking in cold water keeps the color from changing and removes excess surface starch. Blanching in hot water apparently activates an enzyme as well as removing surface starch. In hot water with vinegar you can be less careful with the temperature. If soaked in cold water, why the suggestions for a long soak when it seems like a drier fry is better? If blanched in hot water, is the par-frying step really necessary, or is it an artifact of needing to remove some moisture so they will freeze better for distribution? This set of steps reeks of "special technique" recipe writing: steps for which the purpose is not clear (soaking a long time, par frying after par cooking), different people have opposite advice (cold soak, blanch), and everyone claims the step is super important or "the trick" to getting it right.

As far as I can tell, you want to cut them small enough to cook quickly (high surface to mass ratio). You want to par-cook them somehow, allowing the inside to get a head start so they are done when golden, as well as activating an enzyme that helps them hold together. And you want to do the final cooking at a higher temperature to get a nice crisp outside and good color.

I've cooked a lot of fries.
posted by Nothing at 11:00 PM on June 6, 2010


From Beyond the Arches, IIRC, one of the tricks w/ Micky D's perfect fries was to sound the "done" buzzer when the fryer's oil temperature came up x (3? 5?) degrees from its nadir after a batch of frozen fries was dropped into the oil. This accounted for the variability in temperature of frozen-but-defrosting-by-the-second fries.
posted by Lukenlogs at 11:13 PM on June 6, 2010


Steingarten had an amazing chapter on fries in one of his books. However I gotta love potato wedges skin on every time over the inane awfulness of shoestring fries. If they don't have enough salt you can always compensate by pouring salt into your ketchup before dipping. Better than ketchup is thai peanut saue or curry though.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:17 PM on June 6, 2010


"Why peanut oil"

because it is the standard choice of a frying oil that doesn't leave a taste.
I usually use corn oil because it is cheaper since I make fries when I am deep frying squid, and the squid makes the oil so stinky that it really can't be reused.

Oils I've tried that leave a discernible taste include canola (rapeseed), soy, and olive.

(p.s. I linked this article in the green, and it took 5 days to make it to the blue.)
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 11:42 PM on June 6, 2010


Speaking of curry, my latest culinary masterpiece/abortion is an homage to my great nation's cultural heritage and to the culinary traditions brought by many immigrants from the Subcontinent.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you...

CURRY POUTINE

Make ye, as is written since time immemorial, since before the times of Ronald the Red, ere the mighty King of Burger, yea unto the mists of history; make ye a plentiful bowl of potatoes, fried as has been practiced in the Land of the Cheese-eaters since the Golden Age of Careme and Escoffier.

Only make them a wee bit bigger. 1/2".

Sprinkle--liberally!--some grated mozzarella. NO! I hear the Puritans amongst ye cry! Wherever are the curds, the squeaky, melty nuggets of love from God HImself? To which I answer ye: there is a time for curds, and a place for all dairy products under Heaven.

Pour ye then upon the glistening mound of cheese from the land of the Tomato-worshippers a measure of curry sauce, it having been warmed, diluted with cream, and reduced back to a thick consistency; like unto a thick gravy should it be, yet still liquid and flowing. Let it not be the texture of jus, nor let it reduce to the Porridge of the Scotsman; nay, let the sauce flow thickly but gently, like unto the wit of a Canadian.

Verily then shalt thou eat of the Golden Food, and verily shalt they future cardiologist weep tears of gratitude.

(Curry sauce: I help chef make this, but I've never seen an actual recipe. You will need coconut milk, shitpiles of onion and garlic, toasted fenugreek seeds, ginger, toasted coriander seeds, rougly diced or lightly crushed tomatoes, whatever hot pepper strikes your fancy, and whole curry leaves. Cook onions down, add garlic and ginger and tomato. Add seeds, ground. Add coconut milk. Taste, adjust to whatever you like. I may be missing a few ingredients. Freezes very well. To use, dilute curry sauce 1.5:1 or thereabouts with heavy cream, reduce back down to your desired texture.)
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:53 PM on June 6, 2010 [16 favorites]


Excellent article, thoroughly researched and just the right amount of mania to make it interesting. Thanks for posting it!

