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I remember this!

McDonald’s fries used to be cooked in beef fat. And they were unbelievably delicious. Do you remember?

Here’s a long-form article about the search for the original recipe. And by “long form” I mean “you just might not be this interested in Mickey D’s so I’m going to give you an executive summary.”

In 1966, a man named Phil Sokolof had a heart attack and went on a crusade against animal fat. From the time he got out of the hospital until 1990, he spent $15 million of his own money shaming companies into dropping “unhealthy” fats in favor of “healthy” ones. It was all part of a broad national orgy of (dietary) fat shaming.

Fun fact: this is when Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC, because “fried” was such a dirty word.

At the very end, he finally succeeded with McDonald’s. I remember it well, mostly because their cherry pies were also cooked in beef tallow and have never been edible since. Broke my heart. And yet, and yet.

Exchanging beef tallow for pure vegetable oil in high-temperature frying introduced consumers to a different and arguably worse dietary threat than saturated fats: trans fats, which, as we now know, are a major cause of cardiovascular disease, digestive issues, and weight gain. Despite the best intentions, Sokolof ultimately made a bad problem worse, one that McDonald’s has spent decades trying to fix.

Anyway, the article isn’t really about that. It’s about the search for the old fry recipe. This led the author to a series of elderly McDonald’s employees, online forums and eventually to a somewhat mysterious online pdf called McMenu: Do-It-Yourself McDonald’s Restaurant Recipes.

If you want the exact recipe (he thinks, with a fairly high degree of certainy), it’s at the bottom of the article. And if you really are into Mickey D’s, I recommend the whole read. But here’s the gist:

•Cut the potatoes into shoestrings and soak them in sugar water with a bit of Karo syrup(!) in the fridge for 30 minutes
•Fry them at 400° F in six cups of Crisco(!). Wonderful, magical, fully hydrogenated Crisco
•Let them cool in the fridge for ten minutes
•Add 1/4 cup beef tallow to the Crisco
•Bring it up to temp and fry another 5 minutes, until brown
•Toss with powdered salt

So that explains why the dripping flavor wasn’t overwhelming.

It’s hard to see how this process would work in a fast food setting, so I’m going to guess that the soaking and initial frying was done earlier and the fries were delivered to the restaurant part-cooked and chilled, where the final frying happened.

I’d try it myself, but I live in fear of deep fat frying. In my heart, I always knew the Fryolater was out to get me.

December 1, 2020 — 7:55 pm
Comments: 22