McDonald’s is the undisputed king of fast food, even if you have another favorite. It has more locations across the globe and more recognizable dishes than any other chain. And, there’s no denying some of their signature are incredibly crave-worthy—including their fries. They’re salty, crispy, and addictive. But, the real reason why McDonald’s French fries taste so good might surprise you.
We all know the saltiness of the fries makes you go back for more, but that’s not exactly a “secret” ingredient.
It’s the combination of sugar and salt that makes McDonald’s fries so munchable.
Yes, you read that correctly—sugar. McDonald’s uses dextrose to coat their fries. According to the brand, it isn’t meant to make the fries taste sweet. Rather, it helps to give them a golden-brown color, and makes each batch of fries more consistent.
But, dextrose is still a form of sugar, and research has shown again and again that sugar is addictive. Some studies have shown it can be even more addictive than cocaine. We crave it, we want it, we’re…lovin’ it.
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Once out of the fryer, the hot fries get a liberal dusting of salt, and the combination of salt and dextrose together makes them even more desirable. It actually creates a boost of dopamine in the brain, which is why you might feel better after pounding a few fries in the car after a particularly stressful day at work.
Using dextrose isn’t some kind of hidden trick McDonald’s is trying to keep under wraps. The company is actually very transparent about how they make their fries, and there are other steps they take to ensure they taste good, too.
First, they use real potatoes. If you ever thought the fries had to be some kind of engineered “fake” food from a lab, you would be wrong. The potatoes are harvested, washed, cut into the signature shoestring shape, par-cooked and flash-frozen before being sent to franchise locations.
Finally, McDonald’s uses a bit of beef flavoring in their fry oil. They add beef tallow to impart a unique, drool-worthy flavor that other fast-food restaurants can’t match when they strictly use vegetable, canola, or peanut oils.
The next time you bite into a hot, crispy McDonald’s French fry, you probably won’t taste any sweetness, but you’ll know some of the reasons why you keep grabbing handful after handful. It’s one of those foods that is perfectly constructed, and it’s likely to remain a comfort food (along with McDonald’s Diet Coke) for millions for years to come.