Curiosity

There’s A Reason McDonald’s Fries And Hash Browns Taste So Good

It's not just your imagination!

If you’re a fan of McDonald’s, you know that the fast-food chain’s french fries and hash browns just taste better than some others. When you bite into a flaky, fluffy hash brown patty with your breakfast or some hot, crispy, perfectly salted fries, you are, as the jingle goes, lovin’ it. Even before you taste them, the aroma makes your mouth water.

But what makes the McDonald’s versions of these relatively simple sides so good? It’s just some potatoes, oil and salt, right?

Well, not exactly.

All About the Beef

Years ago, McDonald’s (and other fast-food restaurants) cooked its french fries and hash browns in a blend of vegetable oil and beef tallow. Frying in beef fat gives foods, such as potatoes, a rich, deep flavor. However, after being heavily targeted by anti-cholesterol campaigners, the chain (along with several others) opted to begin deep-frying its potatoes in 100% vegetable oil in 1990.

However, vegetable oil simply doesn’t deliver the same tantalizing aroma or delicious flavor as good old tallow. So, to retain the tempting, meaty flavor and to keep customers coming back for more, McDonald’s began adding beef flavoring to its potatoes, listing the addition as “natural flavors” on its ingredient list.

Adobe | Oleksandr

This new move may have been sly but it wasn’t without its own controversy. In 2001, a class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of vegetarians and Hindus — many of whom don’t eat meat for religious reasons — against McDonald’s, alleging the use of beef flavoring was deceptive. The restaurant chain responded that it had “never made any vegetarian claims about our french fries or any other product.”

Following a hefty settlement and a public apology, McDonald’s changed the nutritional information it publishes for both the french fries and the hash browns to show the inclusion of what it calls “natural beef flavor.”

McDonald’s stated that the flavoring contains a minuscule amount of beef extract added to the potatoes during processing. The fries and hash browns are then shipped to restaurants, where they are deep-fried in vegetable oil.

Tasty, But Not For Everyone

For most McDonald’s customers, this just means that some extra ingredients go into making that satisfying container of fries or that little paper envelope that holds a crisp hash brown.

However, if you have a special diet or avoid certain ingredients, you might want to skip them. According to McDonald’s, the ingredients listed for the chain’s french fries are:

  • Potatoes
  • Vegetable oil (canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil)
  • Natural beef flavor (which contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients)
  • Dextrose
  • Sodium acid pyrophosphate
  • Salt

McDonald's

As for the hash browns, the listed ingredients are as follows:

  • Potatoes
  • Vegetable oil (canola oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil)
  • Natural beef flavor (which contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients)
  • Salt
  • Corn flour
  • Dehydrated potato
  • Dextrose
  • Sodium acid pyrophosphate
  • Extractives of black pepper

McDonald's

This means that the fried potato menu items are not appropriate for a vegan or even a vegetarian diet. People avoiding gluten or dairy will likely want to pass on them as well.

For everyone else, bring on the ketchup!

[h/t: Better Homes & Gardens]