A new restaurant opened in my neighborhood fairly recently. One dish of note is their fried chicken which is excellently seasoned, moist and tender. It's served with three steak fries which was a little weird to me at first and I almost didn't eat them as I'm not a big fan of steak fries. But once I took a bite of those fries, it was like the heavens opened up and ray of light shone down and struck me in the mouth. Each fry's crispy exterior is lightly salted while its interior is fluffy and smooth, much like eating a sliver of baked potato.

Maybe if I point the article's author in the direction of my new neighborhood haunt he can do the dirty work of figuring out this recipe, too.
posted by ooga_booga at 12:23 AM on June 7, 2010


I should see if my potato frying skills have rusted yet... the good thing about a mother who was trying to raise teh perfect housewife is that some skills managed to transfer regardless ;p
posted by infini at 1:09 AM on June 7, 2010


Everyone loves Mickey D's fries, but check out this cut scene from SuperSize Me and recoil in horror to oh christ just what the fuck are in those things? It's the Botox of fast food.

Holy shit. You mean dried, salty things keep for months?

If only we could have figured that out hundreds of years ago when sailors were trying to traverse the oceans.

Oh wait...
posted by Talez at 1:52 AM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


My favourite thing about McDonald's is still their Make Up Your Own Mind website. Specifically, the team of question answerers and their seemingly limitless patience.

Favourites include:
I heard that somebody left half a McNugget and Ronald McDonald KILLED THEIR ENTIRE FAMILY. Did this happen?
is it true you put chicken lips in your mcflurrys? (And many other variations on this theme.)
And the sheer determination of some people to go to McDonald's, despite how painful it apparently is.
posted by lucidium at 2:22 AM on June 7, 2010


I tried every method of par-boiling, double-frying, water-soaking, and salt-brining imaginable and I could never get crispy fries until I tried the cold oil method from Cook’s Illustrated- you basically just put cold potatoes in cold oil, whack on the heat, and cook ‘em till they’re brown. The only time this method failed to produce crispy fries was when I used old potatoes that had been in the fridge for over a month. The cold over time caused the starches to turn into sugars, which quickly caramelised in the hot oil, which means the fries were well on their way to burnt city before they were properly cooked (fluffy interiors) and dried (crunchy exterior). I learned later that if you leave the refrigerated potatoes somewhere dark and cool like a cupboard for a week or two, the sugars start to turn back into starch.
I love kitchen science!
posted by Wroksie at 2:54 AM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Everyone loves Mickey D's fries, but check out this cut scene from SuperSize Me and recoil in horror to oh christ just what the fuck are in those things? It's the Botox of fast food.

I could have done that fry experiment by digging under the middle row of my minivan. That is the row my nephews sit in and drop french fries from. Hell, anyone who has ever fed a kid McDonald's fries in a vehicle could do that experiment.
posted by SuzySmith at 3:28 AM on June 7, 2010


This is interesting: I'd always assumed that McDonalds started with reconstituted potato slurry fed through an extruder.
posted by Phanx at 3:46 AM on June 7, 2010


CURRY POUTINE

Ohhhhhhhhhhh...
posted by biscotti at 4:00 AM on June 7, 2010


Also: if you have never tried dipping your fries in wing sauce instead of ketchup, you are missing out. Seriously, writing that one sentence has made me salivate. It's that good

Nah, it's all about the sweet and sour!
posted by sunshinesky at 4:06 AM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Screw McDonald's. I want the Swiss Chalet/Harvey's fries of the eighties back. Halfway between gold and brown with lots of stray broken bits with awesome crunch.

I used to dump the bits of fries from my Quarter Chicken White with Fries in an extra order of sauce and let them soak. I called my creation "Chalet Soup".
posted by srboisvert at 4:18 AM on June 7, 2010


He lost me at #4. The long soft bendy fries are the best. The day McDonald's starts cooking fries to be entirely crispy and straight is the day I start ordering side salads instead.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:22 AM on June 7, 2010


burger kings fries and burgers are much better - nuff said.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:25 AM on June 7, 2010


if you have never tried dipping your fries in wing sauce instead of ketchup

Try dipping them in a McFlurry or milkshake. *polishes off chorizo, swiss cheese and piccalilli on a cinnamon/raisin bagel*

When I was a student and useless at both cooking and budgeting, I used to buy frozen french fries that came in microwaveable packets, holding one French Fry per compartment. Luckily, someone taught me to make potato wedges.
posted by mippy at 4:33 AM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I used to dump the bits of fries from my Quarter Chicken White with Fries in an extra order of sauce and let them soak. I called my creation "Chalet Soup".

