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French Fries, Serious Discussion

Starting a new thread in the hope that this will not deteriorate into a Star Trek discussion. Seems the Mods have chosen to allow the other thread to have that non-food discussion, unexplicably.

Checking the McD's ingredient list, here is their list for their French Fries:

Potatoes, vegetable oil (canola oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, natural beef flavor [wheat and milk derivatives]*, citric acid [preservative]), dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate (maintain color), salt. Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.

Lovely stuff, wheat, milk, TBHQ, and that long one at the end. Delicious.

So what we are saying is that taste is important, the heck with the ingredients?

French fries should have ONE ingredient: POTATOES. Fresh cut pretty much guarantees that!

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  1. Three ingredients: Potatoes, peanut oil, and salt.

    14 Replies
    1. re: MGZ

      What MGZ recommends with maybe the addition of a little cracked black pepper.

      1. re: Fowler

        I think of black pepper as a "to be added" condiment. To me, it goes in the category of ketchup, malt vinegar, or mayo/tartar. Also, I should note that I sorta think of beer like a condiment for good fries . . . or, is that a compliment?

        To the OP. I'm with you. I can choke down frozen fries from a place if that's all they got (and I have beer), but my "learnin'" over the years has made me a bit snobbish about the real thing. As I explained on the other thread, they are quite labor intensive, so I understand the reason they are not ubiquitous in restaurants, but that don't make 'em any less better (kinda like shuckin' your own clams or oysters to fry).

        1. re: MGZ

          MGZ, I am sure you are right, but for better or worse I am more old school and usually add some black pepper (as well as salt) to most savory food I cook. I do not consider black pepper the same as the condiments such as ketchup, malt vinegar, mayo based sauces, etc. that you mentioned.

          Regardless, I like your idea of just keeping it as simple as possible...potatoes, peanut oil and salt.

          1. re: MGZ

            But wait! All those preservatives and stuff in ketchup. Yuck! It's gotta be homemade ketchup or nothing. Right, Lemarais?

            1. re: E Eto

              Ketchup? Ugh! Nothing touches my fresh-cut fries but artisanal locavore curated cruelty-free CATSUP. To do otherwise is to bring discredit to your clan and make you lose face before the emperor.

              1. re: E Eto

                Here's Heinz in Europe:

                Spirit Vinegar, Sugar, Salt, Spice & Herb Extracts (contains Celery), Spice

                And you can also get a Reduced Sugar and Salt in Europe.

                Myself - Vinegar is best - but wanted to make clear all ketchup doesn't have GUNK.

                1. re: jounipesonen

                  Uhh...I don't see TOMATOES in that ingredient list....

                  1. re: PotatoHouse

                    Sorry - blame my cut and paste move:

                    Tomatoes (144g per 100g Ketchup), Spirit Vinegar, Sugar, Salt, Spice & Herb Extracts (contains Celery), Spice

                    One good 'contents' part of European labels is they often give the concentration - fruit in jam, meat in sausage, etc.

                    US label only says tomato concentrate - and a bunch of fructose.

                    1. re: jounipesonen

                      ok, I thought maybe your ketchup was vinegar based rather than tomato based. had me confused. LOL

          2. re: MGZ

            What about duck fat? Or beef tallow? Or good old pure lard? The ingredients are just a third of the battle. Without the right equipment and the right technique, all those fresh cut potatoes are doomed. And I'm saying this as someone who has a cast iron deep fryer, mesh dipper, and candy thermometer. That first batch is always off, but the second and third are perfect. After that, the oil tends to lose its resiliancy, and it has to be replaced. It's a labor and resource intensive operation, so I won't begrudge any restaurant that wants to take a shortcut. I'd rather have an excellently prepared frozen fry than a sloppy fresh-cut fry. Unfortunately, the latter continues to be what I end up with.

            1. re: monkeyrotica

              I ain't begrudgin' nobody nothin'. All I've been saying all along is give me a batch of well made, fresh cut fries with my beer as opposed to frozen ones. I much prefer the former.

              And, as I noted below, the first batch is never the best one.

              1. re: MGZ

                A friend who has a pizzeria always adds some old oil to the new when he changes the oil. He said the flavor just isn't there if he doesn't.

