A week or so ago, we stopped at a Jack-in-the-Box for lunch. They were promoting their “New Improved Fries!”. Yup, you guessed it. The same overly crisp surface with a soapy aftertaste that shot down Burger King in the late ’80s. I don’t know what that technology is, but it makes a fry that some folks love in the marketing trials but just does not ‘wear well’ and tastes crappy to some (like me). It isn’t the “comfort food” that folks actually buy when they want french fries, but it does well in marketing trials. An evolutionary dead end that keeps getting tried, but ends badly. (Like rhinoceroids, big things with horns on the nose, that nature keeps evolving, but end in extinction each time…) So the marketing folks do a trial and folks answer “YES, it IS more crispy!”… but no one thought to ask ‘do some of you think this is crap?’… and certainly they got a load of response forms from 12 year old kids and not very many from 50 something couples on road trips… So the fries go to ‘production’ and then when sales of hamburgers drop, they can’t figure out why. Ah, well. Live and not learn…
On a positive note, on the last run to California Missions we stopped at a Carl’s Jr. for an alternative and they had a simple ‘skin on’ fry that was pretty darned good. Not as good as mine ;-) but still a real honest fry.
The spouse is toying with being a vegetarian so found it a bit of a challenge with there Tons ‘O Meat menu, (but got a salad with no chicken on it, I think… anyway, she found something she liked). I got a burger that was quite good.
So we’ve swapped Carl’s Jr. in and Jack-in-the-Box out of the preference map. At least if fries are involved. (I’ll still get the Breakfast Jack if on the road early…).
I wish I understood why it’s so hard for fast food places to understand how to make a decent fry. Slice potatoes. Dunk in 350 to 400 F oil until they float. Drain. Salt. Serve. AND NOTHING ELSE. Works best with an oil with some saturated components in it, but even straight canola or safflower oils work just fine. We served those fries in the family restaurant for years. Folks would come in and order them again and again and again. Comfort food is like that. Simple. No marketing ‘sizzle’. And it sells forever in volume.
So “get a clue, Jack!”, or I won’t come back no more. (Hit the road, Jack, and don’t come back no more no more…)
For those needing more complicated directions to make the perfect fry, see Alton Brown here. I don’t do the par-fry step and I’m fine with the results. In the restaurant I think we used to use 400F or 425 F, but we were doing fast volume and often hit the fryer with a big load (dropping the temperature until the heater could get it back up) so the effective temp was probably a bit below 400 F during the cook.) We were using frozen fries too, so that probably cooled things off a bit ;-)
Those crappy fries were made for Burger King by Lamb Weston. After the potatoes were cut, they were sprayed with a starch solution and then individually quick frozen. They were designed for maximum “stand time” under the warmers (less fries thrown out if business is slow). The starch solution gave them that soapy flavor (additives were used to help the solution cling to the fries).
Nobody fries french fries correctly anymore because it takes too long. A properly fried fry is fried twice. Once at 350F until just golden, then removed from the oil and cooled completely. Then fry a second time at 375F until golden brown. The fries are nice and crisp with a fluffy interior. Mmmmmm.
(BTW, fry in beef fat if possible, it’s much better than vegetable oil. Horse fat is the very best, but it is hard to get.)
Mmmmm. Had fish and chips tonight as a treat. The place is an award winner and as it was so busy we had to wait (everything cooked to order) I watched them pull a batch of fries out to cool after the first frying.
In the old family restaurant we cooked fried chicken in the same frier as the fries. The rendered chicken fat made the fries taste especially good. It’s important to have a bit of ‘carryover’ oil when you change / freshen it. Undoubtedly would get crucified by the vegan brigades for it today. But they did sell well…
I’ll have to try the ‘fry twice’ method sometime. But frankly, I get fries I like with just one cook at 350 F with room temperature bits about 1/4 inch thick. Though I have noticed that the timing is a bit tricky. A double fry would let the timing be more sloppy. Would not need that perfect balance of thickness, temperature, and timing. The 2 x would let the thickness vary more and the timing have more leeway (as the middle gets done via ‘carryover’ from the first frying). Then again, I like fries a bit less crispy than most so we’ll see if the ‘crispy finish’ is something I like…
@Brego: Thanks for the pointer about the technology. Not something I want on my plate. And horse fat? Would be a might hard to find… The Amish traditions used a lot of Lard, and I’ve found it works well. Ditto beef fat. Usually I use canola or safflower with a bit of Palm Oil (that’s a solid at room temperature) in it. Added some coconut oil once and loved the flavor, but it foams a lot. No idea why. (Though IIRC last time ‘fries’ came around someone asserted it was the short chain fatty acids. But palm oil is modestly short chain too and it doesn’t foam.)
Skin on fries are the best!
McDonalds use to have the best fries bar none! But they changed in the late 90s and are now no better than BK or Hardees/Carl Jr.
Best fries I’ve tasted were genuine French and made with goose fat. Yummy!
The fries tend to be consistently excellent in Belgium. Horse fat?
Not sure if it’s true or not, possible urban legend, but there were claims onceuponatime that McD’s fries had more beef in them than the burgers did. Lots of filler in the burgers and lots of beef fat in the fryer oil. There is a place (pub) not far from here, not a chain, that has greeeeeeaaaaaat fries and it’s what keeps bringing me back. good fries will do that :)
Any fast food or greasy spoon that can’t make good fries isn’t worth visiting!
You know, in thinking about what we did in the restaurant, I remembered my Dad lifting some 1/2 done fries and letting the basket drain over the frier. Then when we needed more, he’d dunk them for a fast finish. I thought he was doing it just to have some fries ready to go faster, so had simply paid no attention. But the discussion brought that long lost memory to the surface…
So maybe I have had the double dunked fries… and maybe that’s why I’ve always remembered my Dad’s fries as so good… Hmmm…. Strange what you find in the back of the brain when you let it simmer a while…