I do this with a mix of Chalet sauce and the rib sauce. I just call it "Heaven".
posted by maudlin at 4:35 AM on June 7, 2010


After reading this thread, I'm convinced that no one born after 1980 has ever had real french-fries. Much like Dega's recipe for pastel fixative or the ancient method to create Greek Fire -- it is an art form lost to mankind . Unless you've hoisted a soft drink in a frosty 10-pound glass mug and plugged quarters into a table-side mini-juke -- you can only gaze at reruns of "Happy Days" and wonder.
posted by RavinDave at 4:43 AM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


After reading this thread, I'm convinced that no one born after 1980 has ever had real french-fries.

Yes. So sad that nutritionists managed to figure out that frying potatoes in beef tallow was giving people massive coronaries and then convinced us all it was a bad thing.
posted by Talez at 5:38 AM on June 7, 2010


First of all the test of a good french fry is how do they taste after they've gone cold. McDonald's are basically inedible cold. Here in Taiwan there's the MOS (Mountain Ocean Sun) chain of fast-food restaurants...and their fries hold up to the cold test very well. Of course they're delicious hot.

I first ate McDonald's fries back in 1957. They were pretty good back then.
posted by rmmcclay at 5:41 AM on June 7, 2010


Why peanut oil?

In addition to MonkeySaltedNuts answer, if you do a lot of deep frying, even at less than full 350-400 degree F temps, peanut oil wil last through more cycles than many other oils. Oil may not break down as fast at lower heat, but it still breaks down.

A trick I learned (I think) from Cooks Illustrated to noticeably improve the flavor (while messing up the oil somewhat and making the fries less healthy) is to put a big spoonful of bacon grease in the peanut oil prior to cooking in it.
posted by TedW at 6:15 AM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


rmmcclay, you mean MOS Burger? They started here in Japan, and while they have decent fries, their onion rings are fantastic. Also, coffee flavored milkshakes.

Anyone who's never been, if you ever come across a MOS Burger, go inside, and order yourself a Mos Burger with MOS Sauce. It's served in a paper envelope, and it's basically a sloppy joe on top of a burger. Made fresh to order, from fresh ground beef and pork. It takes a little longer, but is definitely worth it.

Also, seconding old style Burger King fries dipped in chocolate milkshake. The new fries just don't do it for me, though Kua'aina (that Hawaiian burger joint) fries are awesome.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:37 AM on June 7, 2010


IIRC, one of the tricks w/ Micky D's perfect fries was to sound the "done" buzzer when the fryer's oil temperature came up x (3? 5?) degrees from its nadir after a batch of frozen fries was dropped into the oil. This accounted for the variability in temperature of frozen-but-defrosting-by-the-second fries.

It's not so much that the controllers measure the gross temperature, but that they measure how much energy has been put into the fry. The oil temperature drops very low when the fries are dropped in- I forget, but it's in the 200's somewhere. That's part of the cooking process. If the fryer doesn't recover as quickly, it cooks them longer. If some sadist dumps two baskets of fries in the fryer at once, it tries to account for that. The fryers are set at 335- if the calibration is off, the timers account for that too. (365 for Hash browns, 330 for Fish, 360 for Chicken. /geek)

McDonald's Corp cares about their fries. Unfortunately, the people on the line forget the shit they learned their first week and you end up with crap. Here is how you tell if a McDonald's fry is done the way the recipe calls for- the color should indeed be straw colored. A single fry should stand up on its own, and like asparagus, if you try to bend one, it should snap in half. Inside, the potato should have pulled slightly away from the edges and be soft.


Yes. So sad that nutritionists managed to figure out that frying potatoes in beef tallow was giving people massive coronaries and then convinced us all it was a bad thing.