                1. re: Tom34

                  That's what makes Chinese carryout fries unique: they take on the flavor of the wontons, spring rolls, and eggrolls that were fried in the same oil.

            2. re: MGZ

              "Three ingredients: Potatoes, peanut oil,"

              That's always been my "frielosophy" until a few weeks ago when I was served a side-order of "frittes" that were a tad on the pale side but had been tossed with a pinch or two of super-finely sliced leeks. I still like my simple version, but these were some good!

            3. They're applying a flavoring agent to julienned potatoes in trace amounts. You're making it sound like there's some laboratory fabricating frenc-fry shaped wheat/milk/chemical sticks:


              1 Reply
              1. re: ferret

                Well, who wants to let facts get in the way of a good jeremiad.

              2. I would rather eat arsenic that tasted like McDonalds fries than fries borne of fresh cut potatoes that tasted like arsenic.

                7 Replies
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  "Here is your fork, Mr. Morton . . . ."

                  1. re: MGZ

                    P'shaw. Fries aren't enjoyed with utensils.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      To some that may assertion may be a fallacy. But, I spose I could understand the dilemma.

                      1. re: MGZ

                        If they have those little wooden forks available, like at Nathan's, then I can't resist. I might even stick my pinkie out while I pop a fry in my mouth.

                        1. re: coll

                          Ah, see, now your talkin' crinkle cut and that I do not have the knife skills to do. I guess what I asserted below has been disproved. No fry master I know can do a crinkle cut on a fresh tater.

                          1. re: MGZ

                            Yes I have to admit, crinkle cuts have won my heart. They're more than just a fry to me.

                      2. re: ipsedixit

                        After about 1/2 the FF are gone, I kind of enjoy picking up the McDonald's FF container and tilting it into my mouth and letting them fall in. :)

                  2. "Fresh cut" guarantees that they're cut fresh. It doesn't guarantee that someone would add a spice blend.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: ferret

                      Or know how to fry them so they don't end up like greasy strands of burnt potato.

                      1. re: ferret

                        Cut fresh where? At a factory? In recent years, I've had more than one place (typically bars/ taverns) claim to serve "fresh" cut that were obviously processed somewhere before hitting the restaurant (likely a refrigerated vs. frozen product).

                        1. re: Clams047

                          The same way restaurants claim that they cook their food from "scratch" when they should truthfully say that they've assembled it instead.

                      2. Eating french fries once in a while is not a problem; but eating them every day, being from McDo or French Laundry (if they do have it ?) make it bad.

                        If you do not like McDo or any other chain french fries, then do not eat there.

                        At least they are honest enough to list their ingredients and hope you/me/us are intelligent enough to make the right decision at the right time.

                        Incidentally, I grabbed a large french fries yesterday before going to a movie, first time in a long while ,and they always taste great for what they are; so they ingredients and the preparation process work to keep the quality the same.

                        End of the discussion.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Maximilien

                          It's not a matter of being honest, they disclose for people with allergies. Lemarais is the one making it sound ominous.

                          1. re: Maximilien

                            "and hope you/me/us are intelligent enough to make the right decision at the right time."

                            You're kidding - right? I know of NO company that hopes ANY customer is intelligent!

                          2. Did you think fast food chains were selling health food?

                            1. I still will stick up for frozen fries. They have better potential to be consistant. It's up to the restaurant to source what quality their customers may be looking for. There are thousands to choose from.

                              14 Replies
                              1. re: coll

                                If, by "consistent", you mean across various restaurants, I would agree. Nevertheless, if someone knows how to to the "four steps" properly, they can make consistently fantastic fries all day every day, and they will be better than anything that has been frozen. I've done so for twenty-five years (including, four summers when I'd make thousands and thousands a day).

                                Moreover, to be clear, let's not confuse the thickness of the fries with whether they are better fresh or frozen. A good French fry maker can cut thin slices and prep 'em just the same.

                                At bottom, the McDonald's recipe is really the same technique I've noted, only they add "beef flavorings" and sugar to adjust the taste before freezing (the second half of the list is just the second frying).

