Fast Food Review: French Fries from McDonald’s

Has the golden standard in french fries been dethroned?

According to Wendy’s, they have indeed, with the chain’s new Natural Cut Fries with Sea Salt apparently beating out McDonald’s iconic french fries in an eight city blind taste test. Yet when it comes to loyal fast food eaters, the jury is still out, especially on the internet. Need more proof? Few subjects have been more decisive and commented on than our review of Wendy’s new fries, with many commenters claiming that the new fries are “horrible” and nowhere in the same ballpark as McDonald’s. I was high on Wendy’s fries when they first came out, but what of McDonald’s fries? Just in case you needed a reminder, I left a little room for ambiguity at the end of my last review:

We’re dealing with an extremely well executed menu item here in which simplicity rules, and which the potato – both from a textural and flavor standpoint – shines. Strictly speaking, I find these to be among the best fast food fries available, and considering the national range of Wendy’s, a strong contender to McDonald’s infamous fries

With Wendy’s kicking up their ad campaign for the fries once again, I decided enough was enough. It was time to put my taste buds to work and head back to McDonald’s to see if my longtime favorite fry was still my longtime favorite fry.

 

 

I preface this review with saying that I do not eat fries on a regular basis, and when I do, it is usually just fries, with ketchup. I fancy myself as a fry fanatic, and for this, I really try to focus on the fries – both in flavor, but also in texture. Whipping through fries as a side on any old combo meal is perfectly ok, but to really begin to appreciate the differences and subtleties of different fast food fries, I think one should be “one” with the fry. Having become “one” with McDonald’s fries once again, I am here to dispute Wendy’s claim as the fry champion, and boldly assert that when it comes to fried potato goodness, the Golden Arches reign supreme.

 

 

Why are McDonald’s fries the best on the market? Three things, to be exact: crispness, salt level, and consistency. Yes, they carry great potato flavor locked inside their airy interiors, but when we’re all perfectly honest with ourselves, the warm snap of a never-limp McDonald’s fry is what gets us, and it’s the overwhelming consistency of the fry batches from McDonald’s to McDonald’s which makes for such a uniform experience.

Holds its shaped perectly, yet still has a fluffy, airy interior.

A value (small) order of McDonald’s fries is just $1.00. The standard price is the first major win for McDonald’s, which, even in its franchised locations (like the one I visited) has better consistency in pricing than Wendy’s. I ordered my fries on Easter Sunday during mid afternoon – the perfect ‘slow’ time for someone wanting to catch an order of fries having been left under the heat lamp for too long. Despite this, my fries were everything they were supposed to be.

Fluffy, potato flavored interior surrounded by crisp yet thin skin.

Let’s start with consistency. I had exactly ONE fry in the order that was hard and dry (which I actually found curiously intriguing) and two which I considered limp. None came across as “gummy” (a huge problem for Carl’s Jr.) and none lacked interior starch altogether. This is remarkable, as is the fact that I was able to consume the entire small order without the fries losing their heat or crispness. Now, onto saltiness. Say all you want about the flavor of sea salt, but a generous helping of table salt, like the one I got on my fries, adds a finger licking element that really seems to bolster the flavor of the fry, and makes the ketchup coating pop with even more sweetness when combined with the smooth, yet not overly oily exterior of the fry. I’ll be honest – I like my fries salty, and McDonald’s does not seem to add as much salt to fries as they used to, although the batch I got was very salty (perhaps too much for some). As for that exterior texture – it’s a sight to behold and bite down on. Each fry is coated with tiny bubbles that render the crispy texture. Only one fry was burnt, and even the few soft fries I had were by no means inedible.

Clean snap reveals non-gummy, fluffy interior.

In terms of pure, unadulterated potato flavor, Wendy’s fries get a slight edge. But if I wanted a pure, unadulterated potato, I’m not in the market for buying french fries. While I admire the skin-on and restrained salt application on Wendy’s fries, I still find the consistency and crispness of the McDonald’s fries, together with their salty, perfectly golden exterior, to be beyond any other fast food french fry I’ve ever had. Wendy’s may claim a “national” taste test has given their fries the crown, but upon further review, I don’t find them quite as good as McDonald’s.

