Journalist Katie M. Palmer has delved into the fluorescent-lit realm of the McDonald’s kitchen and come out the other side with two fists clutching fried potato and truth bombs.
The process is predictably universalised right from the start with the type of potatoes chosen (usually a Russet Burbank or similar), which is a decision based around the potato type least likely to get those nasty, wormy burnt bits during the cooking stage.
In order to avoid the fries coming out looking like anything that wasn’t carefully engineered by a marketing team and not – you know – actual chefs, the peeled and sliced spuds are then dipped in nutritious-sounding sodium acid pyrophosphate to lock in that white-yellow hue.
Burger fans in the ’90s who wanted a healthier option but didn’t want to stop eating at fast food franchises demanded McDonald’s stop frying their trademark chips in beef tallow and they complied, swapping in vegetable oil instead and to this day a careful blend of canola, hydrogenated and non-hydrogenated soybean oils are used with all-natural beef flavouring so each chip still exudes that moreish musk.
Of course, this is all happening at the factory, and when the time comes to fry the chip in store, it’s time to subject it to some more wholesome oil. This time, the oil contains a friendly little additive called tertbutylhydroquinone (or TBHQ) which in large doses causes totally unrelated stomach tumours in rats.
Unfortunately, after all the blanching and tinkering that happens to old Russet Burbank, a lot of the potato’s natural chippy taste is gone. This is easily remedied with a quick dip in some dextrose (corn-based sugar syrup to the uninitiated) for that crispy, caramelised lacquer.
The fries are at this point turgid with fat and sugar but it’s not complete without the essential ingredient: identically sized salt granules – applied while the fries are still hot so they soak in and are ready to serve to the masses.
If the process for whatever reason strikes you as remotely unappealing, Microsoft has got you covered. The company’s former CTO Nathan Myhrvold created what he believes to be the recipe for the perfect fries.
I should mention that the recipe is only an option if you’ve got a cheeky $600 to spare for his colossal cookbook. If not, then a small serve of McDonald’s trusty fries might be more within your budget.