The thing about working at McDonalds is that you learn exactly what everything tastes like - and you notice all the little changes. For example, the difference in quality between a quarter pound patty used in the quarter pounder and double quarter pounder, and a "10" (1/10 pound) patty used in the regular cheeseburger and double-cheeseburger. I have eaten everything on the McDonalds menu, and can tell you what the most disgustingly unhealthy thing by caloric density is (not the fries!).
So, the most important factor we noticed about the french fries was how old the fry grease was. Each night 1 of three things happen to the fry grease:'
1) it is skimmed for any remnants of fries and left to simmer at a low warm temperature for the next day
2) it is run through a cleaning machine (2-3 times per week)
3) it is completely replaced by a technician (every 1 or 2 weeks depending on time of year)
New grease is very clear, like fresh motor oil you put into your car. As the grease gets older turns more and more golden brown as it gets more carbon in it from little bits of fries that break off and burn in the hot oil and disintegrate. Eventually, right before it is replaced, the grease is very brown and the fries will actually come out with tiny brownish bits on them. Some people really liked the "dirty grease fries" but the majority of staff knew when the best french fries were made - when the grease was about 4 days old, right after the first cleaning. I can't tell you exactly why, but these fries were the yummiest to the point where I would only eat them at this point (gotta stay thin somehow working there!) and crew members would bring in their kids on that day to eat.
Its also important to know that fries are never ever cooked in the same grease used for chicken nuggets, fish filets, etc. I'd be curious to know what that tastes like if anyone has every broken the rules and tried it, but that was a religious issue at the McDonalds locations I worked at so we never did.
Anyway, if you're curious and have a regular McDonalds you can always ask them when the last time the grease was cleaned or changed.
The oil of the fried chickens (the nuggets, McChicken patties and Crispy Chicken patties (maybe more or less different types depending on what country you are from)) are kinda interchangeable.
That seems unlikely, considering that the fries still contain "natural beef flavor."
> Its also important to know that fries are never ever cooked in the same grease used for chicken nuggets, fish filets, etc. I'd be curious to know what that tastes like if anyone has every broken the rules and tried it
The fries would pick up the flavor of the fish or pies and taste weird. Since the vat temperatures are different, and the vat sizes are different, the fries would not come out consistently fried either.
* Anything by Hervé This (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hervé_This#Bibliography)
* Nicholas Kurti's "But the Crackling is Superb: An Anthology on Food and Drink by Fellows and Foreign Members of The Royal Society of London" (ISBN 0-7503-0488-X)
* Stuff by Heston Blumenthal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heston_Blumenthal)
I first learned of the obsession with perfecting food through understanding the chemistry behind it through Cook & Chemist (http://www.cookandchemist.com). Unfortunately, the two books they have published are in Dutch and there appear to be no translations yet.
It's also written absurdly well.
The major influence Heston Blumenthal has had in my (sparsely equipped kitchen) is this: fennel should be microwaved. Wrap the stuff in microwave foil and zap it five times for one minute (leaving time inbetween to allow the heat to dissipate).
Best fennel you've ever had.
Also works with asparagus.
Super precise temperature control is one of the most important developments in all of cooking. If you have it, you can take almost any protein or almost any vegetable, select a final cooked state out of a (tiny) book, punch it into the control, and walk away for an hour, an afternoon, or a fortnight and come back to a 100% guaranteed perfect product.
Three example implications:
* You can buy $30 steaks, bag them, throw them in a rice cooker in the morning, go to work, come home, and have them perfectly rare-medium-rare all the way through. I'd say "better than at a steakhouse" if so many steakhouses weren't apparently switching up to cook steaks this way.
* You can take a tough braise cut (short ribs, octopus), bag it, stick it in the rice cooker for a couple days, and pull it out medium rare and tender. Tender medium rare short ribs are a novel product of precise temperature control; you can't do them on a grill.
* You can take a vegetable and cook it at a target temperature that breaks down starches but not pectin and get unique textures out of them. Keller, who has obviously better equipment than we do, combines this with compression to get steak-like textures out of things like melons.
What setting are you using? Cook or Warm?
I'm not using "Cook" or "Warm". I'm using a small box with a PID controller, into which is plugged my rice cooker, and which is itself plugged into the wall. A small digital thermometer checks the temperature of the water that fills the rice cooker and modulates the power to keep it within a degree or two of the set temperature I want.
Right now, a pair of rib eyes and some tilapia filets are being held in there at 129f. In a couple minutes, I'll pull the fish and stick it in a smoker for a couple minutes, then sear both sides of the steak for 10 seconds or so, then plate and serve.
Here is a great guide if you want to look further: http://amath.colorado.edu/~baldwind/sous-vide.html
Pommes frites are fresh potatoes cooked in animal fat, and seasoned with salt and rosemary. http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuart_spivack/4205683848/
Something home cooks can still do.
I did remember hearing folks claiming they used beef tallow back then as well.
Didn't affect the flavour much though. Not a single customer approached us about it at the store I worked in. Though if you took fries from two different batches, each cooked in different oil, and concentrated really hard, you could just make out the difference.
The "best" french fries are, it's said, fried in horse fat (I first read than in Steingarten, a dubious source, but have heard it backed up repeatedly). If you Google, there's an article with someone actually tracking down horse fat and frying frites in it.
In fact, now that I think about it the only thing I do with my carefully hoarded supply is use it for frying and confit. I wonder how well it works for tasks that otherwise are better with lard (e.g. pastry pie crusts, etc.)
Ever use it in place of lard for a baking task?
(Eggs. I also do eggs in duck fat.)
The Publican, at Fulton Market, makes duck fat fries. It too fills up quickly, but they open at 3.30P every day and don't get crowded 'til 5.30 or so. And: absolutely fantastic beer list. So that's your best bet in Chicago.
But the prior poster is correct... McDonalds fries have never been as good since they stopped using the beef tallow.
...and about the only interesting part of the article. I enjoy cooking and I love potatoes; I even have a dozen or so potato plants/tubers/whatever growing in the garden. But even I realized years ago that the key to good french fries with low effort is to buy the OreIda "fast food" fries and cook them myself in the fat of my choice.
I've tried all the methods I read about and still the premade ones are better. Something I've never been able to say about any other food I cook.
I actually have the same model Starrett dial caliper pictured in the link.
The first episode I saw was on fish and chips too.
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A fry party is exactly what it sounds like. You make kilos of fries and dozens of dips and get drunk on the power.
The McD website, or a pamphlet you can get instore, would list the ingredients.
Anyway, kudos to the writer for doing it the hard way.
Finally, telling a McD fry lover (I put my hand up to that!) that the fries are rubbish is like telling a smoker that cigarettes are bad for them. We know.
While that may have answered the "how", only through this type of process could the author have answered the "why".
Nothing is better than fresh potatoes, made by my wife with feta cheese on top of them and beer. I like them to have some meat in them.
I have absolutely no desire to eat processed, partially synthesized corporate potato product.
No biggie, but it'd be a shame, the article I linked to is as impressive, it not more in terms of cooking-engineeringness.
I think that it would be somewhat of a stifling approach to just make a blanket proclamation that no one can enter the discussion unless they have full read the article.
here you go, from http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/nutritionexchange/ingredients...
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.
CONTAINS: WHEAT AND MILK *(Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients)
He's not saying "this is how you make the world's best fries" - he's saying "if you really like McDonald's fries (like I do), here's how to replicate them". If you don't like that type of fry, then don't make them.