This is the secret ingredient behind the addictive flavor of McDonald’s fries

There are matchstick fries and steak fries; crinkle-cut fries and waffle fries; cheese fries and sweet potato fries. But among all the rest, McDonald’s French fries are an old standby. There’s something about the flavor that we just. Can’t. Stop. Eating.

No, it’s not just in your head that fast-food fries are one of the most addictive foods. One secret ingredient keeps you coming back for more.

To make McDonald’s fries, fresh potatoes are washed, peeled, cut, and blanched in a factory, according to a video from the company. The plant also adds chemicals to keep the potatoes a uniform light yellow color (but no, that’s not behind their addictive flavor). After that, the cut potatoes are fried for less than a minute before getting frozen and sent to McDonald’s locations. At the restaurant, those frozen strips are cooked in oil and salt before getting landing on your tray in that red box.

That all sounds standard enough, so why are they so exceptionally scrumptious?

RELATED: Secrets from the fast food chain

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People can get pretty invested in their food

"I was amazed at how furious people could get over food," a person who says they worked at McDonald's wrote on Reddit. "I was a swing manager for a while, and one time I took a call from an angry guy ... Seems that even though he asked for no mustard on his burgers, he got mustard."

The Reddit user said the man claimed to have a spreadsheet on which he recorded every time a McDonald's employee made a mistake with his food. He yelled and kept demanding to speak to the store owner.

The Reddit user said the owner ended up taking a call from the man and promptly hung up after telling him to find "somewhere else to eat in the future." 

Photo credit: Reuters

There's a trick to getting a fresh egg on your breakfast sandwich

Mackenzie Shelton, whose Quora bio says she's a McDonald's employee, offered a hack for getting a fresh-from-the-carton egg on your breakfast sandwich.

Request a "round egg," she said. "It's the best egg we have (and definitely real!)."

The website Serious Eats confirmed that the request could swap out "your folded egg patty with a real egg, free of charge."

Chuck Chan, who says he worked at McDonald's, wrote on Quora that you'd get the same type of egg used in McMuffins. 

Photo credit: Reuters

Employees sometimes get some unusual requests

Sometimes customers come up with some rather unusual requests for McDonald's employees to tackle.

Mike Bowerbank, who said he worked at McDonald's, said on Quora that a woman once asked for a "McDLT" with no meat.

A McDLT is a discontinued McDonald's sandwich that consisted of a cheeseburger split in two and placed on different sides of a specialized container. One half had a bun with a patty and cheese (the hot side), while the other had a bun with vegetables and sauce (the cold side).

"For some odd reason, this seemed to be the funniest thing the girl behind the counter had ever heard and she started laughing," Bowerbank wrote. "And she couldn't stop. The assistant manager had to step in, apologize, and put in the order for her."

Ganesh Satyanarayana said on Quora that while he was working the closing shift at a McDonald's in the UK, he encountered a customer he described as "visibly pregnant."

"She quietly asks me: 'Are you still open? Because I'm craving a sandwich and none of the other McDonald's were open,'" Satyanarayana wrote. "My heart immediately melted and I let them in and told them that it would take a while as I had already finished cleaning the oil vats and the grill. She said: 'Oh, I don't want any meat on my sandwich, I just want pickles on a toasted bun.' I swear to God, I thought she was joking."

And not all of the strange requests involve food. Arthur Adams, who says he worked at a McDonald's in the 1980s, said on Quora that customers would ask him to tell a joke or sell his McDonald's hat.

Photo credit: Reuters

Custom orders are sometimes a pain

In a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" thread last year, a McDonald's employee said custom orders could be a pain to make.

"We label it as 'special request,'" they wrote, so the employees filling the order "have to literally stop working just to come over and ask what the special request is."

They added that requesting "something fresh" could also count as a custom order, as well as requests that ketchup be squirted between burger patties or for a specific placement of the cheese in a sandwich.

The employee gave the examples of a sandwich that substitutes the bun for lettuce or getting just one pancake instead of the standard three.

"It gets weirdly specific," the employee wrote. 

Photo credit: Getty

McDonald's employees in the UK may be more attentive at certain times — and customers can use this to their advantage

In the UK, McDonald's employees might be especially attentive at certain times of the day.

