I tasted and ranked fries from 8 fast-food chains, and the best have soft, mashed potato-like insides

·9 min read
I tasted and ranked fries from 8 fast-food chains, and the best have soft, mashed potato-like insides
fries ranking thumb
No two french fries from these fast-food chains are the same. Rachel Askinasi/Insider
  • I compared and ranked fries from Five Guys, Burger King, McDonald's, Wendy's, Shake Shack, Popeyes, KFC, and Checkers.

  • Each chain's fries had a distinct flavor, texture, and shape.

  • I think Checkers' potatoes had the best flavor, texture, and shelf life.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Burger King's fries had almost no flavor, in my opinion, and the potato had a mealy texture, which earned them the bottom spot.

Burger King fries
A small order of Burger King fries. Rachel Askinasi/Insider

When I first took a bite of Burger King's fries, I noticed their slightly crunchy exterior, which I consider a sign of freshness. But shortly after, I could feel the mealiness of the potato on my tongue. The fries didn't mush down or ooze potato when I bit into them; instead, it was more of a clean break.

To me, the fries mostly tasted like unsalted butter rather than a flavorful oil.

They weren't soggy at all and didn't flop over when held in the air.

French Fry Comaro
The Burger King fries all stood straight. Rachel Askinasi/Insider

While I appreciated that the fries weren't exceptionally soggy, I thought their stiffness was almost cardboard-like in texture and rendered these golden sticks less enjoyable than any of the others.

Shake Shack's crinkle-cut fries were the thickest of the bunch. These tied with Burger King for last place.

Shake Shack fries
An order of Shake Shack fries. Rachel Askinasi/Insider

I thought these fries were also mealy, and they were starchy enough to leave an unpleasant film around the inside of my mouth. Both of these components made these fries unpleasant to eat, in my opinion, and were factors that went into its tied-for-last-place ranking.

But the crunchiness on the outside paired with the ample amount of potato inside made these slightly more enjoyable than the fries from Burger King. The longer fries had more of that soft, potatoey center and stiff ends, while the shorter ones were completely stiff and didn't flop over.

Unfortunately, though, these fries didn't have enough flavor for me. Depending on what you prioritize when picking a "good" fry, Shake Shack's and Burger King's can be interchangeable in terms of being at the bottom of this list.

The crinkle cut helped these fries hold their shape.

French Fry Comaro
Shake Shack's fries had a consistent amount of give to them. Rachel Askinasi/Insider

I could tell that Shake Shack's fries were softer than Burger King's, but they were still a bit cardboard-like, in my opinion, which added to the bottom-placed ranking.

The fries, which were close to an inch thick, had a somewhat flaky exterior texture that left crumbs behind. If you like a smooth exterior, these may not be for you. But if you like a more textured fry, this is a positive feature.

Wendy's fries were creamy inside but had a near-flavorless pepper taste, which is why they landed in sixth place.

Wendy's fries
A small order of Wendy's fries. Rachel Askinasi/Insider

The fries were piping hot when I first bit into them and retained their fresh temperature and taste for around 10 minutes, which was impressive.

They were salty and tasted like oil, which was the familiar fast-food flavor I was looking forward to, but they also had an unexpected pepper heat. It tasted more like white pepper than black pepper, but the spice took over with each bite rather than providing an additional flavor.

The fries were super soft inside and weren't crispy on the outside.

After 10 minutes, though, the fries got hard and cardboard-like, lost their oil flavor, and just tasted like peppery heat. For this reason, I ranked these in sixth place.

The skin-on approach gives these a handmade aesthetic.

French Fry Comaro
Some Wendy's fries stood straight while longer ones flopped. Rachel Askinasi/Insider

These fries were about 1/2-inch thick, had plenty of give to them, and the longer strings flopped over in the center when held up.

Wendy's also keeps the potato skin on its fries, which gives them a homemade look.

Although they were enjoyable when fresh, the change in texture and flavor change that happened when the fries turned from hot to cold was what landed these in sixth place for me.

These fries were flaky and tasted like oil, but they didn't have much flavor, which is why they're in fifth place here.

KFC fries
A small order of KFC fries. Rachel Askinasi/Insider

Biting into the fries from the famed chicken chain, I noticed that the insides were extremely mealy rather than smooth.

The flaky fry on the outside was reminiscent of the flakiness that comes on the coating of KFC's fried chicken, but it wasn't as enjoyable.

I would have appreciated some sort of pepper or saltiness to brighten the flavors of the potato and oil.

The fries weren't floppy or soggy, but they felt stale even when fresh.