I doubt that's true. Someone correlated sat fats with heart attacks and decided they were the cause. They changed over to shortening, which had lower cholesterol and lower sat fats. But only because they had higher trans fats, which nobody thought was a problem. Plenty of people and societies eat animal fats and don't suffer mass extinction. It is something else causing the coronaries...
posted by gjc at 6:37 AM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


And that night, I'll make them hand-ground burgers with quality cheese and homemade bacon (that part has blissfully been perfected). On the side, beer battered/egg white onion rings, and a proper homemade milk shake, which we'll make together, letting the kids choose which kind of ice cream/fruit/flavoring they want. Then we'll gorge ourselves on delicious, properly made greasy goodness.

Ghidorah, it's pretty obvious you don't have kids. You know what kids like? Bland foods, predictable foods, foods with one flavor. You know what kids hate? Strong flavored foods, mixed flavor foods, foods with surprises. I know, everybody is going to comment about how their kid is different and loves X, but unless you hold out until your kids are over 8 before they have their first taste of McDonald's, I'm afraid your little plan will be a big flop.

My husband eats FFs about 4 days a week for lunch-- I can't wean him off of the things, but I have always refused to deep fry anything so I've relied on the Cook's Illustrated oven fries recipe and it makes damn good fries-- probably because of the initial hot bath:
OVEN FRIES
Cut up 3 (8oz) peeled, russet potatoes into strips of uniform thickness (which means discarding the small pieces.) Aim for 10 or so FF per potato.

Soak in a hot bath (hot, but not boiling works fine) for 10 to 15 minutes. Dry the potatoes thoroughly (this is essential-- they must be as dry as possible.) Coat with 1 TB of oil.

Prepare baking sheet with another 4 TB of oil and then sprinkle 3/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper evenly on the pan-- this keeps the FFs from sticking. Arrange the FFs in a single layer on pan and cover sheet with foil. Place in a 475 degree oven.

Bake for 5 minutes (this is the steaming phase.) Remove foil, cook 15 minutes and turn. Cook another 10 minutes or so-- until golden brown.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:57 AM on June 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


If Swiss Chalet ever changes their fries to follow Harvey's recipe, I will have no reason to keep on living.

I am reasonably certain that they have already done so, although I haven't had Harvey's fries in a hell of a long time. In any case, the always slightly overdone peel-still-on fries are long gone from Swiss Chalet. Yeah, I know. Fuck. There's still New York Fries, but they don't have the magical sauce of magicalness.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:58 AM on June 7, 2010


Secret Life of Gravy, also obvious was that I said I don't have kids. On the other hand, hundreds of millions of children live in countries with Flavor, Chinese food, Indian food, Thai food, Indonesian food. I don't think it's really all as simple as that. Personally, I couldn't stand spicy food until I was out of college, but I've loved Chinese food since I was a little, little kid, and Mexican as well. Part of it was having parents who constantly exposed me to new things, which is part of the kind of parent I'm hoping to be.

On the other hand, my uphill battle will be trying to raise children in Japan, the land that flavor forgot, trying to get them to enjoy a wide variety of flavors, herbs, and spices. The spice rack shouldn't stop at sugar, salt, vinegar, miso, and soy sauce. It really shouldn't.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:04 AM on June 7, 2010


After reading this thread, I'm convinced that no one born after 1980 has ever had real french-fries.

The chippy round the corner fries in beef fat. I think, at least in the UK, it was also a move to allow vegetarians and eaters of halal/kosher food to use McDonalds. One of the benefits of living somewhere with a high Muslim population was the proliferation of offers on Fillet-o-Fishes.

Ghidorah, it's pretty obvious you don't have kids. You know what kids like? Bland foods, predictable foods, foods with one flavor. You know what kids hate? Strong flavored foods, mixed flavor foods, foods with surprises.

I used to eat a lot of stuff as a kid I'd never eat now but I did love strong flavours - mature cheese and feta, olives, spiced meats, kiwi fruit, tacos, Chinese food. My dad cooked us curry from a young age. I felt really sorry for friends who said they would never eat 'foreign food' purely because they had never eaten curry, pizza or fried rice at home. And yes, I'm sure that many Asian families in the west, growing up in the same place I did, are feeding their children with tasty flavour. You know the maxim that you should never eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognise as food? If I stuck to that, I'd really be looking forward to my yearly vegetable right now.
posted by mippy at 7:18 AM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


One of the benefits of living somewhere with a high Muslim population was the proliferation of offers on Fillet-o-Fishes.

