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I figured out why In/Out fries suck

A friend and I have wondered, nay, obsessed on this topic for many of years now. Why are the fries at In/Out so damn tasteless? The potential for greatness is right there, they slice them right in front of you fer chrissake! They should rule and dominate like none other.

We order them almost every time because of this. We go there fully determined to not order fries, but when we get to the counter, seeing the fresh-cut potatoes flying around everywhere and all totally undermines our will and somehow they end up on the tray once again.

And they suck once again. But I have figured it out. I'm sure I'm not the first one, but I've never seen or heard anyone posit this idea, so here goes.

Their oil is too damn clean. As a franchise they seem obsessed with cleanliness. But any old short order cook (me, for example) knows that pure clear clean oil produces subpar fried items. The oil has to darken up with whatever debris and detritus darkens it up before things start to taste right, much as a cast iron pan has to blacken up. Some places even hold back a quart or so of old oil to add to the new stuff when they change the oil out.

I'll bet that In/Out not only changes the oil every day but, like, steam cleans the fryers or something so the oil never has a chance to blacken up good. I'll stake my next paycheck on this.

Had to share this with thems that might care about suchlike.

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  1. I think it's because they are only fried once. Good fries are blanched first, then fried later. I've ordered them well-done before, and they are better, but not great.

    1. And, which diner/grease pit do you work at? I'd like to know where not to eat. kidding.

      While I think if you're going to have fast food fries, right now, carl's junior natural cut fries are the way to go.. I don't think In n' Out's fries suck but they are not my favorite.

      Why are they not exactly to my liking given the "freshness" of the fry cookery?

      Well, I think it's a combination of potato choice, maybe they don't dry them well enough (even though it looks like they have them in a centrifuge), and they don't do what they do in Belgium ... fry them twice. Once at a lower temp, and once at a higher temp. I personally like crunchier fries... I don't think In and Out is looking to make crunchy fries.

      However, their burgers are very tasty and their shakes are rich... and the prices are right... so, I'll overlook their fries as I eat my Double Meat Ketchup Instead Grilled and Raw with Extra Lettuce and Extra Tomato and get a brain freeze from their thick shakes.

      1. I agree that their fries are not the strong point. Other fast food places do better.

        But I HOPE everyone knows to order In-N-Out's fries "well done." It's one of the many standard "off-the-menu" options important to know about this chain. (Entire Web sites are devoted to that subject, and probably hundreds of posts here.)

        4 Replies
        1. re: eatzalot

          I stand by what I've posted before: well-done cardboard is still cardboard. INO hamburgers are OK, better than the average randomly chosen joint, but their fries are an abomination. At times I've lucked into properly fried potatoes there -- beautifully colored and crunchy -- but they still had no flavor, much less potato flavor.

          As a long-time home fryer, I can tell you that bad process -- tasteless oil, single-frying, no icy bath for the raw potatoes, etc. -- doesn't produce potatoes this tasteless. It has to be the potatoes themselves, which are probably grown at Disneyland or some other soiless green.

          1. re: eatzalot

            I agree; we order "well done" fries every time...sometimes ordering "extra well done", "very well done" or even "crunchy". I love those fries!!!

          2. As others have noted, their fries suck because they're not double fried, not because the oil is too clean.

            1. It's not so much the oil as the technique. While it's true that brand new oil doesn't brown as well, if you want good fries what you need to do is wash the excess starch off of the sliced potatoes and let them soak for a while in cold water, then fry them twice. The first fry cooks the inside, then once cooled the second fry crisps and browns the outside.

              1. They TASTE DIFFERENT because they are cut and cooked FRESH.

                Everyplace else uses frozen potatoes.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Cathy

                  YES - this is the secret. for the tasty fry experience - the potatoes need to be frozen first (and i am really not being sarcastic). i read an article about this a while ago - and it explained the process. but, essentially, the freezing and then frying creates the tasty outer crispy shell that is the basis for a tasty fry. this is one time that frozen is better - and in and out's fries are awful b/c they are cut and fried fresh.

