French fries are a popular fast food item that are typically made by deep frying potato strips in oil. However, many french fries, especially those served at fast food restaurants, have an additional coating added to them before frying. This coating affects the taste, texture, and appearance of the fries.
Purpose of Coatings on French Fries
There are a few main reasons coatings are added to french fries before frying:
- To add flavor – Coatings often contain seasonings like salt, spices, or herbs to give the fries more flavor.
- To improve texture – The coating can make the outside of the fries crisper with an inner fluffy or soft texture.
- To enhance appearance – Coatings make the fries golden brown and more visually appealing.
- To reduce oil absorption – The coating forms a barrier between the potato and oil, reducing oil uptake.
Common Coating Ingredients
The specific coatings used on french fries vary by restaurant and food manufacturer, but some common ingredients include:
- Flour – Wheat or rice flour helps adhere the coating to the fries and provides a crispy texture.
- Starch – Cornstarch or potato starch also improves crispness and adhesion.
- Spices – Salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika add flavor.
- Herbs – Oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme also boost flavor.
- Batter – A wet batter with eggs, milk, flour helps coatings stick.
- Breading – Breadcrumbs or crushed crackers add crunch.
- Acid – Vinegar or buttermilk help coatings adhere.
In addition to these basic ingredients, some fast food or frozen french fry suppliers use pre-made coating blends or batters to give their product a unique taste and texture.
Types of French Fry Coating Methods
There are two main approaches to coating fries:
A dry coating is applied by tossing the cut, washed potatoes in a season flour mixture until evenly coated. Common seasonings in a dry coating include:
- Spices like paprika, garlic powder, onion powder
- Rice flour or corn starch
The potatoes may be coated once or double-coated for a thicker coating. Dry coatings produce a crispy outer texture.
Wet Batter Coating
A wet batter produces a different taste and texture. Potatoes are dipped into a wet batter before being coated in a dry breading mixture. Common batters contain:
- Eggs and milk to create a thick, adhesive batter
- Flour to absorb moisture and coat the fries
- Spices for flavor
- Leavening agents like baking powder to lighten the coating
The batter helps adhere the dry breading, which provides a crunchy texture. Breading may contain cracker meal, breadcrumbs, flour, and seasonings.
Coating Methods by Major Fast Food Chains
Here is an overview of the coating methods used by some major fast food chains for their french fries:
|Restaurant||Coating Ingredients||Coating Method|
|McDonald’s||Dextrose, soybean oil, sodium acid pyrophosphate, extractives of black pepper||Dry seasoning blend|
|Burger King||Dextrose, rice flour, modified corn starch, salt, leavening||Dry coating|
|Wendy’s||Dextrose, yellow corn flour, corn starch, salt, cellulose gum||Dry coating|
|Arby’s||Potato starch, modified corn starch, rice flour, dextrose, salt||Dry coating|
|Chick-fil-A||Rice flour, spices, corn starch, dextrose, yeast||Dry seasoning|
Most major chains appear to use a dry coating on their fries applied by tumbling or gentle tossing. The coating provides saltiness, spice flavor, and a crispy texture.
Coated vs. Uncoated French Fries
Some restaurants specializing in Belgian-style fries opt to serve fries without any coating. These uncoated fries rely on the natural potato flavor. They tend to have a blonde color vs. the golden brown of coated fries.
Without a coating, the fries may absorb more oil during frying. But some people prefer the lighter taste and texture of uncoated fries. Restaurants may season uncoated fries with just salt after frying.
Coatings add more fat, calories, and sodium to french fries. For example, a typical medium order of fast food french fries may contain:
- Calories: 340
- Total fat: 17 g
- Saturated fat: 3 g
- Trans fat: 0 g
- Sodium: 270 mg
The majority of calories come from the oil used for deep frying rather than the coating. However, sodium is increased significantly by salt and seasoning in coatings.
Baked french fries without any coating or frying offer a lower calorie, lower fat option. But some people find the taste and texture disappointing compared to traditional fried and coated french fries.
In summary, coated french fries are coated with a layer of seasonings, starch, and flour before frying. The coating browns during frying and provides crispiness, more complex flavor, and an appealing golden appearance. While coatings increase the calorie, fat, and sodium content of fries, they remain popular due to the enhanced taste and texture they provide.