We're willing to bet there aren't many people out there who would be able to resist a fresh batch of McDonald's fries. Even if you're not a fan of fast food, there's just something so addictive about those perfectly crisp, perfectly salted fries. Sure, it's infinitely healthier to simply slice up some potatoes and bake them in the oven with your spices of choice—and many people opt to do that on a regular basis. Every now and then, though, it's nice to treat yourself—and many people absolutely go crazy for McDonald's fries.
However, have you ever stopped to think about what exactly makes them so addictive? Why do they taste different from fries you get everywhere else? How are they always so perfect golden, whereas when you make fries, some of them end up a little too crisp and others end up a little too light? What makes them so crisp on the outside and so soft on the inside? There are so many questions we have about McDonald's fries—and luckily, we've got the details on what exactly you're ordering in the drive-through window.
When it comes to healthy eating, it's all about information—if you choose to pick up a large order of McDonald's fries, that's totally your call. However, it's beneficial to know exactly what you're putting into your body so you can make an informed decision. After all, knowledge is power!
While your local McDonald's employee might not give you the scoop on their fries, we will—here are 15 things you may not have known about the addictive fries at McDonald's.
15 They Actually Are Made From Real Potatoes
So much fast food is made with processed ingredients and chemicals, so it's easy to assume that McDonald's fries are probably concocted with some kind of potato powder mixed with other ingredients. However, that's not the case—they're actually made with real potatoes! Now, obviously, they go through a whole process and have other ingredients added in there, but at the very beginning, it's the same kind of potatoes you might chop up to make fries in your own kitchen. So, regardless of how they end up, they do start with whole, natural ingredients from the ground, not a bunch of processed junk.
14 There's A Reason They Look Just Like The Commercials: Chemicals
No matter how good a cook you are, when you make fries or roasted potatoes at home, you never get a uniform color on them. Some of them are a little browner, others are super pale and didn't quite get as much golden crispness. At McDonald's, the fries always look like they could be straight out of a commercial, all a uniform color. Well, it turns out, it's not just because the employees are perfect at knowing exactly when to take them out of the fryer—it's because they get covered in sugar and sodium acid pyrophosphate before they're frozen to get the perfect shade.
13 No Diversifying With Curly Fries
There are some fast-food restaurants that try to get into the fry game by offering a wide variety of potato sides, from seasoned wedges to thin cut fries to curly fries. McDonald's is likely never going to jump on that boat because... well... they just don't need to—McDonald's fries are legendary, so all they need to do is offer different sizes. Sure, they've experimented with adding different seasonings to their fries to add a bit of interest to their menu, but at the end of the day, the base is always the same: classic golden fries we all know and love.
12 A Proper Serving Size Is Allegedly 6 Fries
Recently, the internet absolutely lost its mind when a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard suggested that an appropriate serving of fries was six fries. Yes—that's six individual fries. Now, choosing to go for a smaller size obviously isn't a bad idea—there's really no need to go for the large fry when you'll likely be just as satisfied with a small or medium. However, suggesting that someone eat just six fries sounded pretty ridiculous to everyone. Unless you're eating fries every single day, why not just enjoy them the few times you do treat yourself and have a regular order?
11 Salt-Free Orders Are A Huge Pain
Listen, we know there's nothing worse than getting an order of fries that are slightly limp and have clearly been sitting under the warming lights for a few minutes. So, many people think they can hack the system by asking for salt-free fries, which need to be prepared separately, in order to get the freshest possible fries. While some people genuinely do need to consume them salt free because of their health, it's a major pain for employees to make salt-free orders—it's a bit of an ordeal, and if you ask for salt-free fries and then salt packets to sprinkle on top of your fresh batch, they'll probably give you a major side eye.
10 They're The Most Popular Item On The Menu
It seems like McDonald's is constantly adding limited-edition items to their menu, which intrigue people for a few weeks before they return to their regular orders. However, no matter what additions are made to the menu, one thing has stayed consistent: the fries. The fries remain the most popular item on the menu and are still more popular than classics like the Big Mac or the Chicken McNuggets. It's not too hard to believe—while many people get them as a side, there are also many customers who'll just get an order of fries for a little treat from time to time.
9 They Have 14 Ingredients
Okay, so now you know that McDonald's fries are made out of real potatoes, and you know that they're coated with a few things to help maintain the perfect color when they're taken out of the deep fryer. However, you likely had no idea how many ingredients are in your simple order of fries. They have fourteen total ingredients, although some are used at multiple stages of production. In addition to the potatoes, they contain canola oil, soybean oil, hydrolyzed milk, citric acid, and natural beef flavor, just to name a few. It just goes to show that, when it comes to fast food, it's tough to know exactly what you're eating.