That's funny, since the Filet-O-Fish was created for Catholics.

(And, yes, chip trucks are where it's at.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:39 AM on June 7, 2010


I am reasonably certain that they have already done so, although I haven't had Harvey's fries in a hell of a long time. In any case, the always slightly overdone peel-still-on fries are long gone from Swiss Chalet.

Harveys changed their fries a few years ago for sure, but I don't think Swiss fries are all that different from the way they were in the 80s. I worked at a Swiss in 1990 and I took a tour of a Toronto area kitchen a few weeks ago, and they still run the spuds through a washer/peeler unit that leaves 50% of the skin on. Maybe it used to be 100% -- I was a server, not kitchen staff -- but they're still damn tasty.

I think there may be a little nostalgie de la bouche going on, too. When I was a kid in Montréal, we didn't have french fries very often. It was a revelation to move to Toronto when I was 14 and to find a real McDonald's right next door and fries and crap available whenever I wanted them. But when my sister and I were pre-teens, we used to get driven up to the Laurentians to visit our aunt and uncle, who not only lived in an awesome fieldstone house with moose heads on the walls, but who also ran a snack truck that served hamburgers and fries. My sister and I would get our yearly ration of fries from that truck (along with unparallelled Snow White cream soda), and I swear to God that no fries since have tasted so awesome. Sure, Aunt Agathe and Uncle Maurice probably hand cut the potatoes and fried in beef fat, but I think there was more than that going on.
posted by maudlin at 7:52 AM on June 7, 2010


Yep, Sys_Rq, but that's adaptation for you. It's the one thing on the sandwich menu that's definitely halal.

Similarly, a relative of mine has joined a 'BOYCOTT HALAL KFC' group on Facebook. Given that chain's somewhat dubious record on animal welfare, I'm inclined to think it's not entirely all about the chickens.
posted by mippy at 8:02 AM on June 7, 2010


dnab, the Poutinerie on Adelaide St. West has curry poutine. I was glad I'd tried it: but I don't think I'd order it again... I would try yours though!
posted by tivalasvegas at 8:04 AM on June 7, 2010


@ Ghidorah. Yes. MOS Burger.
posted by rmmcclay at 8:40 AM on June 7, 2010


That's it, I'm hiring dnab to be my personal chef.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:57 AM on June 7, 2010


My husband eats FFs about 4 days a week for lunch-- I can't wean him off of the things, but I have always refused to deep fry anything so I've relied on the Cook's Illustrated oven fries recipe and it makes damn good fries-- probably because of the initial hot bath:

Are you afraid of the fryer? My wife won't deep fry anything because she has an uninformed opinion that it's unhealthy (it may well be unhealthy, but she can't articulate why). As a result, when I want fried food I go out to eat, and eat something much, much worse than I'd eat at home. I suspect I'm in good company with a lot of cheating (in the food sense) hubbies. Personally I mostly want a deep fryer for falafel and my once a year hush puppy cravings, but some things can't be oven fried well.

I do like the Cook's illustrated oven fry technique for sweet potato fries though.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:14 AM on June 7, 2010


You know what kids like? Bland foods, predictable foods, foods with one flavor.

Really? Huh. Good thing the kids from India and Pakistan (and Bangladesh and Taiwan and and and and) at my elementary school didn't know that.

nostalgie de la bouche

What a lovely phrase. If I get rich and famous, that'll be the title of my memoirs.

tivalasvegas: MeMail me, drop by the restaurant, I'll hook you up.

monju_bosatsu: MeMail me, let's talk dollars ;)
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:56 AM on June 7, 2010


And that night, I'll make them hand-ground burgers with quality cheese and homemade bacon (that part has blissfully been perfected). On the side, beer battered/egg white onion rings, and a proper homemade milk shake, which we'll make together, letting the kids choose which kind of ice cream/fruit/flavoring they want. Then we'll gorge ourselves on delicious, properly made greasy goodness.