                                Call me a purist, I'd rather eat food that hasn't been treated and frozen. Moreover, I prefer peanut oil, as expensive as it is. Besides, If I wanna add beef or sugar before the second fry, I always can. As our friend ipse implied, there are more than two choices.

                                1. re: MGZ

                                  I talking quality and consistancy, regardless of the season (time of harvest). I am not that familiar with McDonalds fries, is that what everyone is so up in arms about?

                                  I sold french fries, among many other things, for over 20 years and got to taste everything available at one time or another. The biggest question is the oil, as you note. When we were sampling, you can be sure it was clean, good quality oil they were prepared in. That makes more difference to me than the fries pedigree. And from what I read, the impurities are more in the oil than the fry itself.

                                  1. re: coll

                                    Funny thing is, when I was workin' on the Boardwalk, I never thought the first one or two batches that came out of the new oil were the best. Now the next, few, however, they were the ones I'd eat.

                                    1. re: MGZ

                                      I used to work as a fry guy too, and would ONLY eat the first batch of anything! Then again, fried food isn't at the very top of my list in preferences, so I tend to be pickier than most.

                                  2. re: MGZ

                                    In a place like McDonald's, where not only every penny counts but consistency through all seasons matters, frozen is really the only option. It doesn't make them bad, just not to your liking. Clearly not everybody insists on fresh cut fries in every instance.

                                    1. re: ferret

                                      Quality of fresh potatoes varies from farm to farm and season to season and even potatoes grown on the same farm can have varying starch and sugar contents, resulting in an inconsistent fry. This is pretty much why McD's has exclusive contracts with potato farmers to provide a consistent product which they can freeze and distribute as needed. Fresh potatoes have a limited shelf life and their composition begins to break down once picked. By the time it gets to the fryer, you're getting widely inconsistent fry times between batches. It's like how mozzarella di buffala tastes totally different 72 hours after it's been processed. The flavor and texture begins to fade almost immediately.

                                  3. re: coll

                                    I think it's also dependent on the cut of the fries. Crinkle cuts seem to strike the right balance of crispy exterior with steamy interior. Shoestrings tend to skew crispy, but burn easily. Steak fries can be done crispy, but can also end up soggy. The size between shoestring and krinkle-cut are fairly consistent, but many times, those are coated fries, which just ruins the taste for me. It's like there's a layer of batter soaking up the oil and keeping the fries from reaching their full potential. You need to drown them in chili and cheese like they do at Checkers.

                                    1. re: monkeyrotica

                                      I actually like coated fries, not the battered ones but the better brands that are coated with just potato starch. They hold up very well and have that extra bit of crispiness that I look for.

                                      1. re: coll

                                        I just had an order of the coated fries for lunch with some fish from the local market. The fries were fine once I got them out of the styrofoam, but within 5 minutes they'd stiffened and tasted stale. The fish was still crispy for another 15 minutes.

                                        Clearly there are people who like coated fries. I've always wondered why they don't just skip the potato completely and serve fried coating. Sort of like a fried hushpuppy stick.

                                        1. re: monkeyrotica

                                          Like I said there are different levels. The batter coated is sold more to schools and cheaper places, but the potato starch coated you wouldn't even know.

                                          1. re: coll

                                            Ore-Ida Extra Crispy Tater Tots has a special coating made out of unicorn tears that makes them super deicious.**

                                            **(Not a factual statement.)

                                            1. re: monkeyrotica

                                              I've heard rumors.....a trade secret I believe.

                                          2. re: monkeyrotica

                                            >>I've always wondered why they don't just skip the potato completely and serve fried coating. Sort of like a fried hushpuppy stick.<<

                                            What a great idea! I'd stand in a queue for that.

                                      2. It's impossible to have only one ingredient, because they need to be fried in some kind of fat. As for the other ingredients, they are just a necessary consequence of the mass production necessary to supply a large number of outlets. I don't see anything in that list that I know to be a particular problem. If there is something there which people should be concerned about, how about stating which it is and why it is a problem (with supporting documentation)?