8 They're Cut With A Knife—Not Molded
The fries are so perfectly shaped that you likely assumed they were basically made by putting some type of potato mixture into molds, but it turns out, they're actually cut with a knife! Now, obviously, they're not lovingly hand cut by an employee—that would take an insane amount of time and wouldn't produce the same kind of uniform fries. However, after they're skinned and washed, they're sent through a series of blades in the factory that create the perfect potato sticks, all ready to go. So, don't feel guilty about the fact that your fries are never as uniform as the ones you get at McDonald's.
7 The Secret Ingredient That Makes Them So Addictive Is Beef Fat
No matter how carefully you cut them, no matter how liberally you sprinkle them with fat, and no matter how you prepare them, the fries you make at home never taste quite the same as McDonald's fries. And it turns out, that's because McDonald's fries have a secret ingredient—beef fat. Ever since the 1950s, McDonald's has been adding beef fat to their fries, which means vegetarians should probably steer clear of them. You would've assumed they were just fried up in vegetable oil, but that little extra dose of flavor from the beef fat is what makes them taste so delicious.
6 They're Flash Frozen Before They Get To The Store
Yes, McDonald's fries start out with fresh potatoes from the ground, but based on how much volume they need, they can't exactly leave them that way—they'd spoil before they got to the various McDonald's locations. So, the fries are actually partially cooked and flash frozen before they're packaged and sent off to the McDonald's locations that need them. Then, all the employees need to do is toss them in the fryer, package them in the distinctive red fry container, and hand them to a hungry customer. It's definitely an easier process than having to create fries from scratch at each location!
5 McDonald's Buys 3.4 Billion Pounds Of Potatoes A Year
McDonald's sells a lot of fries every single year, so it only makes sense that they'd need to buy a lot of potatoes in order to keep up with demand. However, you may not have known just how many potatoes they need to supply the world with their golden fries. Apparently, McDonald's buys about 3.4 billion potatoes a year in order to make sure every location around the world has enough fries to serve to customers. It's tough to wrap your head around just how many potatoes that is—if there's ever a potato shortage, we're not sure how they'd be able to handle it!
4 You Can Just Ask For Fresh Fries
If you're really concerned about getting the freshest possible fries, don't mess up an employee's system by forcing them to make a salt-free batch—simply ask them for fresh fries. Sure, you may feel a little bit demanding, but hey—you're paying for it, and if it's a big deal to you, they'll probably be more than happy to oblige. As with all things, it's better to just be honest. Though their fries are usually pretty fresh, if it seems like a slow day at the drive through and you're concerned about getting soggy fries, just ask for the fresh ones—it's not a big deal.
3 The Recipe Was Changed In 1992
McDonald's has been making delicious fries for decades, and for years, the fries got their addictive beef flavor through the addition of beef tallow. When the world got a little bit more conscious about health and ingredients, the fast-food chain made the decision in 1992 to address the issue of saturated fat and use vegetable oil to fry up their potatoes instead. They get that beefy flavor in the fries in other ways now, and the fries—while not healthy by any means—are lower in saturated fat than they were when prepared with tallow. The question is, will they decide to change their recipe again at some point?
2 They Were One Of The Fast-Food Chain's Original Menu Items
Back when McDonald's was a new restaurant that not many people knew about, the menu only had a few options and had more of a barbecue spin. The original menu didn't have anything like Chicken McNuggets or Big Macs, instead offering just burgers, shakes, soft drinks—and fries. Fries have been on the menu since the very beginning, and we have a feeling they'll never leave the menu, no matter what. Even if McDonald's stops offering burgers one day and decides to go on a health kick, they'll probably always keep those fries on the menu because customers absolutely love them.
1 A Mix Of Potato Varieties Is Used
When you bite into a fry, all you see is a uniform shade of white potato, but did you know that McDonald's actually uses a variety of potatoes to create the perfect fries? As many foodies will know, different potatoes cook slightly differently—they're interchangeable to an extent, but each kind does have a few differentiating factors. In order to create the perfect batch of fries, McDonald's uses Russet Burbank, Russet Ranger, Umatilla Russet, and Shepody potatoes. We're not sure what it is about the particular blend that works so well for them, but obviously, they know how to make a great batch of fries.