 

 

Pros: Always $1 for a value order. Remarkable consistency in texture. Holds warmth and crispness for desired eating time-frame. Airy and fluffy interior almost never gummy. Rarely saturated in oil. Goes great with ketchup (duh!). Not at all bad for you with just 1.5 grams of saturated fat per value sized order.

Cons: Despite consistency, salt levels can vary from location and time. My batch was exceptionally salty. Not *as* good as they used to be (so I'm told) when cooked in beef tallow.

Taste: 9.50/10
Value: 9.00/10
Grubbing on-the-go: 8.00/10
Price: 1.00 for small order

Overall GrubGrade: 9.50/10

More Info: McDonalds.com
Nutrition Facts:
McDonald's French Fries (small order)
Calories: 230
Total Fat: 11 g
Saturated Fat: 1.5 g
Trans Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 160 mg
Total Carbs: 29 g
Dietary Fiber: 3 g
Sugars: 0 g
Protein: 3 g

36 comments on “Fast Food Review: French Fries from McDonald’s

  1. Marvo says:

    Yup. McDonald’s fries > Wendy’s fries.

  2. SkippyMom says:

    As usual you are making me hungry – and I love the pic’ of the salty fingers. 🙂

    I don’t think I could compare the two only because I find Wendy’s to be a different cut and texture of McD’s. Wendy’s are meatier but McD’s are the standard I hold to – grew up on them [and worked there] but they have to be hot. That is the most important thing to me. That is why I always get a small b/c I can’t eat a value meal size that gets cold too fast.

    I really liked this review! 🙂

  3. Manavee says:

    Finally, some sanity!

    Personally, I like Five Guys fries the best (when done properly by the franchise).

    Of the fast food places I frequent I would rank them:
    1. Five Guys
    2. McDonald’s
    3. Portillo’s
    4. Culver’s
    5. Sonic
    6. Wendy’s
    7. Burger King

    • Eric says:

      I envy you for being able to frequent Portillo’s. I wish I had that luxury. I may take a trip to Chicago soon and it will be on my list for sure.

    • Aaron says:

      I love 5 guys and fries, I don’t live in a city with one but I’ve visited places with them in it! I love their fries SOOOO much, they give me soo much that I reluctantly share them with my family:)

  4. Hunter says:

    I disagree about the salt level. I find McDonald’s fries to always be overly salty. I believe they should not salt them as much and allow the odd salt licking lovers to add their own excess salt.

  5. mitchery says:

    Mcdonalds has the best fries hands down. The new Wendy’s fries are better than their last rendition but that really isn’t saying much.

  6. Jeff says:

    These fries are always soggy for me. When I get fast food, I’m usually just a sandwich and fries guy, so these fries are the reason I rarely go to McD’s. I’m not fond of the taste either. There’s almost no potato flavor there. It’s hard to mess up fries, but McDonald’s could really give Long John Silver’s a run for their money at having the worst fries.

    I like Wendy’s fries a lot, but Hardee’s is easily the best I’ve had from a fast food place. They have the most potato flavor, a reasonable amount of salt, and they’re always perfectly crisp.

  7. J.B. says:

    Yeah, Wendy’s has no hope.
    McDonald’s fries are simply the best.
    I love mine with their sweet & sour sauce, there is nothing better.

    What is sad is that the new Wendy’s fries are not even better than their previous fries.

  8. Rhiannon says:

    I have yet to try wendy’s new rendition of their fries.

    I rarely ever get fries, or fast food period. However, the best fries in my opinion are Spangles. Yummy.

  9. Adam says:

    You know, I’ve had Wendy’s fries twice since I wrote this, and both times, they were much more oily than Micky D’s fries. I had overly oily and soggy fries, and it’s the reason I dislike 5 Guys, actually. Also, since I wrote this, I went back to In-n-Out and got “well done” fries. IMHO, these were just as good as Micky D’s, if not better, with more potato flavor. Amazing given that they’re cut in house!

