Here's Why Homemade Fries Taste So Different From Fast Food

Fries are one of the classic staples of American food, so much so we eat 4.5 billion pounds of them a year (via Grit)! From fast-food to comfort food, to being dipped in ketchup to smothered in gravy and cheese, french fries are a versatile snack that can be enjoyed almost any time of day. And, adding to the fry's wide array of customized toppings is the fact that they are very easy to make at home, requiring only a few humble russets, frying oil, and some basic cooking skills. 

But, try as you might, even when you make the crispiest fries, you still can't exactly achieve the flavor of fast-food fries. The salty exterior with the soft fluffy filling brings to mind the nostalgic aroma of sizzling McDonald's Quarter Pounders and the inside of PlayPlace's plastic slides. But what exactly causes those fries to be so different from your homemade version? If it's all the same potato, what gives them that classic fast-food taste? The reason, perhaps, is not just the stereotypical "McDonalds' magic," but something surprisingly simple.

The senses behind fast-food fries

According to Taste of Home, McDonald's fries are not grown from specially-engineered potatoes or any sort of complex and exotic ingredients. In fact, the delicious key to these salty side-orders can be connected back to one simple ingredient.

When you first order a bag of piping hot fries from Mickey Dee's, the first thing you'll probably notice is that your car will soon start to smell like the inside of a deep fryer, oily, salty, and hot. The cause of this isn't from the fries themselves, but rather the oil they are fried in. The original oil that McDonald's fries were cooked in was actually beef tallow, which is beef fat made solid at room temperature (via Cheapism). But nowadays, the company uses a blend of chemical flavoring in order to achieve that delicious beefy smell due to health concerns brought about in the 1990s against the tallow (via SF Gate).

As for the crispy exterior that isn't too crunchy, nor too soft, McDonald's doesn't use any sort of special deep-fryer, but rather a purposefully generic-sounding combination of "natural and artificial flavoring" in order to give their fries that wonderful texture. If that wasn't enough, the fries are also coated in a humble "dextrose," which is a type of sugar (via Taste of Home).