About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007
All Fried Up
In my recent post about steak 'n' chips, Ellie pointed me to a post written by Hungry in Hogtown who has been investigating chips fried in horse fat. Yep, you read that right, go and have a look, I'll wait.

Tap, tap, tap.

Okay, you're back. Did you notice the part where Rob claimed that McDonalds chips are perhaps the best ever, period? And he's not the only one either, a certain food fascist has made a similiar claim.

It looks like I'm a lonely beacon on a forlorn windswept coast, but I can't let those boasts pass idly by, because in my experience, homemade chips properly made beat Maccas fries hands down on all counts, taste, texture and staying crisp.

Just as a great wine starts in the vineyard, great chips start from the soil and from there, how they are handled has a huge bearing on the outcome. If you look closely at the photo of horse fat fried chips, you'll notice some very brown spots, rather than a uniform pale gold colour. That comes from potatoes that have been either held too long or not stored properly, causing some of the starch in the potato to turn to sugar, which then caramelizes quicker than starch at frying temperatures. Supermarkets are the biggest culprits with the way they handle their spuds, and for chips we never buy from them as we have been disappointed too many times.

Of course McDonalds know all that and take great care with their potatoes, which gives them a head start in making chips, but if you can source good potatoes from a specialist greengrocer that has a high turnover, you can certainly match Maccas potato quality.

Then comes the point about how McDonalds chips have a great flavour that originally came from being fried in animal fat, but is now achieved by adding flavour to the chips. I've been around a long time and certainly remember chips fried in animal fat and for sure they do have a different flavour to those fried in vegetable oil, but these days I prefer the cleaner taste of oil and the way it doesn't coat the tongue with grease. And I like my chips to have a creamy potato flavour.

Notice I wrote that McDonalds add flavour?

It's not the only thing they add either. If you make chips at home, there are only three ingredients - potatoes, oil and salt. Here's the ingredient list from McDonalds USA website.

French Fries: Potatoes, vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated soybean oil, natural beef flavor (wheat and milk derivatives)*, citric acid (preservative), dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate (maintain color), dimethylpolysiloxane (antifoaming agent)), salt. Prepared in vegetable oil ((may contain one of the following: Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated corn oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness), dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent). *CONTAINS: WHEAT AND MILK (Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients.)

That's nine separate ingredients if you don't count all the different oils they use and you probably noticed the word hydrogenated in reference to some of the oils, in other words, trans fat. Which is not the only problem with their chips either. Notice the words wheat and milk? No McDonalds fries for you if you're a celiac or vegan.

I won't repeat how I go about making chips, you can look here, or use the method Rob wrote about. But I will say, it does take a bit of practice to get them right, it's definitely not a matter of plonking them in hot oil and forgetting about them, especially if you want to keep your kitchen! But good home made chips are so worth it, go on try, you won't be disappointed.

Edited to add: If you live in Melbourne, you can source top quality russet potatoes from the Spud Sisters, Kerri & Catherine, who will deliver a ten or twenty kilo bag of them to your door for a very reasonable price, they also carry other varities, straight from the farm. The Potato Specialist at Prahran Market also carries russets from time to time.

Spud Sisters: Phone & fax 03 9503 4783, Mobile 0421 478 993


  posted at 5:30 pm

At 12:19 am, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I would agree that home chips beat anything else. I did them many times years ago.
Now, I guess I just look for little local places that do their own. If I did them now, I'd probably want them everyday.
You have to just love ingredient lists!!

At 9:52 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there Neil, good point about McDonald's fries being more than just potato, oil and salt. Although, here in Australia, they don't use all those ingredients and they also don't use any hydrogenated fats - it's just canola and sunflower oils.

They do add dextrose though, which is a type of sugar and an "anti-foam agent"?!?

At 10:18 am, Blogger Ed said...

Maccas chips still taste good for the bought in variety and are vastly superior to oven chips. As you know I'm against a lot of convenience food but I so rarely have chips that it just seems such as terrible waste of fat to cook them in it and all that hot fat sacres the life out of me.

At 12:16 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love McDonald's French Fries ... but all those ingredients... simply terrifying! I'll backtrack to your recipe...

At 2:43 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi tanna, we may be the last of a generation...

That list is quite frankly a little scary.

Hi kathryn, I had a look at the Aussie website and sent them an email query asking if there is any wheat or milk product in their fries or if they use any hydrogenated oil - no reply yet.

Hi ed, I can't disagree about maccas fries being better than oven chips and I want to go on the record as saying I do like their fries, but my vote goes to homemade as the best. Obviously we strain, store and reuse our frying oil and I do understand a fear of hot oil that is not misplaced, it must be treated with respect. The fire brigade is currently running a campaign on this very subject.

Hi stephanie, I like them too, perhaps moderation is the key. Hard to believe that food technologists could have something to do with a basic thing like fries.

At 10:23 am, Blogger Ange said...

I totally agree with you & think that Maccas fires taste nothing like potato anyway, just oily little sticks in my opinion. Having said that I dont make my own and just try & avoid chips in general preferring potato in other glorious forms, mash, baked, etc. If I am going to buy them its usuallly nice chunky ones from my fave fish n chip shop for the occasional splurge

At 10:44 pm, Blogger thanh7580 said...

Maccas chips are good for what they are, convenient chips. I like the crispness of the chips, but they don't really taste like chips. Give me hand made chips any day. I love the potato flavour of hand made chips. My local fish and chips shop does real chips, those that they make from potatos they peel and cut themselves, and they just taste wonderful. I don't know of any other fish and chips around my area that do that. I can definitely tell when the chips are from a frozen packet since they just taste so different and don't have that fresh flavour.

At 8:38 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi ange, I'm with you on the chunky factor, when I cut chips they are much fatter than when my wife does it, you seem to get a better potato flavour and I'm convinced it's the ratio of creamy potato to crunch that makes a great chip.

Hi thanh7580, I agree entirely with you. Any fish 'n' chippery that hand makes their chips deserves support for going to the trouble of getting it right. I reckon maccas chips are a triumph of the food technologists and that we apparently like them so much is a triumph of marketing.

At 11:53 am, Blogger Serenity Later said...

just wanted to add my two cents to the debate and say i too don't care for macca's chips and the whole argument about how they hold their crisp better than others doesn't hold for me because i've come across one too many limp matchstick chips after a drive through endeavour.

as for the best chips, when i was growing up mum used to fry up home made chips in olive oil making these absolutely scrumptious chippies that were quickly devoured. i always could tell if she was using an inferior (in my mind anyway) type of oil - vegetable, canola or even olive oil blend - because the chip always tasted less palatable to me.

hmmm...i think i might fry up a batch tonight. in olive oil, natch!

At 7:02 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I can understand the thing behind the maccas chip love - when they've been pulled STRAIGHT out of the fryer and they're golden, steaming hot and crunchy they are pretty tasty...but as soon as they cool then they do lose all taste and resemble soggy cardboard.

To be honest, I had no idea that their chips were so full of ingredients! Though, it being Mickey D's and all, I don't know why I'm so surprised.

At 9:56 pm, Blogger Michelle said...

I had heard that McDonald's dips their fries (excuse me, I am American and not used to chips, chips being thin fried potato chips and sold in bags) in sugar. Disgustingly unhealthy but very tasty! :) I love your blog and will come back!


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