Kamran Adnan, who said he worked for a year at McDonald's locations in London, said on Quora that 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. were called "gapbuster times," or times when mystery shoppers who get paid to rate their experience may visit a McDonald's restaurant.

"It is easy to spot a gapbuster because they always ask for a receipt so they can get their food costs reimbursed by the company employing them," Adnan wrote.

He continued: "If you ask for a receipt in that time, everyone will be immediately alert that you could be a potential gapbuster, and they'll make sure to serve you the freshest burger and fries and give you priority over everyone else." 

Photo credit: Reuters

There are several types of managers 

Managers at McDonald's can perform a variety of tasks, depending on their level.

A Reddit user who said they had worked at McDonald's for five years broke down the chain of command at the store:

• The owner or operator is at the helm.

• The restaurant manager oversees the whole store and things like "procedures, scheduling, admin, HR."

• At large McDonald's locations, secondary managers or salary managers take on some of the responsibilities of the restaurant manager.

• Swing managers and shift managers work on the floor with the rest of the employees.

Photo credit: Getty

Some employees use the kitchen to make their own meals

Some employees chow on Big Macs during their lunch break.

Jasmine Nathaniel, who says she works at McDonald's, said on Quora that others opted for a bit more variety.

"Sometimes we got creative in the kitchen and would whip up our own meals," she wrote. "I have made many quesadillas and grilled cheese bacon sandwiches in my time." 

Photo credit: Getty

Some customers can be pretty condescending

It's no secret that some people make a point of looking down on fast-food workers.

A McDonald's employee named Mike Waite addressed some of this condescension in a viral Facebook post in 2016.

"YES I work at McDonald's and do it nearly 50 hours a week," Waite wrote. "Why? Not because I have no aspiration, motivation or intelligence ... but for the opposite ... because in a few months' time, like a great number of people I work with, I will be going back into higher education."

He said he aspired to be like his colleagues at the chain.

"In the past I have known and worked with very rich folks in very high-end jobs, and a few of them could never match the resilience and work ethic of some of the current lads/lassies," he wrote.

A Reddit user who said they were once a part-time McDonald's employee described one uncomfortable situation where she overheard a customer speaking with her children.

"I LITERALLY hear the mother say to her kids, 'Remember, if you don't do well in school, THAT'S how you'll turn out,'" the Reddit user wrote. "It took all my effort not to turn and berate her for her ignorance. Not only are half the employees I work with in full-time education like me ... but the other half were all upstanding, good individuals (in their own ways) who I respected as much as they respected me." 

Photo credit: Reuters

Asking for fries with no salt is a good way to annoy employees, and you may be better off just asking for fresh fries

A popular myth circulating on the internet is that you can snag fresh fries by asking for fries with no salt.

"Buddy, there's a 90% chance that you read some 'life hack' on Reddit, or Imgur, or what have you, that says to get fresh fries just ask for no salt," a person who says they were a McDonald's employee wrote on Reddit. "Do you realize you can just ASK us for 'fresh,' and we're more likely to give them to you, right?"

Another Reddit user responded: "I understand that some people genuinely have to limit their salt intake as much as possible (McDonald's isn't really the best place to practice that sort of diet, but hey, not my life) but for me, at least, it's easy to tell who genuinely needs it salt free and who's just trying to get the freshest fries they can."

Chan said on Quora that while it's true that asking for fries with no salt will get you fresh fries, preparing the order is a nuisance.

"The fry person will need to wipe down the station, the fry scoop, and clear the area for the new batch to keep salt from contaminating the new batch," Chan said. "The fry person might not even fill up your container as full due to this fuss. And if any fries fall out of the bag/container, they won't put more in because the rest of the fries may have already been salted."

He recommended instead just asking for fresh fries. 

Photo credit: Reuters

Ask for the budget version of the Big Mac  

Shelton said on Quora that people trying to cut costs but "craving a Big Mac" could ask for a McDouble "dressed like a Big Mac — hold the ketchup and mustard, add lettuce and Mac sauce."

"You'll save a few bucks and I've heard they taste great too," she wrote. 

Photo credit: Business Insider/Hollis Johnson

It's hard to get rid of the smell of french fries

Have you ever grabbed a McDonald's meal at the drive-thru, then noticed that your car smells like french fries for days?

McDonald's employees say they have to live with that every day.

A person who said they used to work the grill at McDonald's wrote on Reddit that showering the second you get home is key.