                                        There must be a lot of people who like McD fries, or they would change the recipe. For those who don't like them, or who just don't like the ingredients, there are many other places to get them.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: GH1618

                                          But they used to taste A LOT better back when they were fried in beef tallow. Now, they have a half-life of about ten minutes before they coagulate. Still, better than most fresh-cut fries cooked by idiots.

                                          1. re: monkeyrotica

                                            "Beef Tallow" - Even after all these years, I can still remember the EXACT flavor of those fries, thats how good they were.

                                            While not quite as good, todays McD's FF are still very good. I have yet to meet someone who didn't finish them and check the bottom of the bag to see if any fell out.

                                            IMHO, 5 guys fresh cut are horrible in comparison.

                                            1. re: Tom34

                                              That's my point that OP doesn't seem to grasp. There ARE Five Guys shops that fry fresh cut fries properly, but they are painfully few and far between. Whether you love or hate fries at McD's, they're always consistent from store to store because they're frozen. For some folks, a consistently good enough product trumps an almost always bad product.

                                              1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                There is a brand new % Guys in Bangor. Mrs. Potato and I tried it last week and it was pretty damn good.

                                                1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                  I have three 5Gs near where I live. Only one consistently fries their potatoes properly; the other two are so hit-or-miss that I avoid them at all costs.

                                            2. re: monkeyrotica

                                              Micky-D's french tasted amazing years ago. But the last time I tried them (???10 years ago???) they were smarmy.

                                              That said, there are a few places in my metro area who REALLY make amazing fresh fries that are far better than Micky-D's EVER were.

                                          2. Actually, french fries should have THREE ingredients: potatoes, oil, and salt. And they SHOULD be fried by someone who knows what they're doing. This has not been my experience with fresh cut fries. What HAS been my experience is that frozen krinkle cut fries almost ALWAYS come out of the fryer hot, crispy, and delicious. I think we've already established that you do not care for frozen fries or McD's fries in particular. What puzzles me is why it irks you so much that people don't feel the same way.

                                            1. So this thread got me interested in checking the ingredients of frozen french fries. Most of the ones I've found have two ingredients that fresh cut potatoes wouldn't. Ingredients are:

                                              potatoes, vegetable oil, dextrose, preservative

                                              (supplies Sysco


                                              Dextrose is just glucose which I imagine promotes browning. Starch is a long chain of glucose anyway.

                                              Preservative is the one addition fresh cut doesn't have. This is to be expected for any processed food.

                                              Ore-Ida adds annatto for color in order to call their fries "Golden Fries"


                                              " Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent."

                                              This portion isn't fair to compare because there's a good likelihood that a restaurant serving fresh-cut fries may still be using a commercial oil blend that may be just the same.

                                              10 Replies
                                              1. re: seamunky

                                                It isn't necessarily true that "fresh-cut" fries do not contain a preservative. The potatoes are not cut to order, they are cut in batches and held for use later. When I cut fries in a restaurant many years ago, they went directly into a soak with a potato whitener/preservative, probably sulfite.

                                                1. re: GH1618

                                                  Gotta soak those pre-cut fries otherwise they'll oxidize and turn brown. And those places that don't know what they're doing go straight from the cutter to the fryer, starch and all, which affects the texture.

                                                  1. re: GH1618

                                                    Yeah, I wondered about that. I don't have any restaurant experience. Thanks for the info!

                                                  2. re: seamunky

                                                    McCain is a really cheap brand, if Sysco does stock it, it is the lowest one they sell. Most wholesalers carry a cheap line and a "top of the" line. Check their house brand which is made by Simplot or Lamb or the like. Oreida is more of a grocery store brand.

                                                    Here is a list of all Lamb products and wheat additives (spoiler, none)

                                                    And here is the Simplot website which, last I heard, had the pleasure of supplying McDonalds


                                                    Then you have Cavendish, which is popular on the East Coast because the potatoes are grown in Maine and Canada so are cheaper due to lesser shipping expenses. But not as good as Idaho, by popular consensus.

                                                    OK: French Fry 101 over for today! These are the brands that you should be checking out if you want to know what you're getting at a good fast food place. The kind of place (and yes they definitely are out there) where quality is more important than price, especially on something as cheap as french fries.

                                                    1. re: coll

                                                      Thanks for the info coll.