You know, some of my relatives used to pull that shit on me. That might be the world's most delicious meal ever, but it's not a fucking happy meal.
posted by gjc at 7:43 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


> That might be the world's most delicious meal ever, but it's not a fucking happy meal.

I had the same thought previously. Most kids simply don't really like gourmet food. They like simple food, and McDonald's for all its machinations is mostly pretty simple fare. It's salty, fatty, tasty, etc. Kids also are somewhat synasthetic and meld the taste of the food with the environment (bright lights and plastic scenery of the restaurant, the smells, the sounds), the packaging, and the prospect of some kind of toy to take home with their indigestion. They just usually won't care if it's great food until they're well into their adolescence.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:49 PM on June 7, 2010


At the risk of getting into personal experience versus assumed trends, honestly, I disagree. We like what we're brought up with. Everyone in my family loves to cook. I was raised with good food, and when I think of food from home, most likely just like you, I smile. It's just that the food I was raised with had complex flavors, and even though I was (and still am, to some extent) extremely picky, I loved rich flavors from a very, very young age.

Contrast that with my wife, who was born and raised in a Japanese household that pretty much only ate Japanese food. When I ask her what flavor she'd like for whatever I make for dinner, she almost always says salt and pepper. It's kind of a running joke with us, even if she's really not joking. Don't sell your kids short, you might be surprised what they'll like.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:01 PM on June 7, 2010


Most kids simply don't really like gourmet food. They like simple food

Tell that to the four year olds scarfing down curry or bibimbap or any basically non-Western food.

What kids don't like is bitter food, or very spicy food. The latter causes pain, while the former is often a marker for 'this substance is bad for you', which is why things like beer/brussels sprouts/broccoli/kale/olives/old cheeses/etc are very much acquired tastes as we get older.

Sorry, but this whole 'kids like bland food' thing is complete crap. Kids like, within reason, whatever they are raised with.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:26 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, you guys have to try New York Fries that Sys Req mentioned.

I was a greasy Fry-Guy back in '94 or '95.

Russett potatoes, came in standard big-assed reinforced corrugated cardboard boxes. We were supposed to scrub them good first, in the big-assed sink before throwing them in the "clean pile." Then we'd put the potatoes through the bolted-to-the-industrial-strength-sink-potato-fry-maker. Drop potato, pull lever, thick-cut fries fall into a big ol' bucket. We'd fill the bucket to the top with water when it was full. After a couple of cartons, I'd almost look like I was in whiteface; lots of potato starch all over. Lets not discuss the black mid-'90's jeans that were part of the uniform which became more than waterproof.

Man, it was gross when one (or more) of the potatoes had gone bad in the cardboard box. They looked gelatinized except instead of jubbly horse hooves, they were smelly squooshy pockets of off-yellow pus the consistency of pudding. In the shape of a potato.

The trick to the awesomeness of the fries is... 3 deep fat fryers at different temperatures, and different times the fries went into the different fryers.

iirc, the first fryer was relatively cool (sorry, I can't remember the exact temperatures anymore), for a relatively long time. Around 7 or 10 minutes or maybe a little more. Then they get into a hotter fryer for a couple of minutes, after cooling for a pre-determined about of time, presumably so the center doesn't get over-cooked - at this time the fry is cooked; this super hot treatment makes the middle of the fry. These fries then hang at room temp until needed - single/batch portions were then put into a final hot step... frequent customers used to ask for "limp" fries or "super crispy" fries and variants in between... before being served.

I strove for decades to decode their "California Seasoning" (and a local "Cajun Blackening") and finally did it. I'm almost certain that it's sodium acetate, or salt'n'vinegar seasoning).
posted by porpoise at 11:31 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Tell that to the four year olds scarfing down curry or bibimbap or any basically non-Western food.

Which are not "gourmet" foods, usually.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:35 PM on June 7, 2010


Plus, I didn't say kids like "bland" foods, I said "simple". Many of the children that I know don't like a lot of unfamiliar things on their plate. Also, saying "sorry, but that is complete crap" is kind of a cheap maneuver as well. Anyway.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:42 PM on June 7, 2010


You know what kids like? Bland foods, predictable foods, foods with one flavor. You know what kids hate? Strong flavored foods, mixed flavor foods, foods with surprises. I know, everybody is going to comment about how their kid is different and loves X, but unless you hold out until your kids are over 8 before they have their first taste of McDonald's, I'm afraid your little plan will be a big flop.

