The smell. The taste. The texture. There’s no denying the guilty pleasure of french fries. There’s something about their golden warmth and their crispy outer coating accented with just the perfect amount of salt, which, as you take your first glorious bite, gives way to a velvety potato center. But which fries are the best — especially those of the fast food variety?
The “who has the best fries” debate has been going on for what seems like forever. But the Los Angeles Times took things a step further in honor of french-fry lovers everywhere with the recent release of its official fast-food french-fry rankings. According to the Lucas Kwan Peterson, who ranked the fries himself, Five Guys Burgers and Fries is the winner when it comes to cooking up first-place worthy fries. (The name might be a clue — this is no Burger King; the fries get equal billing.)
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What Makes a French Fry the Absolute Best?
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Taste and texture are what determined the Times’ french-fry rankings and, according to Peterson, Five Guys rates way above any of its competitors in both categories: “This is No. 1 with an asterisk, like Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points, or Cy Young’s 749 complete games. Not only is Five Guys No. 1, but it’s also so far ahead of everyone else it’s almost unfair.”
Peterson attributes the stellar ranking of the fries to the fact that they are natural-cut, fried in peanut oil, hot, crispy, properly salted and are available in a generous serving size. According to him, the peanut-oil frying method gives the fries a more authentic potato taste than fries that are cooked in industrial-type oils.
Peterson had one caveat, though: “Excellence comes with a price, though – a medium order of these fries costs roughly double that of other chains.” On Postmates, those fries are available for $4.39.
Two Recipes for America’s Best French Fries
Maybe you aren’t willing to shell out over four bucks for fries — or perhaps you’re one of those unfortunate souls without a Five Guys in the area. So how can you make these high-ranking french fries at home? Start by taking these pointers from Five Guys, as reported by the Food Republic.
First, you’ll need to purchase Burbank potatoes from Idaho — Walmart sells 6 of them for $4.99 (with $8.59 shipping if you order by mail). If you’re willing to sacrifice accuracy, any bag of Russets should do — and Ralph’s offers them for about $1 a pound on Instacart — a lot less expensive than a single order for $4.39. After washing the potatoes, leave the peels on and hand cut them into fries. Then, soak the fries in water for a couple hours to wash off natural starches that will cause them to burn on the outside before cooking on the inside.
Follow up by frying the cut potatoes in peanut oil heated to 350 degrees for 2 1/2 minutes. Remove, allow them to cool and then cook them again in the oil for 2 1/2 to three minutes more before serving.
A few things distinguish Five Guys here: The specific potato, the peels, the soak — and that long repeated cooking and cooling. You’ll save a lot of money, but not much time.
If that sounds like a lot more than you bargained for, you might want to try the Five Guys copycat recipe from food blog Wildflour’s Cottage Kitchen.
They also fry their fries in peanut oil, but only for a total of three to four minutes. Then, they dump them on to a brown paper sack on top of a cooling rack resting on a baking sheet and place them in a 200-degree oven to keep them warm.
You probably noticed that Five Guys didn’t mention to Food Republic how it seasons its signature fries, but the folks at Wildflour’s think they might have figured it out: Mix 1 tablespoon of table salt with 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder to make garlic salt and sprinkle the mixture on the hot fries at will.
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The Downside of the Best French Fries
Sadly, though Five Guys has arguably achieved french-fry nirvana, its legendary recipe has yielded what Reader’s Digest has deemed “the unhealthiest fries in America.” Part of the reason is that Five Guys’ coveted fries pack anywhere from 526 to 1,314 calories, depending on which serving size you opt for: little, regular or large. Add to that a rather staggering level of sodium levels, from 531 to 1,327 grams, plus total fat content of 23 to 57 grams, and you have quite the unhealthy combination.
Now that you’re armed with these facts, you might want to consider curbing your fast-food french-fry habit — if you have one — down to a minimum. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the occasional indulgence. After all, if you haven’t tried Five Guys’ fries, you might want to find out for yourself if they’re worthy of the first-place french-fry crown.
Click through to read more about other iconic foods and where to eat them.
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