The Unexpected Method McDonald's Originally Used To Make Its Iconic Fries

When you think about "fast food," there's probably a good chance that McDonald's is one of the first chains that come to mind — and understandably so. There are over 38,000 McDonald's franchises spanning over 100 countries, and the company has gone through more than a few eras along the way. Longtime Mickey D's fry fans will remember when McDonald's soft-launched waffle fries in 2016, then gave curly fries a try in 2017. While neither venture stuck, the classic McDonald's fry is still holding down the fort all around the world.

The McRib might be on its "Farewell Tour," but folks have been enjoying McDonald's fries for decades. In 1948, the first McDonald's was opened when failed cinematographers Dick and Mac McDonald moved from New England to San Bernardino, California to open a restaurant instead. Turns out, the enterprise worked for them. According to HowStuffWorks, McDonald's fries are one of the original menu items they've been serving since 1949, and today, they are the single most popular item on their menu. (Step aside, Big Mac.) A whopping 9 million pounds of the tasty fries are served up each day. However, while McDonald's current fry-making process is the big factory operation you might expect, it used to look a lot different when the first store opened its doors. Here's the unexpected method McDonald's originally used to make its iconic fries.

Don't knock it till you fry it

In his book "Drive Thru Dreams: A Journey Through the Heart of America's Fast-Food Kingdom," Adam Chandler says most fast food restaurants weren't serving fries at all, via Atlas Obscura. Their preparation was labor-intensive, and there were wide margins for product inconsistency. Considering the now-fast-food-giant's factory machines that can whip out uniformly sliced potatoes at breakneck speeds, McDonald's original fry-making was shockingly hands-on. The McDonald brothers dried their potatoes outside in the San Bernardino desert air for days at a time before cooking them. The result? "They had this extra crispness to them that made them better than any fry you'd ever had," says Chandler.

Today, McDonald's potatoes are fed through a fry-cutting machine that slices through them at 65 MPH, says ABC News. From there, the cut potatoes are blanched and dunked in a mix of sodium acid pyrophosphate and dextrose called an "ingredient bath." (Nice.) These chemicals are responsible for the fries' trademark uniform golden color, which is kept intact during cooking and processing. Then, they're dried, fried, and flash-frozen to be shipped off to stores around the world. It's a much different picture than before — but still, per Business Insider, if you want fresh McDonald's fries, all you have to do is ask for them.