I was your typical white-bread lower-middle-class kid who loved ravioli straight from the can and refused to eat liver because "eww poison filter," and I loved McDonald's. But possibly one of my favorite foods ever, from the time I was too young to speak, was super salty fermented fish juice with a shitload of hot peppers in it, otherwise known as nuoc mam. This is because the year before I was born, my family sponsored a group of Vietnamese immigrants, and much of my early childhood was spent at their houses eating their food. Most white people I know won't even touch this stuff now, but I could practically drink the stuff as a toddler.

I still think nuoc mam is the best thing ever, and I have a gigantic bottle of fish sauce in my fridge right now.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:38 AM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


because frankly who has enough duck fat sitting at home to make fries with? Besides, if you've got that much duck fat, you'd better be making confit or I will hunt you down.)

ANYWAY. I do. Have enough duck fat sitting at home to make fries. Or at least I will after this weekend once more.

Yes, the wings, legs, necks, gizzards are confit'd. But when you eat those, you're left with the fat in which you stored them. With which I do not actually make fries because it's more time-consuming than I find acceptable. Instead I am toasting homemade bread and spreading the duckfat on it like butter. Or stirring a spoonful(s) into the sauteed kale. Or scrambling eggs in it then showering the dish with snipped chives.
posted by desuetude at 11:42 AM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


[ton of comments removed - dnab take the day off.]
posted by jessamyn at 11:44 AM on June 8, 2010


ANYWAY. I do. Have enough duck fat sitting at home to make fries.

I've got a bunch of lamb fat in my freezer from making lamb confit! I think I'm gonna re-use it for beef confit, then add a bit to my fry oil for BIG MEATY FLAVOR.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:47 AM on June 8, 2010


Burnhanistan, just to respond, you're right in that kids and unfamiliar is risky territory. My goal in raising kids is to expose them to enough things that it seems normal to them. Also, as you say, X is not gourmet, but I was talking about hamburgers (not, of course, /hamburger), which is pretty far from gourmet. Instead, I'm just talking about making 'normal' safe food that kids will like, just making it better.

As was pointed out, the real place where I'll fail is advertising and McD's crack team of child psychologists who've helped make the place a happy fun land of childrens' delight. Peer pressure, advertising, and stupid little plastic toys are things I probably can't beat, but it doesn't mean I won't try. With any luck, my children will work in the garden with me, will help me when I'm grinding fresh sausage, or play in the yard with me while I'm watching the bacon in the smoker. And after that, they'll play test audience. In essence, I hope to make preparing food as exciting as eating it, and in the act of preparing, get them to understand what that odd spice is, and why it's there, or why daddy has 40 different spices next to the stove, but Kenji's mom has three. At some point, it will all fall apart. I'm just hoping they'll learn enough so when they grow up, they don't view the microwave pasta at the conveniece store as actual food, or don't live on instant noodles like so many young Japanese people who never learned to cook.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:29 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry for the giant derail about kids' taste in foods. I was speaking from personal experience with my daughter and her friends which may not translate around the globe. Coincidentally, my own daughter is the daughter of a chef-- a Japanese Chef-- and a woman (me) who loves to cook. For my tastes nothing can be too spicy or too complex, but as a girl the list of things I refused to eat is staggering-- including cheese, all cheese, even American! My daughter, having been surrounded all her life by food, food discussions, food shopping, food preparation, is a very disinterested eater although at 17 she has grown past the stage of freaking out if 2 different foods are touching on her plate. Still, it was a bit heartbreaking during those years of introducing her to fine dining in restaurants all over So. Calif to watch her insist on spaghetti no matter where we were. And, no, she never learned to cook.

Are you afraid of the fryer? My wife won't deep fry anything because she has an uninformed opinion that it's unhealthy

"Unhealthy" does not enter into it-- I don't police my husband's food choices. Why I don't like to deep fry:
1) Hot, splattery grease
2) Problem of storing used oil
3) Standing over hot pan in v. hot kitchen during summer months to make my husband's side dish while my own lunch is usually a simple salad is a bit of an imposition
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:11 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


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