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Jun 9, 2009 09:17 AM

What's with the proliferation of fake french fries.

Was in unfamiliar territory with the family the other day, so we stopped at a Southwestern Grill -- just your typical non-chain but wannabe Chilis/Fridays. I played it safe with a burger and fries. The fries were those extruded things covered in that sprayed on starch powder that keeps them crispy forever.

I don't mind french fries that are previously frozen -- you don't get fresh cut at too many places. And as long as they are actual sticks of potato, they usually aren't bad.

But so many places now have these fake fries -- either fake "crunchy spray" or some ridiculous seasoning or a combination of the two. Yes, they are crispy -- and totally lacking in any flavor other than the seasoning.

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  1. Cost cutting and customers taste cutting.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Maximilien

      Yeah, but you would think a simple frozen slice of potato is cheaper to make than an extruded, sprayed and frozen squeeze of potato like substance.

      1. re: sbp

        Not if you figure in staff time.

          1. re: Alice Letseat

            What staff time? Not talking about fresh cut fries -- just frozen french fries. Garden variety frozen fries -- a la McDonalds, Wendys (not Burger King, which went the sprayed on starch route) may not be great, but they can be very good. And out of the freezer, I don't see how they take any more time and expense than the extruded frozen fries.

          2. re: sbp

            i think these 'fries' are being made from potatoes that are not the correct size or shape for making a proper fry. or, they could be made with ground and processed 'trimmings' that otherwise would of been tossed or used for another less profitable potato product.

            1. re: ScubaSteve

              I would say that ground or processed trimmings could be made into potato pancakes or croquettes, which are just as profitable, but can't wrap my mind around how you would make a french fry out of it?

              1. re: coll

                remember the PlayDoh Fun Factory?

                1. re: ScubaSteve

                  Yeah that was Play Doh. I've seen onion rings extruded, I've seen dog food extruded (yeah I get around) but never french fries. Since they only cost about 2 or 3 cents an ounce, and you put maybe 3 oz average on a platter, why would you need to make it any cheaper? The potatoes ends that are left over go into the cheap fries that are all different sizes, then if you care about that kind of thing, you can pay 5 cents an ounce and get all center cuts, all cut the same size.

                  OK that's enough trade secrets for now ;-) I like there to be a little mystery about these things, myself.

              2. re: ScubaSteve

                Trimmings and odd sized potatoes at french fry factories usually become tater tots.

                1. re: mpjmph

                  yahbut, if they can sell them more as 'fries' then why not?

                  1. re: ScubaSteve

                    Because I don't think you could form it into a fry. I've never seen a commercial french fry that wasn't a solid piece of potato. Maybe some restaurant could figure something out, but I doubt it. They'd probably just throw it in some soup or stew.

          3. These extruded things are to french fries as Pringles is to potato chips! There must be at least a dozen different "flavors" of Pringles on the market today. Each new flavor tastes less like a real potato chip than the previous one.
            It's just good ol' American ingenuity and marketing.
            No one ever went broke by under estimating the gullibility of the public.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Doctormhl1

              That's a good analogy! I actually like Pringles (or Munchos) when I'm in the mood for them. Might not be real potato chips, but sometimes a real potato chip won't do. And I also like these fake french fries the OP was talking about. Must be really gullible.

              1. re: Miss Needle

                I second the movement, Miss Needle. I like Pringles and coated french fries too (guilty pleasure at Costco).

                1. re: Miss Needle

                  Fortunately, legal action prevents Pringles from referring to their product as potato chips. The same should be done for this wretched imitation french fry. Like Pringles, people who enjoy processed foods will then be able to gleefully home in those menu items, while the rest of us will be able to once again order fries and actually get them

              2. I don't know, but I say if you ever see an option for sweet potato fries, go with those. Haven't seen them mass-produced into taste oblivion yet.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Cinnamon

                  I was just thinking the same thing today.

                  1. re: 1red111

                    Frozen sweet potato fries cost twice as much as regular potato, so I'm sure someone is working on a cheaper version. If the restaurant is not making their own, then of the two main sweet potato brands, one is coated and one not, and the coated ones are much superior; the uncoated fry up soggy and mushy. So don't know how far they can go with R&D.

                    By the way, I've never heard of extruded fries, they always start out solid as far as I know. (Onion rings are another story) The Idaho versions are mushier than Maine or Canada, but still whole potato. Some people don't like the softness though, it's fluffy like mashed potato although it starts out solid. While many have an "invisible" coating (for example McDonalds), there IS a "pub batter" fry that has a thicker coating that you would actually notice, but it is a value added item and costs more than plain. There are so many frozen fries out there, and every restaurant wants theirs to be different than everyone else in town, that's the reason so much discrepancy. Hope that's not too much info.

                    1. re: coll

                      Think of it this way .....Extruded "Fake Fries" are to a potato as Hot Dogs are to a pig. There is a lot of room for scraps, flavoring, coloring, skin snap control, and computer controlled extrusion machinery.

                  2. re: Cinnamon

                    I have a sneaking suspicion that almost everybody gets their sweet potato fries from the same supplier, at least here in FSA country. They seem to look and taste exactly the same no matter where I get them.

                  3. Extruded potato paste french fries -- I have seen them and tasted them and they are NOT pretty!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Tripeler

                      OMG what brand are they? I didn't think they existed, not even for prisons.

                    2. ok, way out here in the tropics we tend not to get things as fast (for better or worse). what are these things and what kind of places sell them? are they found in the market or just in the cheap diner/burger joints that sell the mini machine pressed patties that barely qualify as burgers?