                  1. re: bu dat

                    "YES - this is the secret. for the tasty fry experience - the potatoes need to be frozen first"

                    I'm not ready to agree with that, but we do have a pretty good pizza/hot dog place out here in California (the small Romano's chain in Riverside), and the fries are much better than you'd expect -- infinitely more tasty than INO fries. (Of course, so are dog biscuits.) I once complimented the head cook on his fries, and he told me they came frozen in a bag. All he does is fry them (once).

                    1. re: sbritchky

                      "I once complimented the head cook on his fries, and he told me they came frozen in a bag. All he does is fry them (once)."

                      McD's, for example, par-fries their fries, then freezes them and ships them out to the outlets, where they get a second fry before serving. Maybe other food-service fries come the same way?

                    2. re: bu dat

                      That, quite frankly, is ridiculous.
                      A decent doublefry will get you crunch with fresh potatoes.
                      I know because I've done it dozens of times -- in a row.

                  2. Yep, as others have noted, they're not double-fried. It's a shame they go through the trouble of using fresh potatoes and then don't bother double-frying them.

                    1. whenever i make it out to cali, in and out is a must-do for the fries. i really enjoy the fresh-cut flavor. fyi, many restaurants at the jersey shore fresh cut their fries, but they are fried in peanut oil, which imparts a unique and tasty flavor, without dirty oil or double frying.

                      1. While I don't think they suck, they are underwhelming but none of the arguments put forth here make sense.

                        I can think of 2 places I regularly go that have fresh cut fries. They do not "fry them twice" and the fries are not frozen. One is a diner that I grew up going to, which is 2 hours away now so I only go a few times a year, but I know for a fact they do not fry twice, my Mother used to work there and still knows the people who own it and they do it the same way they always have. Tiny kitchen, take potato, put through wall cutter, fry and serve.

                        2nd is our local county fair. I've been to other state fairs and gasped in horror when I saw they were opening brown bags of frozen fries and frying and serving them. Ack! At our fairs you can see the potatoes and the cutting right there, and they cut them, put them in the basket, fry them and serve them and they are fresh and extremely tasty.

                        The fries are not "well done" at either place. They are mostly around the same color in and out fries are, perhaps slightly darker but NOT hard, they are pretty soft, greasy and great.

                        As to the age of the oil, my uncle used to have a stand at the fair and they have to change out the oil at least in between fairs so it's no more than 4 days old. I've had fries from the fair on the very first day and they are always tasty. So "clean" oil doesn't seem to be the culprit either.

                        But I would like to know why they are so different than fresh cut fries I have everywhere else, they are definitely less tasty at In & Out.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: rockandroller1

                          Is in and out using russets? White potatoes taste WAY different.

                        2. A voice of dissent. I like In n Out fries "animal style"

                          1. I think they're great. Maybe it's the "fresh cut" aspect, but I can really taste the potato.

                            1. Most fast food joints and sadly, many well known highly regarded diners and pizzerias accommodate to American tastes by slathering EVERYTHING on the menu possible with a layer of salt voluminous enough to empty a salt mine. By that standard, In/Out fries have little flavor.

                              To be honest, not a big fan of In/Out despite my defense of their food prep process. Their portions are small-ish and the flavor unremarkable.

                              The pros of In/Out include a very friendly, professional staff, and the idea of not having a freezer on premises does sound great. The end result, however, is far from spectacular.

                              1. Being an East Coast guy,I've only had the opportunity to eat at In/Out once in SF and thought it was good,but kind of over-rated.However,regarding the fries, the best one's I've had near me(NYC area) are all fresh cut.They are always much tastier to me than the frozen variety.

                                1. I love their fries....you must enjoy the "flavoring" of msg OR detrius of processed "nuggets" found at mass produced places. There is no such thing as too clean, you are just addicted to preservatives.

                                  1. We take our own bottle of English malt vinegar with us!

                                    1. I'm gonna add my voice to the apparent minority "I like In N' Out fries" camp. They're simple and fresh with a nice potato flavor. I order them well done and I think they're delicious.