McDonald's Fries: One Man's Quest to Make Them at Home

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Cook and author J. Kenji Lopez-Alt had a mission: recreate McDonald's french fries. In order to achieve his fries-from-home dream, Lopez-Alt reverse-engineered the fries, from a series of four "Perfect Fry Factors" (my favorite is #4: "The fry must stay crisp and tasty for at least as long as it takes to eat a full serving"), to the acquisition of uncooked McDonald's fries (not as easy as you'd think), to precise measurements of the fries (1/4" thick), to a series of complex cooking experiments involving vinegar and a sous-vide machine. This is epic, adventurous cooking.

In the end, Lopez-Alt figured it out, and made the process accessible for home cooks. Here's a snippet of the process from near the end of the article (it was followed by the photo shown above):

Now that I'd perfected the crust, the final issue to deal with was that of the interior. One last question remained: how to maximize the flavor of the interior. In order to stay fluffy and not gummy, a lot of the interior moisture needs to be expelled in the cooking process, so my goal should be to make this evaporation as easy as possible. I figure that so far, by cooking it all the way to boiling point, I'm doing pretty much the right thing—the more cooked the potatoes are, the more the cell structure breaks down, and the easier it is for water to be expelled. To confirm this, I cooked three batches of potatoes, starting each in a pot of cold, vinegared water, and bringing them up to various final temperature (170°F, 185°F, and 212°F) before draining and double-frying them. Not surprisingly, the boiled potatoes had the best internal structure. Luckily, they were the easiest to make as well.

But was there anything more I could do? I thought back to those McDonald's fries and realized a vital step that I had neglected to test: freezing. Every batch of McDonald's fries is frozen before being shipped out to the stores. I always figured this step was for purely economic reasons, but perhaps there was more to it?

I tried freezing half a batch of fries before frying them and tasted them side-by-side against the other half.

Read the rest for a pretty intense story of cooking, investigation, and ultimately...tasty tasty fries. (Note: the story does include a link to the actual recipe in non-narrative form, at the end.)

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July 7, 2010 - 9:43am
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