"Don't expose your regular clothes to your work clothes," they said. "Wash separately."

Another Reddit user who said they were a cashier, cook, and drive-thru worker at the chain wrote: "I smell like french fries until I shower."

One person asked the McDonald's subreddit for help.

"I am employed at a McDonald's, and since I am frequently on the grill and fried products, my uniform always smells like grease, and I can't get it out," they wrote. "The shirt is 100% polyester, so I think that may be why it still does, so does anyone know how to get out the smell?"

"Just don't worry about it," another person who said they were a McDonald's employee responded. "It's your uniform. It's bound to smell that way. It's not like you're going to wear it to a party or something."

One former McDonald's employee who reached out to Business Insider suggested dousing your laundry in lemon juice to diminish the odor.

Photo credit: Getty

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It all started in the 1950s, when the shortening company that gave McDonald’s vegetable oil couldn’t afford the equipment needed to hydrogenate the oil, which would extend its shelf life. (Learn how to tell if you eat too many preservatives.) So the supplier gave a blend of oil and beef fat instead, according to NPR.

Over time, McDonald’s and other fast-food joints made the beef fat part of their signature fry flavors. But in the 1980s, fast-food restaurants took the ingredient out when health advocates criticized how much “bad” saturated fat it added. (Find out if you’ve been eating too many bad fats.)

McDonald’s wanted to keep its signature beefy flavor but without the beef fat itself, so it came up with a solution. Now, the fast-food chain adds “natural beef flavor” to its vegetable oil to give its fries their irresistibly meaty (though not-so-vegan-friendly) taste. Next, check out these 75 mind-blowing McDonald’s facts.

RELATED: Fast food secrets 

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After we cook something, we put it in a holding cabinet and set a timer.

When the timer goes off, we’re supposed to throw it out. But often, we just reheat the food. So for the freshest meal, come between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. or between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. More people are in the restaurant then, so we’re cooking and serving new food constantly. (These are the worst meals you could order at a restaurant, by the way.)

That plain chicken breast may have been a healthy choice out of the package...

But sometimes we have to slather it with butter just to make sure it doesn’t stick to the grill. On the other hand, these healthy fast foods can satisfy unhealthy cravings.

There’s usually a way to get expensive menu items for less

If you’re craving a Big Mac, for example, order a $1 McDouble with no mustard or ketchup and then add shredded lettuce and Mac sauce for a small charge. It’s basically a mini Big Mac, and you can get two for less than the cost of one Big Mac. Check out more trivia facts you probably didn't know about McDonald's.

Most fast-food joints clean everything with super-concentrated chemicals at the end of the day

That includes the grills and the drink machine nozzles. If you’re one of the first customers in the morning, you may be getting some of that chemical residue on the food or in the drink you order—or, worse. You won't believe what was found on the ice in some fast food restaurants. 

Those grill marks on your burger?

Not real. They were put there by the factory. If you want REAL grill marks, it's probably best to make your own at home with one of these burger recipes.

Most of us will cook something fresh for you if you ask

But if you want to make sure your french fries come right out of the fryer, order them without salt; that forces us to cook you a new batch. Then you can add your own salt, and they'll still taste the same. That's because of the secret ingredient that makes McDonald's fries so addictive.

Avoid asking for “extra” of something, like cheese or sauce

As soon as you say “extra,” we have to enter it at the register and charge you for it. Instead, just tell us you want us to “put a good amount on there” or “not to be skimpy with it,” and we’ll load you up.

Yes, our chili is made from what you think:

Meat from old burgers.

It makes me laugh when someone comes in and says she’s trying to be healthy—and then orders a salad with crispy chicken

At McDonald’s, some of those salads have about as many calories as a Big Mac. In fact, a small order of french fries contains four fewer grams of fat than a packet of our ranch dressing. Also, be wary of these "healthy" fast food choices that definitely aren't.

We’re timed on how fast we get customers through the drive-through...

...so we always prioritize those in line outside over anyone at the front counter. And after you leave the drive-through, use this trick to keep your fries crispy the whole way home.

One of my coworkers once got so mad that he spit in someone’s food

He was suspended for three days. Most of us would never do something like that.

Here’s a good way to know how clean a fast-food establishment really is:

When you get your drink, bend down and look up into the ice chute. If you see mold and other stuff growing in there—which is more common than you might expect—they’re not cleaning the machine as often as they’re supposed to.