    • Manavee says:

      A while age, one of my friends was telling me he thought Five Guys fries were just alright. I thought he was crazy.

      And then I went to a different franchise than the one I normally go to, and the fries were a soggy mess.

      I’m telling you, when they are done properly and are crisp, they are awesome.

      That’s where I think it gets difficult to judge fries sometimes. Do you judge Wendy’s at their best, or what you will get on a typical day at a typical franchise?

  10. Rodzilla says:

    Agreed, McDs fries are gold standard.

    If you ever come across a Sheetz, give their fries a try – they are the only ones that come close for me.

  11. Murray says:

    These are the only fries I can eat witout ketchup. They are just that good.

    In talking with a McDonalds insider (a dude that works the fry bin), I’m told they have a very stict set of production specs. Obviously, the time in the fryer is controlled, but also the time from coming out of the fryer to salting is carefully counted (I think he said 17 seconds). Salt too soon and too much salt sticks to the fry; too late and the grease has soaked in, not allowing the salt to stick. Finally, fries cannot sit under the heat lamp for more than 4 minutes. At 4:01, they are thrown out. This results in the increadibly consistent product Adam is talking about, but I’d hate to do the math on how many tons of fries they toss each year.

    McDonalds fries are at the top of my list. I like Wendy’s fries, but they are in a different category for me, with thier dominant potato flavor. Burger King is at the bottom of this list.

  12. Amy says:

    I really don’t care for the new Wendy’s fries, and before they changed, they were my third favorite. McDonald’s is and has always been my number one, with Krystal being second. I agree, McDonald’s are some of the only ones I can even eat without ketchup, but I do sometimes like to eat them with their barbecue sauce (my favorite of any fast food restaurant).

  13. Zachary Jacob Zblewski says:

    Dairy Queen has the best fries.

    The end.

  14. Robert says:

    Wendys new fries suffer from the same issue as the old fries, they almost always either over or under cooked. The rare occasion they are prepared right they are good. Its like rolling the dice though. At Mcdonalds however, the fries are prepared right most of the time. And when done right they are very good. Until Wendys and can get it right more than 1/3 of the time no one is ever going buy the idea they can compete in the world of fries. Burgers on the other have they do very well at. Perhaps they should focus on that.

  15. Ike says:

    Popeyes has the best fast food fries in my opinion.

  16. Justin ST says:

    McDonald’s should go back to using beef tallow, screw the Hindus. It tasted much better.

  17. Justin ST says:

    @Manavee, that list is DEFINITIVE.

    You have good taste.

    Great New York State and Company had amazing fries too though.

  18. missouri says:

    For the love of all that is holy – how could you leave Arby’s off the list?

  19. Andi says:

    I’ve just had to shake my head at Wendy’s trying so hard to say that their fries are the best. Everytime I hear the commercials, I’m always thinking to myself “Are they talking about the same fries I just had?”

    My only complaint about McDonald’s fries is that I sometimes end up with a semi-stale batch of fries, but Wendy’s is consistently tasteless. Even at McDonald’s worst, I gotta have their fries, but I’d pass on a Wendy’s fry if it was less than fresh.

  20. JC says:

    Wow, I can’t believe you gave these fries such a good review. I hateee McDonald’s fries. From my experience they come out bland when I ask for them without salt, or they just end up tasting like salt when I get them as they come. Just straight up no potato flavor at all. 9 times out of 10 I drown them in ketchup or ranch or w/e sauce I can get my hands on, just to give them some sort of flavor.

    I think Hardees and Checkers/Ryans have the best fries from a strictly fast food stand point, along with Sonic’s tater tots.

  21. Andy says:

    I wish they had checkers in canada, my favourite fries

  22. Raider757 says:

    I have to admit that I’m biased in McDonald’s favor. They’ve always been the standard by which I judge fast food fries. They go so well with the extra sweet ketchup McDonald’s dispenses to us.

