Scrutinizing McDonald’s French Fries

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of The Food Lab (over at Serious Eats) likes a challenge, so he decided to reverse engineer what is considered to be world’s most perfect fries: McDonald’s french fries.

Now, you may disagree that the words “McDonald’s” and “good” belong in the same sentence, let alone “perfect” – but there’s something in their french fries that makes Americans go nuts. I personally don’t get it – perhaps because I didn’t grow up eating McDonald’s fries, but my wife swears by ’em. And she’s not alone: over 2 million pounds of McDonald’s fries are consumed every single day. That makes Mickey D the largest potato buyer in the United States.

Back to Kenji’s quest. So how hard is it to reverse engineer McDonald’s french fries? Turns out, it was very, very hard, so Kenji decided to do the next logical thing: he’s going to steal McDonald’s recipe…

Anyone with a buck can get a batch of fully cooked McDonald’s fries, but I was after something more. I wanted to get fries from the store in their fully frozen state so that I could examine their surface for clues on how they were parcooked, as well as attempt to fry them myself at home to discover if there is any secret in the fry oil in the shops.

I figured I’d be just be able to walk into the store and order them straight from the cashier.

“Welcome to McDonald’s, may I take your order?”

“Yes Ma’am. I’d like a large fries please, hold the cooking.”

“Excuse me?”

I know she’s already said no in her head, but I press on just the same: “Um… I’d just like the frozen fries please.”

“I’m sorry sir, we just don’t do that.”

Time for some intimidation tactics: “Ok. Could I speak to the manager please?”

“I am the manager.”

Sh*t. I bring out the really big guns: “Listen, the thing is, my wife is pregnant—like really pregnant—and she sent me on a quest for McDonald’s french fries. But she only likes them really fresh, like straight out of the fryer fresh, so I figured I’d just get some frozen, and fry them for her at home. You know how it is. Women—no accounting for’em, right?”

She remains unimpressed, and needless to say, I go home fry-less, contemplating whether attempting to leverage an unborn, un-conceived son in exchange for a couple dozen frozen potato sticks is grounds for eternal damnation.

Thank goodness that Kenji didn’t give up easily. One of his Facebook fans managed to come up with the perfect ruse. Head on over to Serious Eats to find out exactly what happened and how you can make your very own McDonald’s fries in the comfort of your own kitchen: Link