I'll never forget my high-school nutrition teacher telling us to be wary of any food that has more than five ingredients. Most fast food fries go far beyond that rule of thumb.
Now they're explaining why there's a crazy amount of ingredients in their fries, which I don't even think was something we wondered about in the first place, but now that you mention it, why are there 19 ingredients in a batch of McDonald's french fries, and what the hell is in the french fries at some of our other favorite fast food spots?
Maybe we're just automatically cynical about McDonald's, but when you look at burger joints like In-N-Out, they keep it simple and don't have any ingredients that make us question their quality.
The same can't be said about some of the other top fast food restaurants, as their ingredient lists can get pretty lengthy:
In-N-Out and Five Guys, two smaller chains that are usually pitted head-to-head in comparisons, make their fries with potatoes, salt, and frying oil. That's it. They don't need Dimethylpolysiloxane to make a good french fry. So what the hell is everyone else feeding us? Well, here's a list of fry ingredients for some of your favorite fast food joints:
Carl's Jr./Hardees- 23 Ingredients
Carl's Jr. has 23 ingredients that make up its fries. Grabbed straight from the Carl's Jr. site, this is what's in their fries:
Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (may contain one or more of the following: Canola Oil, Sunflower Oil, Cottonseed Oil, Palm Oil, Corn Oil, Soybean Oil), Modified Food Starch, Rice Flour, Dextrin, Salt, Leavening (Disodium Dihydrogen Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Dextrose, Xanthan Gum. FRIED IN: Vegetable Oil (Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil with TBHQ and Citric Acid to protect flavor, Dimethylpolysiloxane (as an antifoaming agent)).
McDonald's- 19 Ingredients
McDonald's fries are so good, yet we still feel so sketched out by them. Even explained, it doesn't make me feel better that all this crap is going in my tummy.
Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (Canola Oil, Soybean 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.
CONTAINS: WHEAT AND MILK.
*Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients
Wendy's- 14 Ingredients
Wendy's has that natural-cut action going on right now and while the ingredient list isn't as long as some of the others, it still has 14 ingredients.
Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (contains one or more of the following oils: canola, soybean, cottonseed, sunflower, corn), Dextrose, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate (to maintain natural color). Cooked in Vegetable Oil (soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, natural flavor [vegetable], citric acid [preservative], dimethylpolysiloxane [anti-foaming agent]). Cooked in the same oil as menu items that contain Wheat, Egg, Milk, and Fish (where available). Seasoned with Sea Salt.
Burger King, Jack in the Box- 13 Ingredients
Burger King's Satisfries may have flopped, but their classic fries have enough ingredients to make you spend a good 20 minutes on Google trying to figure out what the hell they all are.
Jack in the Box has recently joined the natural-cut family as well. I don't think anyone really knows what "natural" means in the fast food world, but whatever it is, it requires quite a bit of ingredients.
Potatoes, Soybean Oil or Canola and Palm Oil, Modified Potato Starch, Rice Flour, Potato Dextrin, Salt, Leavening (Disodium Dihydrogen Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Dextrose, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate added to preserve natural color.
Potatoes, Canola and Palm Oil, Modified Food Starch (Potato, Corn, Tapioca), Rice
Flour, Dextrin, Salt, Leavening (Disodium Dihydrogen Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Dextrose, Xanthan Gum. Cooked in Canola Blend Frying Oil.
In-N-Out, Five Guys- 3 Ingredients
Ah, the simplicity. This shouldn't take long. In-N-Out uses potatoes, salt and cottonseed oil. Same with Five Guys as they just use potatoes, salt and refined peanut oil.
Oh, crap. They have Cajun-style fries too don't they? Those run up to 11 ingredients.
Potatoes, Refined Peanut Oil, Salt, Cajun Seasoning: Blend of Garlic, Salt, Onion, Paprika, Oregano, White Pepper, Red Pepper, Spice.
I guess those ingredients weren't that hard to pronounce. In fact, I have all of those in my kitchen. I wonder if we can give them a pass, or nah?
It's probably no coincidence that the restaurants with more ingredients are all major chains that have a much larger reach than In-N-Out or Five Guys. They might have legitimate reasons for doing so, reasons that might not sound sexy if explained to the public.
In the back of my mind, all these ingredients give me trust issues, but I've been brainwashed, and I'd still like an order of fries with my Big Mac.