                                                      This only reinforces my findings that many of the frozen fries don't have crazy food additives and scary ingredients. For example, one of the Lamb products I looked up has only one more than my prior list: salt.

                                                      Ingredients: Potatoes, High Oleic Canola Oil, Salt, Disodium Dihydrogen Pyrophosphate (to promote color retention), Dextrose.

                                                      1. re: seamunky

                                                        That's one line of fries, they have something for every taste. If you want something with no additives, I'm sure they can accomodate you. And if you want something cheap, likewise. It's up to the buyer.


                                                        BTW The line you chose is not a deep fried potato, but what they call an "ovenable" product. Not every kitchen has a deep fryer available.

                                                        1. re: coll

                                                          Yeah, their "ovenable" product is the one with the least ingredients. It's when you get to the other products like "Stealth Fries" that the ingredient list gets longer.

                                                          It's interesting how many different product lines they have. I like the behind-the-scenes look at marketing such as "high yield and great plate coverage" and "fantastic base for appetizer build."

                                                          1. re: seamunky

                                                            Plate coverage is a big deal for restaurants. It's a very important decision in deciding what fries to choose for a pub type place.

                                                        2. re: seamunky

                                                          I recall seeing some frozen fries in my local middle eastern grocer, who stock all halal products. I'll have to check the ingredients to see if they allow any "unclean" ingredients in their fries.

                                                        3. re: coll

                                                          Simplot was the original frozen fry supplier to McDonalds but eventually they had to share that market with others. The video I linked to shows a McCain plant processing McDonald's fries. McDonald's sets the standards for its products so you're not getting a "McCain" or "Simplot" french fry, you're getting a McDonald's french fry.

                                                          Simplot was the industry leader for a long stretch because he anticipated the market for frozen foods post-war and was first to market. Simplot was a fascinating guy. He also financed Micron/Crucial Memory when it was still a small startup in Idaho.

                                                      2. Not just labor costs, *skilled* labor. I worked at a McD back in the fresh-potatoes-and-beef-fat era. The manager, quite rightly, would not let us kids touch the French fries except for the final crisping. Instead, he would come in early every day, select cured potatoes (Does anyone remember that McD would *cure* potatoes by letting them sit in a ventilated bin for a number of days. Not sure the exact effect, possibly starch-sugar conversion---does anyone know?), peel and cut them, soak in water to rinse off surface starch, dry them, blanch them in medium temperature beef fat in small batches, cool them, combine them into double batches (the fryer could handle a larger batch of blanched fries), and put them in the walk-in ready for the final frying. Anyone think teenagers could do this consistently? For that matter, does anyone think that *every* McD manager did this? But, man, were those fries great! Even Julia Child admired them---not from my store, but generally. And to expect that nowdays when fries are nearly a giveway item? Just sayin'.

                                                        1. For my home fries I buy large baking potatoes and let them sit a month or more (Joy of Cooking tip). Then hand cut with a knife(skin on) soaked in 3 changes of water for 15 mins then allowed to sit in a water bath for several hours. Dried...fried once at 325 or so until limp and little "frothing" in the pot. Cooled.at least 10 mins, sometimes more then thrown into a 375-400 bath until crisp and golden

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                            As I posted on the earlier thread, I do the first fry (the "blanch") at a lower temp - 250 to 275. I do the second fry (the "finish") slightly on the southside of 375. Your technique is basically the "Boardwalk Fry" recipe that has been pleasin' sunburned East Coasters for many year now.

                                                            Oh, and such fries deserve malt vinegar and ketchup when the time comes to eat 'em (although the first couple should be shown some respect and eaten "as is" - if only so that you realize how f*ckin' hot they still are inside).

                                                            1. re: MGZ

                                                              a hearty YESS to the malt vinegar

                                                              I'm not a ketchup fan but the family is

                                                              a garlicky Mayo/aioli does wonders.......those Belgian and Dutch fries I have had like that are heaven

                                                            2. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                              And the reason for letting them sit is so the starch turns to sugar, right? So why are some people upset that the factories either add sugar, or maybe they are just reporting the transformation process?