KFC fries
The KFC fries were crispy and held their shape. Rachel Askinasi/Insider

I tried the fries immediately after they were handed to me at the KFC location I visited. To my disappointment, they already tasted stale.

The flavor was hollow, but the crispy outside made these skinny fries rank higher than Burger King, Shake Shack, and Wendy's. Unfortunately for KFC, there were still four chains that did a better job with their potatoes.

Popeyes' fries had tons of flavor and texture, and were a contender in this ranking.

Popeyes fries
A small order of Popeyes fries. Rachel Askinasi/Insider

The chain known for its chicken has proved itself in the fry category, in my opinion. They taste unmistakably like Popeyes and feature a coating of Cajun seasoning that you can see easily.

A flaky fry made for a crunchy first bite, but they soon got limp and soggy.

Even when soggy, though, the fries held onto their flavor and the potato interior stayed soft and creamy in texture.

If they hadn't gotten so soggy-feeling on the outside once they cooled down, these would have been an even more impressive take on fast-food fries.

These fries also had some skin on them, which complemented the flakiness.

French Fry Comaro
Most of the Popeyes had a slight give to them. Rachel Askinasi/Insider

The crispy, wispy bits you can see on the exterior added some crunch before getting soggy. The strings of fried potato, which were around 1/3-inch thick, were creamy and seemed to be seasoned from the inside out.

If not for the quick turn from crispy to cold, these fries may have ranked above McDonald's. But the flavor and peak texture earned it fourth place.

McDonald's nailed the oily flavor, crispy exterior, and pillowy interior. These fries have earned their positive reputation.

Mcdonald's fries
A small order of McDonald's fries. Rachel Askinasi/Insider

The McDonald's shoestring fries kept their texture and flavor for longer than many of the fries I tried for this ranking.

They were slightly crispy on the outside, had a lot of give when I took a bite, and tasted both salty and oily.

In my opinion, the longevity of these potatoes is what pushed them over the edge and into the top three.

McDonald's hit the mark on almost every component, which landed these fries the No. 3 spot.

French Fry Comaro
Some fries were floppier than others. Rachel Askinasi/Insider

At around 1/4-inch thick, these were the skinniest fries of the trial. Therefore, they had less of a potato ooze than thicker fries, like the ones from Wendy's and Popeyes.

These fries didn't get stale as quickly as the other contenders, though.

Similar to Wendy's and Shake Shack, the longer fries were more likely to flop than the shorter ones, but this was inconsistent as some long fries were able to hold their own.

What catapulted these fries to the top three was the fact that the only thing I noticed change as they sat out was the temperature. Even still, there were two orders of potatoes that were even tastier and more impressive than the ever-classic McDonald's French fry.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries has top-notch, noticeably fresh potatoes.

Five Guys fries
A little order of Five Guys fries. Rachel Askinasi/Insider

The chain, which is known for its smashed burgers and free toppings, makes its fries in-house from fresh potatoes every day. And as a consumer, I can taste the difference.

The slightly thicker fry is around 1/2 inch and offers a substantial bite of soft potato enveloped in a crispy shell that gives off almost an oven-baked feel.

The cult-favorite fries ranked No. 2 in this test because of their texture, flavor, and portion size.

Five Guys fries
Every Five Guys fry order gets an extra scoop. Rachel Askinasi/Insider

These fries were heavy on the salt, but I didn't mind that too much. What really stood out was the golden-brown coloring and the deliciousness that came from the inconsistency in texture — some fries were softer in the middle and more firm toward the ends, while others were completely crispy.

As they got cold, the outside stopped being crispy and they became more greasy to the touch, which, in my opinion, were these fries' only downfall. That's why they're in second place instead of first.

Checkers crushed it with their take on shoestring potatoes.

Checkers fries
A small order of Checkers fries. Rachel Askinasi/Insider

These fries had so much flavor. They were peppery without being spicy, making them the perfect vessel for virtually any dipping sauce, or no dipping sauce at all.

The insides oozed like mashed potatoes, while the crispy, crunchy exterior held its integrity long after they were fresh.

Though they varied in size, most were around the same thickness as McDonald's — around 1/4 inch.

The flavor profile, crunch factor, perfect insides, and longevity landed this fry the No. 1 spot on the list.

Checkers fries
Some of the potato strings were longer and softer than others. Rachel Askinasi/Insider

When I tried my first one, I noticed they were served hot and stayed that way for at least six minutes. At room temperature, they were still delicious and crispy. And the most impressive was that when cold — around an hour after I ordered them — they were still crispy on the outside, super-soft on the inside, and every bit as flavorful as when they were fresh.

In my opinion, the consistency in quality of these fries, as well as the simple flavor profile, earned it the top spot.

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