Those gorgeous pictures of our food in our advertisements?

They’re airbrushed and touched up with fiberglass and paint. It probably takes two hours to make that picture. Obviously, we’re not going to be able to replicate that.

Please, please, get off your cell phone

I’ve had people pull up to the window, pay, and drive away without their food because they’re talking on the phone and not paying attention. Then they’re mad at me. Here are some more crazy stories from drive-through workers.

At most fast-food restaurants, it’s tough to give away free food

Especially things like burgers, because they’re inventoried. We can sometimes give away French fries, ice cream or drinks because we get those ourselves, but it depends on which manager is on duty.

We hate it when you order an ice cream

Most of the time, we’ve got to make it, and it’s already melting by the time we hand it to you. If you order four or five cones at a time, it’s almost impossible to get them to you before they melt everywhere, and then you want new ones.

Here’s something that surprised me when I started working at McDonald's:

Our clam grills are set at 750 degrees, and they can fully cook a regular beef hamburger in just 38 seconds, a quarter pounder in 70 seconds. The first time I ever saw that, I was like, 'Ewww.'

We’re happy to replace something if we mess up, but...

We can usually tell when you’re making up a story to get free food. There was one guy who found a pebble in our parking lot, put it in his food after he ate most of it, and then asked for a replacement. Another lady took 10 tacos home. The next day, she brought just a few of them back, showing us that their lettuce was brown. She wanted another 10 tacos. But of course, if you leave tacos out for 24 hours, the lettuce will turn. Love tacos? Here are some fun taco recipes to try.

Some fast-food workers definitely follow the 10-second rule

I have seen people drop food and then pick it back up and put it on the grill.

No, most of us do not donate our leftovers

I can’t believe how much food we throw out every day, especially at the end of the night. You, however, can do your part. Here's how you can cut back on food waste at home.

All fast-food restaurants are not created equal

Even restaurants within the same chain can vary widely depending on the owner and manager and what kind of standards they set.

When you take three handfuls of napkins or fill your purse with ketchup packets...

I don’t know what you call it, but I call it stealing. You’re just making things more expensive for everyone.

Please don’t ask what ingredients are in our fried chicken coating or in our special sauce

All of our recipes are proprietary, so they don’t even tell us what’s in them. But we can tell you why McDonald's Coke tastes better than anywhere else.

At some restaurants, managers get a bonus if they hold onto their employees and keep their turnover rate down

That gives us an incentive to keep people who aren’t very good, even if they don’t know the difference between a French fry and a screwdriver. And I’m not exaggerating; I’ve had employees who were that bad.

Most of us, even the managers, aren’t making much more than minimum wage

You wouldn’t believe the stuff we put up with for that kind of money. People constantly talk to me like I’m a two-year-old. I’ve had customers throw drinks at me and cuss at me. I’ve been held up at gunpoint.

At Taco Bell, most of our food does carry over, so we reheat it and serve it the next day

That’s why I never take my lunch break early. Plus, fast food can have some weird effects on your brain.

For the best deal at McDonald's, order off the dollar menu

You can get a lot of food for the same price as a meal and it will fill you up more.

We were supposed to wear gloves when we made food

But a lot of times my co-workers didn’t do it, and that really skeeved me out. Here are more dirty restaurant secrets the kitchen crew won't tell you.

Most of us don’t wash our hands as much as we should

Even though there are signs everywhere reminding us it's the law.

Look around to see how much trash is in the parking lot

And whether the bathrooms are dirty and if the dining room is picked up. When things that are so publicly visible are neglected, you can bet that even more is being neglected in the back and in the kitchen where no one can see them. That's just one of the things restaurant health inspectors wish you knew.

Once your order is in at the drive-through...

We have two minutes to get your food before the screen turns red, and the manager asks what’s going on.

We do laugh at you behind your back

Like when you mispronounce our menu items or when you think we can’t hear you through the drive-through speaker, yelling at your husband or kids.

When it was slow, sometimes we would all take the garbage out...

And smoke marijuana in the back. Really, it's true. Want more crazy food service stories? Here's everything your waiter isn't telling you.

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The post This Is the Secret Ingredient Behind the Addictive Flavor of McDonald’s Fries appeared first on Reader's Digest.

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