                                                              1. re: coll

                                                                the water baths are to help remove starch, not sure about the sugars. I do the same thing with oven roasted potatoes....it helps the outer part crisp

                                                            3. There is a theory that it's better to have only fresh ingredients because that will lead to better tasting food.

                                                              What you bring up is the idea that it doesn't matter if the taste is better, what's better is to only have the fresh ingredients anyway.

                                                              I think what matters most is taste, with a very close second having ingredients that don't kill you. But I don't think sodium acid pyrophosphate will kill you. I do wish they didn't use hydrogenated soybean oil however.

                                                              I don't agree with the idea at all that french fries can't have anything other than potatoes (and, presumably, oil and salt). Who came up with that idea? What if adding another ingredient makes it taste better?

                                                              Or, in the McD example, what if restaurants take fresh potatoes and mess up the preparation? I'd rather have McD fries over about 80-90% of other french fries I've tasted, regardless of the ingredient list.

                                                              9 Replies
                                                              1. re: calumin

                                                                >>>I don't agree with the idea at all that french fries can't have anything other than potatoes (and, presumably, oil and salt). Who came up with that idea?<<<

                                                                The participant here that posts under the moniker MGZ.

                                                                1. re: Fowler

                                                                  Also the originator of this and the previous frenchfry thread.


                                                                  1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                    The originator of this thread is not saying that french fries that only contain potatoes necessarily taste better. He (or she) is saying: "are we saying taste is important, and heck with the ingredients." As if there's a kind of purity test for french fries.

                                                                    I bet people could not taste the difference between french fries containing a small amount of sodium acid pyrophosphate, and fries that don't.

                                                                    1. re: calumin

                                                                      I think the OP's point is that fries that contain sodium acid pyrophosphate made fresh and not frozen, and made from "real" pyrophosphates, taste better.

                                                                      1. re: E Eto

                                                                        Looking forward to seeing "artificial pyrophosphates (a diarrhea reducer)" on my tater tots.

                                                                        Now there's a frozen potato product that tastes awesome. Do fresh tater tots even exist?

                                                                2. re: calumin

                                                                  You leave out the fact that places are looking to create mass appeal with taste. They are willing to focus on the middle, not the edges. That produces the most profit at the most cost effective price. Sugar is the obvious example.

                                                                  Personally, I know that what might appeal to the masses often doesn't appeal to me. I don't, for example, eat at Applebee's. Obviously, the mainstream palate might like that kinda thing, doesn't mean mine has to, right?

                                                                  Folks can add sh*t to their fries I don't care. But, it's not gonna change my mind about what tastes better.

                                                                  1. re: calumin

                                                                    calumin, you clearly haven't had the heaven that is well-made fresh french fries. Find a great French restaurant that is known for its pommes frites and go. McDonald's will never taste the same again.

                                                                    1. re: sandylc

                                                                      Personally, I have had amazingly good fresh French fries of several types.

                                                                      They're definitely superior to McDonalds. The difference isn't the trace amounts of chemicals added to the frozen ones, though. The difference is good potatoes and good oil, prepared with skill and patience, and the cooking finished immediately before being served.

                                                                      Those requirements - good ingredients, skilled preparation, and a prep-time that pre-dates when I arrive at the restaurant, also makes finding amazingly good fresh fries really difficult, and makes producing amazingly good fresh fries a non-trivial proposition. Among other things, customers are not going to be happy to be told "Sorry - the potato quality of our delivery wasn't good enough today" or "Oh, a new batch was just started - they'll be ready in an hour and a half!"

                                                                      McDonald's ones are pretty good, are ready the moment I walk into the store at any time of the day or night, are of consistent quality, and are available everywhere.

                                                                    2. re: calumin

                                                                      Do you recall the giant uproar when it was "revealed" that Taco Bell's beef taco filling wasn't 100% beef? How many people who were presumably smart enough to know better were reflexively outraged about this? Did it never occur to them that a 100% beef taco filling wouldn't include key elements like, y'know, salt? Chili powder? Garlic? Onions?

                                                                    3. Lists of ingredients like that are often an inevitable prerequisite to producing consistent products on an industrial scale. The essential question is, 'should you be concerned?'.

