Here’s why McDonald’s fries don’t taste the way they used to

When it comes to fries, nothing beats McDonald’s. You can almost taste the crunchy deliciousness when you see the Golden Arches. You don’t have to take our word on this, either—there’s a scientific reason McDonald’s fries are so good!

But if you started eating the golden potato sticks before 1990, we suspect you’ve noticed that something’s different now. It’s not your imagination. McDonald’s made some major changes to its recipe that year.

What Made McDonald’s Fries Famous?

To know how McDonald’s fries became the phenomenon they are today, we need to take a quick dive into the fast-food chain’s backstory. For founder Ray Kroc, the standout at the original McDonald’s drive-in was their crisp, golden fries. Kroc loved the fries so much that he wrote about ’em in his memoir: “The French fry would become almost sacrosanct for me, its preparation a ritual to be followed religiously.”

Kroc contributed an essential ingredient to that ritual. Taking inspiration from his favorite Chicago hot dog stand, Sam’s, he decided that McDonald’s fries should be made using beef tallow, which gave them a delicious meaty flavor that millions came to love.

However, all good things must come to an end. (Remember the McLobster?)

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McDonald's facts you didn't know
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McDonald's facts you didn't know

The one McDonald's in the world where its arches are blue

McDonald's might be known for its golden arches, but there's one location where the arches are blue -- not yellow.

In 1993, the chain was building its Sedona location when city officials protested the chain's iconic color scheme. They feared that the gold would clash too much with the city's natural red surroundings. The teams agreed on a turquoise blue, a huge flip from its iconic logo, but the rest is history. 

There's a spaceship-themed McDonald's in New Mexico

Although the infamous Roswell UFO incident of 1947 took place some 75-miles out of the city, that hasn't stopped believers from flocking to the southeastern destination.

When building the city's McDonald's in the 1990s, the fast-food company went above and beyond to create a place that was on-brand for the location. It's not just the architecture that follows an extraterrestrial theme: the art and murals within the restaurant's galactic motif. 

You can visit the Hamburger University at the chain's global headquarters

If you're ever in Chicago, make sure to add the chain's global headquarters to your itinerary and get a taste of the most popular menu items from around the world. The university is a real school where students can focus on leadership and development. It's even more difficult to get accepted to than Harvard

The fanciest McDonald's is in Ohio

This McDonald's in Independence, Ohio, trades golden arches and playrooms for with grand chandeliers and cascading staircases. 

Only two states are home to over 1,000 McDonald's

California and Texas have the most McDonald's in the country, with California home to 1,286 and Texas home to 1,189. Florida comes in third, with 907. 

You can get lobster at McDonald's in Maine

When in Maine! The McDonald's in Freeport used to be the state's only McDonald's, but now there are 62. Seafood lovers can even add lobster rolls to their orders.

The oldest McDonald's in the world dates back 66 years 

California is home to 1,286 McDonald's, the most in the country, including the oldest location! 

The McDonald's at 10207 Lakewood Blvd., in Downey, was built back in 1953. From a fishbowl kitchen to a single arch "Speedee" sign, it's been unchanged from the day it opened almost seven decades ago. 

You can step back in time with this McDonald's in Massachusetts 

Complete with white and black checkerboard tile flooring, vinyl booth and neon decor, this retro-inspired eatery in Fairhaven is giving us major nostalgic vibes.

This New York McDonald's is the most charming 

Fans of the chain go wild over this McDonald's located off of Jericho Turnpike for its charming and Southern-inspired architecture, complete with an elongated porch and shuttered windows.  

This McDonald's looks like a train

All aboard the McDonald's in Barstow, California! The restaurant is home to a few more culinary tenants at Barstow Station, which is built out of 16-strung together train cars. Customers can dine in passenger train cars, which seem to have quite the following on Instagram.

The state with the least amount of McDonald's is...

North Dakota is home to the fewest amount of McDonald's in the country, with 25 locations. Vermont is home to 26, Washington, D.C. to 27, Wyoming to 29 and South Dakota to 30. 

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How Are the Fries Different Today?

Beef tallow was initially used because the supplier for McDonald’s couldn’t afford vegetable oil. In the 1990s, as health concerns over saturated fat reached an all-time high, McDonald’s faced a backlash against the use of beef tallow, and worried about losing customers, the chain switched to vegetable oil. Unfortunately, many customers said the new texture and taste weren’t up to the mark.

The fast-food giant tried to win customers back by adding natural beef flavoring to their ingredients. It used vegetarian hydrolyzed wheat and milk proteins, and not surprisingly, this was a poor replacement for the original flavor. To make matters worse, vegetable oil was later found to be unhealthy, too, and McDonald’s changed its oil twice more—first to a soy-corn oil in 2002, then to a trans-fat-free oil in 2007, which is still in use today.

Nothing achieved the crisp skin and perfectly fluffy inside of the original, though we won’t be giving up our fries anytime soon. If this has you wondering what cooking oils to use at home, check out this handy Test Kitchen guide.

Will McDonald’s ever return to its original french fry recipe? Only time will tell. Luckily, the Coke at McDonald’s still tastes better than anywhere else!

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10 money-saving fast-food hacks
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10 money-saving fast-food hacks

Restaurant: McDonald’s

Hack: Order two four-piece nuggets instead of one six-piece. It’s cheaper, you get more nuggets and you get more sauces. Score.

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Restaurant: McDonald’s

Hack: Order a McDouble without the ketchup and mustard but with lettuce and Big Mac sauce. You'll pay for the Big Mac taste for the price of a McDouble.

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Restaurant: Chipotle

Hack: Order half of one protein and half of another kind (like chicken and steak). You’ll almost always get more than half of each and end up with up to 1.5x the protein in your burrito or bowl for the price of a normal portion.

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Restaurant: Arby’s

Hack: Order two junior roast beef sandwiches instead of one regular classic. You'll end up with more meat for a lower price.

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Restaurant: Jamba Juice

Hack: Substitute any ingredient in any smoothie for the same price. If you’re craving a smoothie with non-fat yogurt instead of mango, or extra strawberries instead of blueberries, customize it to your liking without any extra charge. It will save you more than being charged for creating your own smoothie from scratch.

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Restaurant: Jack in the Box

Hack: Order two Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers and combine them into one for a much cheaper version of a Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburger. 

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Restaurant: McDonald’s

Hack: Order a sausage McMuffin off of the dollar menu but ask for the sausage to be substituted with egg—an egg McMuffin for a dollar.

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Restaurant: Any pizza place

Hack: When you call to order delivery, ask if there were any orders that weren’t delivered—the pizza place will often give you those orders for a discounted price (perfect if cold pizza is your thing.)

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Restaurant: Subway

Hack: Order a Double Steak and Cheese Sub instead of the Philly Cheese Steak Sub—you’ll get the same sandwich at a normal foot-long price.

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