    Wendy’s new fries are much better than their older version. Sadly they suffer from the same issues the older ones had, inconsistency. When prepared properly, they’re very good. Sadly that only happens half of the time at all of my local Wendy’s.

    Burger King fries are the gold standard of french fry failure. Not surprising, considering they have easily been one of the worst fast food chains in the industry for almost twenty years now.

    One franchise that deserves some notice, is Bojangles. They have some damn good fries. The seasoning they use is like crack for my taste buds.

  23. […] GrubGrade finds they still love McDonald’s fries. […]

  24. Natalie says:

    I hate Wendy’s new fries to the point that I’ve just stopped ordering them. I just stick with a sandwich and soda, maybe chili if I’m extra hungry. McDonald’s will always be king of fries to me.

  25. Judah says:

    Although I agree with you that there is no doubt McDonald’s has the best fries, the only fair test would be to try Wendy’s fries with McDonald’s ketchup as McDonald’s ketchup is specially made just for them and is the best ketchup on the market, better than Heinz!

    • TJ says:

      I don’t know about that ketchup claim, I worked at a place that packaged condiments for big chains like McDonald’s and Domino’s. You’re right that it was different stuff, but nobody really thought it was superior to the major brands, comparable at best. Personally I’d take probably prefer Heinz.

      It still is an interesting idea, especially for those who insist on ketchup with their fries. I like ketchup with my fries, but I can eat most fast food fries happily without it too. The exception would be In-n-Out, probably the most overrated fries ever, I don’t care that they make them fresh. They are so bland, they require ketchup.

  26. Francois says:

    McDonald’s fries are only godly-great when freshly cooked. Stale McDonald’s fries (basically anything outside of lunch-hour in a lot of places) are disgusting. They used to cook their fries in beef suet and I vaguely remember that from my childhood. Now we have to pander to the health assholes who don’t realize that fast food has never been healthy. Akin to placing your hand over a fire and complaining that you’ve been burned.

  27. somesteve says:

    I disagree. In fact, my various experiences at McDonald’s have them being inconsistent with their fries. They can be cold, hot, dry, perfect…you never know. Wendy’s is consistent. McDonald’s fries with beef tallow were better than Wendy’s at the time now Wendy’s has better fries. It’s that simple. I am a huge fry fan.

    • MP says:

      This. When I was in college I relied way too much on McDonald’s ($1.99 meal Filet-o-Fish with small fry & Mr Pibb was an addiction) but it also got me off the junk. I had way too many bad batches of fries & ended discarding a lot of them. When straight out of the fryer, they can be great, but if not, they can be cold, overly salted, stiff, mushy or a big oily pile of crud. And that goes for the sandwiches, too. It’s been 146 months since I’ve been clean off McDonald’s. Never relapsed even once. I don’t miss the noisy loud dining rooms with screaming kids, filthy floors & parking lots and long wait times. Saturdays & Sundays were the worst.

  28. The Papa says:

    My favorite fries are chickfila waffle fries.

  29. Tex Richman says:

    Wataburger fries –> #1

  30. topper says:

    Dude, clean your fingernails or don’t take pictures of them.

    ugh.

  31. Alejandra says:

    I prefer slightly meatier and softer fries then McDonalds and they always over salt them. If you ask for no salt and put it on yourself its not as good. Love the seasalt on Wendy’s. I think Whataburger/Checkers and Wendy’s have better fries. The second McDonald’s cool off they are as hard as the floor and taste like it too. Not so with the others…Only at the golden arches is there a good chance I’m served cold fries also.

  32. John says:

    none of you have seen what happens to mc do fries then in supe size me i suppose? or has there been any new developments on that front that i haven’t heard about?

    if not, these things ya’ll love so much are not made from potatoes or they are chemically treated in such a way that they don’t decompose.

    haven’t been to mc do in 18 years…

  33. […] the best prize you’ve come away with through the McDonald’s Monopoly game?  Me, small fries. Tags: McDonald's Monopoly GameLeave a Reply Click here to cancel reply. Name (required) Mail (will […]