                                                                      You should be concerned about the potential, as lists of ingredients expand, for some of those ingredients to have adverse effects on health. That is not a new thing, though: numerous natural foods have that potential: almonds, cherries, rhubarb, and various root vegetables come to mind. We scarcely even consider those, because the methods of preparation are so well-established or the food so common that there is either no real risk or the risk is practically ignored.

                                                                      If there are novel ingredients in an industrial product, the fact that a chemical does not have a common name has absolutely no bearing on its effects on human physiology. All that it does denote is that the chemical isn't sufficiently widely used by domestic cooks for it to have been given a simpler name, as in the (facile) example of sodium bicarbonate, which amicably introduces itself as 'baking soda'.

                                                                      Almost everything that we do to prepare food involves some kind of complex chemical or thermal manipulation; when we mix flour, water and salt, we are manipulating proteins into a gluten gel to hold gelatinized starches, but it is no less an exercise in chemistry because we have felt our way to it over the course of thousands of years and now simply call it 'making bread dough'.

                                                                      The irony is that the additives that are feared are subjected to greater, more methodical scrutiny than natural foods, some of which might fail to be accepted (as the primal food morons like to suggest, sugar - with its proclivity to satanic rituals and eating new-born infants - might be considered a toxin if assessed as a novel ingredient).

                                                                      I don't think, then, that the additives per se represent the greatest concern. The greater concern for me is why they have been used in the first place: was it really necessary to produce a cut sandwich that could survive for 14 days in an airport fridge and nuclear winter; was it really necessary that every crisp should have identical sizes, colors, distributions of flavoring, and resistance to the tooth?

                                                                      Additives go more to the disfunctional (or, perhaps, ultra-functional) state of eating in the West than they do risks to our collective health.

                                                                      1. Always wondered what the raving was about McD fries - filled with crap - just what i thought - and which is now good reason for the burping and belching that follows eating them.

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: jounipesonen

                                                                          They were great way back when. Or at least MUCH better than they are now...

                                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                                            I wonder if, 20 years from now when McD's is frying genetically engineered potato protein powder in recovered motor oil, people will look back fondly on when they actually used real potatoes and vegetable oil.

                                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                                              Definitely better years ago but still pretty darn good :-)

                                                                          2. McDonald's fries live on the very long half life of their formerly deserved reputation. Once they got rid of the tallow (which lasted longer in Canada*), then the transfats, the quality declined noticeably, but people's taste-buds adjust if the mouth feel is proximate.

                                                                            * One consequence of eliminating the tallow was that that caloric load per unit went up 25-30%. (I compared the calorie counts of American and Canadian fries - using the same weight value - when they still were being made differently). The tallow treatment did involve higher cholesterol, but also seemed to prevent the fries from absorbing as much fat is in oil.

                                                                            19 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Karl S

                                                                              I'm not surprised by that, actually. I read in "How to Read a French Fry" that animal based fats produce crispier fried foods, so McDonalds probably had to fry their fries longer to get the same approximate texture once they switched to vegetable oil. Longer frying = more oil absorption.

                                                                              I've tested this myself, and I can get much crispier hash browns, for example, using chicken fat or if I'm making hash with shredded pork, than if I use vegetable oil. They also crisp up much faster in the animal fat.

                                                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                                                My grandmother lived to be 2 months short of 105 and used nothing but animal fat.

                                                                                Several years back they came out with new chips using some concoction cooked up in a lab where cholesterol was somehow not absorbed. Seemed like it gave people the slides and disappeared from the shelves quite quickly.

                                                                                I may be wrong but to my way of thinking the real thing in moderation seems to have the longest track record.

                                                                                1. re: Tom34

                                                                                  Wasn't that called something like...Olestra?

                                                                                  1. re: Tom34

                                                                                    Agreed. People who ate the olestra were supposed to eat it in small quantities, but of course, they didn't (in fact, some people probably used it as an excuse to pig out), and I can only imagine the consequences/side effects were quite...unpleasant.

                                                                                    My sister is really into nutrition, reads tons about it, and she's much more concerned about GMOs than she is animal fats. She rarely eats fried food, but when she does, she'd much rather use lard than anything with corn oil in it. I've been trying to talk her into rendering her own chicken fat, she pays for organic chickens, she might as well use as much of the chicken as possible.

