Why You Should Never Order French Fries With No Salt

Flickr / Jim Larrison
Flickr / Jim Larrison

I come across the same tip every once in a while on /r/askreddit threads asking about life hacks: If you go to McDonald’s, ask for your fries with no salt. That way, they have to make a fresh batch, guaranteeing that your fries won’t be sitting around under the heat lamp, that each French fry you put in your mouth will be as made-to-order as possible.

But what about the seasoning? Won’t plain French fries taste a little bland? Easy, the hint goes on, once you get your super-fresh French fries, you just add your own salt. Bam, you just hacked McDonald’s, you cracked the fast-food code.

Every time I read this advice, and it always pops up, people thinking they’re so smart, beating the system, I always get pissed off. Because you’re not beating the system. You’re throwing a wrench in it. And nobody’s benefiting, not even you.

Let’s talk about you. “No salt on those fries.” You know what you just did? You just added like five minutes to your wait time, not to mention all of the people behind you in line, watching you as you stand to the side of the register. They’re not ordering, even though you already ordered. Because you’re not moving. You’re just standing there. It doesn’t make sense, because fast food etiquette dictates that you order your food, you get it – here’s where the fast part of fast food comes in – and then you get off the line and leave.

But no, you had to make a special order, some sort of lame French fry tip you read on the Internet, and now you’re still just standing there at the register. People are starting to get annoyed, nobody knows what’s going on, that you’re waiting for some ridiculous side-item special request.

Then you get your fries. “Whatever,” you’re saying, “I don’t care about the extra wait time, because it’s all worth it, fresh, hot fries.” And yes, everybody agrees that hot fries are better, right out of the deep fryer, they’re perfectly crisp on the outside with that almost creamy potato interior.

But you’re not getting that maximum fry experience, because they didn’t add salt. You’ve convinced yourself that you’re somehow gaming the system by just sprinkling it on at the table, but you’re cheating yourself out of what should be the perfectly seasoned French fry. You ever see just how those fries are made? The fry cook takes the basket out of the fryer, gives the whole thing a few shakes to get rid of any excess oil, and then immediately applies the salt.

This is what you’re not getting by insisting on doing it yourself. It’s an immediate application of salt. They have a giant shaker, like it has its own giant handle. And that salt they use, it’s not your average table salt. This stuff is super fine, it’s distributed evenly throughout the shaker’s broad opening, emitted in a briny cloud, perfectly and evenly coating every inch of those fries.

It’s all done right there, as it’s being shaken, one fluid motion just seconds out of the deep fryer. So you think about your fries, your super fresh, made-to-order fries. By the time you get them to wherever it is that you’re going to apply your own salt, those things have already cooled way down. Sure, it’s only been a minute or two, tops, but that’s all it takes. You’re going to open up your salt packets and empty them on top. Guess what? Most of that salt is going to bounce off of the fries and land at the bottom of the bag.

You need that ultra hot coating of right-out-of-the-fryer cooking oil. When that industrial salt shaker does its magic on the fries, immediately upon emerging from the cooker, the salt dissolves on contact with each piece. Plus you add the wrist-action, the up-and-down flicking of the basket, it’s like the salt becomes one with the potato, there’s not a spot that’s not perfectly seasoned.

I get this all the time at my restaurant also, “Let me get those fries with no salt.” And then I watch as their food comes out, they immediately grab the salt shaker, they’re shaking it up and down over each French fry, I can hear them muttering to themselves, “I wish I didn’t have to do this for each bite, but someone along the course of my life told me this trick about ordering fries with no salt, and even though it’s clearly an inferior way of ordering and eating fries, for whatever reason, I’ve never really examined what’s going on, I’m just blindly following ridiculous tips and tricks that I read about somewhere on the Internet.”

Wake up sheeple. Open your eyes. Heed my advice. You ask for no salt on the fries, you’re taking the fast out of fast food. What you gain in freshness and piping-hotness, you lose it deliciousness and I-can’t-stop-putting-these-in-my-mouthness. Plus, the McDonald’s worker is going to resent you for making him or her do extra work all because you don’t know how to order.

But won’t that mean that sometimes you won’t get super fresh fries? Yes, that’s just a reality that everyone has to deal with. That’s life, that’s fast food, OK, there’s a reason most of this stuff costs a dollar. Sometimes you get fresh fast food, other times it’s coming from the heat lamp. Trying to manipulate your way into a perfect McDonald’s experience every single time, it’s a recipe for frustration, you’re putting too many demands on everyday life, you’re trying too hard to make it happen, you’re setting your standards way too high, and it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be pleased by anything in the long run.

Plus, you really shouldn’t be eating so many French fries. Hasn’t your doctor ever told you to cut back on the fried food? Come on man, do yourself a favor, next time you’re about to head out the door to McDonald’s, grab an apple, all right? Go have a yogurt and drink a glass of water. TC mark

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