French fries are far and away the biggest money maker for fast-food restaurants. That’s partially the case because chains create a huge markup on fries, charging customers many times more for fries than what they pay for the raw potatoes. In fact, the markup can be as high as a staggering 3,900%. Plus, most fast-food chains use pre-cut, frozen fries making the golden brown side, even more, cost-effective than fast-food chains that make fresh-cut fries for real potatoes every day. But it’s also the case because people really, really love French fries.
And what’s not to love? Crispy, salty, crunchy on the outside, warm and soft within, and a perfect vehicle for dips, sauces, and spreads of all kinds. As to which fast-food chain has the best fries? That’s a debate that can go on indefinitely. What’s not up for debate is that the five chains featured here take their French fries seriously, making fresh batches daily with potatoes they cut right there on the premises.
Peek into the kitchen of any In-n-Out and, along with a lot of patties of beef cooking (including many frying with a smear of mustard applied, AKA Animal Style), you’ll see one of the employees sending potato after potato through the slicer. This chain churns out fresh-cut fries aplenty day after day.
Whether fresh-cut fries are the better choice is up to personal preference. Celebrity Chef David Chang said to Vulture that he “hates” the fries at In-N-Out. He blames the show of the worker cutting the fries and says, contrary to popular belief, fresh isn’t best when it comes to potatoes. These out-of-season potatoes are not the best tasting and make an inferior fry, said Chang. The next chain has a remedy for those out-of-season potatoes.
Every burger you get from Five Guys is made fresh there at the restaurant each day and the restaurants don’t even have any freezers to do it any other way. Also freshly made? The fries, which it takes very seriously.
The chain uses Idaho-grown potatoes, most of the time, that are cut and power washed to remove the outer starch—which is quicker than the traditional soaking method. To ensure it always uses the best quality potatoes, Five Guys sources what it calls ‘gap potatoes’ from Washington for the two months of the year that the Idaho potatoes are too soft, according to an interview in Food Republic.
The fries also follow a strict cooking process. The fresh-cut potatoes are fried twice on location. After the first cook, the fries must rest for at least 15 minutes before they are refried in the chain’s signature peanut oil. Frying the fries twice allows for maximum crispiness.
Mooyah Burgers, Fries, and Shakes may have burgers first in the name, but it’s the fries that keep many people coming back. The chain prepares them all on-site, washing, cutting, rinsing, and then double-frying its fries every time. It also carries sweet potato fries.
You go to Wingstop for the wings. But you just might stay for the fries. Per the company’s site, its “fries are cut fresh, tossed in [a] signature seasoning, and served hot.” And that’s true for all the many types of fries on offer, from Cheese Fries to Louisiana Voodoo Fries to Buffalo Ranch Fries, to name a few.
With over 120 locations, BurgerFi is the little burger chain that everyone should be talking about. The chain has been commended for using beef that is free of all antibiotics and keeping its commitment to serving food that customers crave in a healthier and more sustainable way. The chain also has hand-cut fries cut daily and fried in 100% refined peanut oil.