                                                                                    The way I look at it is, animal fat has been tested for thousands of years, you pretty much know the limits of what its going to do to you... ;D

                                                                                    1. re: ePressureCooker

                                                                                      "Animal Fat......you know the limits of whats its going to do to you"..................Thats for sure, the 10 fatty medium Buffalo garlic wings I washed down with 3 beers last night were as good as expected and the results this morning also quite predictable :-)

                                                                                      1. re: Tom34

                                                                                        Animal fat was likely the least of your problems with those wings! Try the oil (not animal) that they were fried in (how old, how high it had been heated, what kind), how long the prepped wings were sitting around, how many "flavor enhancers" were in the wings, how good the hygiene was in the kitchen, etc.

                                                                                    2. re: Tom34

                                                                                      There was an NIH study a few years back comparing how bodies retain transfats, vegetable fats, and animal fats (lard, butter, etc). In a majority of cases, the participants bodies processed most of the animal fats out, but when it came to vegetable fats (nut-based and soybean based oils), their bodies retained and stored those oils as body fat.

                                                                                      1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                                        I remember something about that. That's one of the reasons I don't get into the whole nutritional debate because every day there is a new study coming out. I do think Pressure Cooker is right though that so many "long" term studies have been conducted with animal fats that most of the problems associated with them are known.

                                                                                        1. re: Tom34

                                                                                          >>>many "long" term studies have been conducted with animal fats that most of the problems associated with them are known.<<<

                                                                                          How far back do these studies go? I thought human beings had been around for 1000's of years before any type of legitimate medical trials/studies were conducted.

                                                                                          1. re: Fowler

                                                                                            I don't know but during my lifetime a continuous barrage of criticism has been directed at animal fat and one substitute after another has been created only to find they had more issues than animal fat.

                                                                                            1. re: Tom34

                                                                                              Its the same thing with eggs. For years, they're a healthy part of a complete breakfast. Then they're little round nails in your coffin. Then they're good in moderation. Then they're worse than Hitler. Then they're just reformed Nixon.

                                                                                              The animal fat thing is kinda like how low-fat "diet" products contain a buncha other junk (like sugars and salt) to compensate for the lack of flavor. So people consume three-times as much because "it's low fat!"

                                                                                              Saw a guy rolling out of the grocery store with a dozen cases of diet soda. He weighed at least 350lbs and I'm like, "Dude, I'm pretty sure that stuff isn't working."

                                                                                              1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                                                "Then they're just reformed Nixon."

                                                                                                That was a "sinkin' a three pointer at the buzzer of a Sweet Sixteen game" turn of phrase. Vitale screamed.

                                                                                                1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                                                  And that guy is probably quite aware people observing are thinking that.

                                                                                                  1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                                                    Yeah its hard to take the results of these studies seriously when you look at the beating the poor egg has taken.

                                                                                                    Reformed Nixon.....LOL :-)

                                                                                                    Your right about the low fat diet not to mention fat helps keep the pipes flowing.

                                                                                                    Chances are you misses the first 2 carts the dude pushed out. I think there was something written about diet soda increasing a persons appetite.

                                                                                                    I am hoping sparkling flavored water holds up to the scrutiny as they make very convenient summertime mixers :-)

                                                                                          2. re: Tom34

                                                                                            Does the term 'anal leakage' sound familiar?

                                                                                            1. re: John E.

                                                                                              Yes it does, but I was trying not to gross anyone out by mentioning it, and being as circumspect as possible...

                                                                                              1. re: ePressureCooker

                                                                                                I have not always been known for my tact.

                                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                                  Neither am I, a fact for which my wife frequently reminds me of. .

                                                                                        2. If I get a hot steaming fresh batch of heavily salted fries from McD I at just the time I am craving them.... I don't really care what they are made from. They are truly a delicious thing, and have trumped every fry I've had or personally made at home even with all the time and double blanching and everything else.

                                                                                          That said to make at home.... after time and time of trying to make perfect fries.... give me those frozen crinkle cuts and let me bake them into super crispy submission.