Why the Hell Would You Eat That? McD’s Fries

It doesn’t take a genius to understand McDonald’s food isn’t great for you, and after seeing Supersize Me, I tend to avoid the golden arches as best I can. There are times, however, I’m in a hurry or I want to let the Rugrats abuse the McD’s indoor playplace, so I cave and order something.

This time we’d just finished a veterinary visit for our cat and needed to grab something quick on the way home. McD’s was handy and convenient. As I ate my fries, I recalled a claim that, “McDonald’s fries haven’t been within two miles of a real potato.” I was never sure that was accurate, but the fries certainly don’t look or taste like fresh-cut fries I get at some restaurants, or like fried potatoes made at home.

I know someone who worked for McDonald’s briefly in the ’60s, and she said potatoes used to be delivered directly to the restaurants. Today, a manager I know says the fries are delivered pre-cut and ready for the frier. So what’s really in them?

To the Internet! Here’s a video of how McDonald’s fries are made, courtesy McD’s Canada:

At first, it seems all is well. Lots of potatoes, peeled and sliced and sent off to the restaurants where they’re fried in canola oil. Okay, fair enough. But let’s listen a little closer, shall we?

At the 2:10 mark, Mario says:

Once the potatoes are cut, we push the strips through a blancher to remove the natural sugars from the strips. This will prevent some variation in our color once we re-cook the product.

So McD’s fries are blanched to remove natural flavoring? WTF?

So following the blanching process, we add a dextrose solution to add that nice even coat we see at the restaurants.

They “remove the natural sugars” but then turn around and add dextrose, a sugar. And then it gets a little scarier:

We also add an ingredient to our strips to make sure we prevent the graying of our product throughout the process.

Note he doesn’t tell us what this ingredient is. I’d have to guess it’s some kind of preservative, or something like a bleaching agent. I’m no organic nut, but it seems to me we just don’t need that crap. McD’s, if you’re going to go through the trouble to tell us how you’re doctoring up our food, at least have the balls to fess up on the mystery ingredient.

Keep watching and we learn after the fries are sprayed with the mystery ingredient, they’re dried, fried, and frozen. In other words, they’re cooked twice before they leave the factory, then they’re re-fried (read: re-heated) at the restaurant.

I don’t get it.

Their point to this video seems to be, “Hey, look, we use real potatoes!” My takeaway is more like, “We care more about how the food looks than what’s in it.” Most of the flavor in these things is the salt. Hold the salt and a McD’s french fry doesn’t necessarily taste bad, but it sure doesn’t taste like a regular potato. Most of their flavor is marketing.

There’s a bar not far from here that slices their potatoes in-house. Order them loaded and you get real shredded cheese and chopped bacon, not cheese sludge and bacon bits. They cost a little more, but I’ll take their fries over McD’s any time.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.


  1. schaferlord says:

    In the UK the ingredients list says something along the lines of “potato extracts” along with other things.

  2. joannehuspek says:

    Wow, and that’s McDonald’s in CANADA? As an American, I find the McDonald’s in Canada above and beyond ours in the States. The food is fresher, crisper. But if the Canucks are falling in line with the Americans, I’m afraid I’m going to stop going there. BTW, I don’t get frozen anythings, including french fries. (Sorry. I’m ranting because I keep getting tweets from OreIda, like I’d buy frozen french fries.) Why not just cut up a potato? Takes the same amount of time and you know you didn’t load it with outer grease or inner blanchings.

  3. […] See, when the dough is made fresh on the spot, it’s got your standard dough ingredients. If you can see the guy rolling out your dough, you’re in the right place. Frozen dough? Now you’re getting preservatives and shit in it. It’s been processed, just like the garbage pizza in the freezer aisle. Not to mention these big chains need to make sure the crap they’re serving has to taste the same at every location, which means the rest of their ingredients are equally processed and preserved and loaded with things like MSG. Domino’s and Papa John’s can claim “fresher ingredients” all they want, but remember, McDonald’s makes the same nonsense claim about their fries. […]