Few foods have so many fans as the all conquering McDonald’s French fry. The perfect balance between soggy and salty, oily and juicy, crispy and floppy, Maccies fries aren’t like anything else on the fast food menu. They are a collection of delicious contradictions. Which probably explains why we eat approximately 320 billion fries every single year.
On the surface, fries might seem pretty straightforward. But, behind the bold red box and bright yellow ‘M’ is a hidden saga of secret histories and strange happenings that mean there is a whole lot more to McDonald’s chips than meet the eye. To help you understand even more about everyone’s favourite snack, here are 7 things you never knew about McDonald's French fries.
1. McDonald’s changed the recipe
Before the 90s, McDonald’s and every other major fast food franchise had a secret weapon to help all their ingredients taste extra-flavourful. Rather than using any old oil, all food - including French fries - was fried in beef fat. This gave the chips an extraordinary depth of flavour, even if they weren’t veggie friendly. However, under pressure from campaigners, the recipe was changed in 1992, and they’ve never been the same since.
2. They’re different around the world
Despite the veggie-friendly recipe changes, American McDonald’s fries are still not vegan. This is thanks to the addition of “natural beef flavour”, which contains a milk extract. However, in Britain and other European countries, this ingredient is not included, making them vegan friendly and subtly different from their US counterparts.
3. McDonald’s buy a lot of potatoes
When you’re business is as big as the Golden Arches’, some serious production is required to keep things running. That being said, the amount of potatoes that goes into satisfying our French fry obsession is nothing short of staggering. According to an Inc. story published in 2015, the business gets through 3.4 billion pounds of potatoes every year.
4. They aren’t all the same
It’s easy to look at the uniform golden spears and assume that thousands of the same, generic brown spud are responsible. However, the truth is surprisingly more complicated. According to McDonald’s official website, the chain actually uses four different potato species - Russet Burbank, Russet Ranger, Umatilla Russet, and Shepody potatoes - to create its fries.
5. They are cooked more than once
There’s a whole lot more to fry cookery than plunging them straight into boiling oil and hoping for the best. Before any McDonald’s French fry makes it to a restaurant, it is deep fried for approximately one minute, before being frozen ready for transportation. It is then cooked for a second time ready for service in the store.
6. They’ve been there since the beginning
The McDonald’s menu has changed a great deal over the years. One thing, however, has always stayed the same. According to a menu shared by The Daily Meal in 2016, the original McDonald’s restaurants didn’t offer chicken nuggets or Big Macs, but every one provided French fries.
7. You should only ever eat six at once
Earlier this year, a Harvard professor made headlines around the world with his horrifying proclamation that current McDonald’s portions grossly overestimate what we should be eating. Professor Eric Rimm optimistically claimed that the ideal portion size shouldn’t exceed six at a time. Unsurprisingly, the internet was less than enthusiastic about this suggestion.
Given how popular they have become, it’s easy to take French fries for granted. But, as with many foods, a look below the surface reveals a hidden history that adds depth to their already delicious flavour. They might not be glamorous, but Maccies chips are still fascinating.