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8 Fast-Food Restaurants That Use Frozen French Fries

Some of the best fast-food fries aren't prepped right at the restaurants.
FACT CHECKED BY Meaghan Cameron

If you visit In-n-Out, Five Guys, Mooyah, BurgerFi, or Elevation Burger, you'll find something in common at each of these five fast-food chains: freshly made french fries. At these chains—as with a small number of other fast-food restaurants—employees dutifully chop dozens of whole potatoes into fries day after day, but that's hardly the norm as most chains cook fries from frozen.

Not to demean the work of those fry makers, but if you look at list after list covering the best fast-food French fries in America, the chains offering fresh-cut fries almost never break into the top five. The fact is freezing fries before they are cooked in no way diminishes the quality of their taste or texture, and it even may improve the fries. According to the food science site Food Crumbles, the freezing process breaks down some of the cells within the cut potatoes, and this can lead to a softer interior and a crispier exterior when the fries are later cooked.

Properly cooked, fries made from fresh potatoes are amazing, but the process takes time, a luxury that most fast-food chains don't have. Most of the time fresh-cut potatoes need to be soaked, dried, and then double-fried to achieve a crispy exterior and a soft interior.

While time is a factor, most fast-food chains opt for frozen fries based on cost and logistics considerations, not based on ice crystals improving the end product. But we'll take the happy accident as we enjoy the fries from these eight fast-food chains that use frozen fries to create their iconic side.

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McDonald's

mcdonalds fries
Alexander Shcherbak/ TASS/ Getty Images

It's no surprise that McDonald's uses frozen French fries, but what might surprise you, is just how many fries this company sells in a given day. According to data from Zippia, on the whole, McDonald's sells about nine million pounds of french fries.

Take that math out further, and you get the number 3.29 billion, which is how many pounds of fries McD's sells in the average year. Which is a number so large it's hard to comprehend, but that's about the weight of seven skyscrapers, based on some math and input from construction project managers on Quora.

And no, technically those billions of pounds of fries are not suitable for vegans or vegetarians: In the United States, McDonald's fries contain beef extract which helps create their signature flavor.

Wendy's

wendys fries
Shutterstock

In 2021, Wendy's made a truly bold move: the chain replaced its decades-old french fry recipe with a completely redesigned one. Per a corporate press release shared that year: "Wendy's completely reinvented its fries by testing 20 different cuts of the potato, dialing up crew training and updating restaurant operations and equipment to deliver on the Hot & Crispy Fry Guarantee. From the first delicious fry out of the bag to the last fry standing in the carton, Wendy's fry-fanatics will love the perfect balance between the hot, fluffy potato and subtle crispiness – guaranteed."

The fries are thick-cut on one side, and thinner on the other, with the idea being the thick side holds heat while the thin side delivers crunch. Reception of the new fries was mostly positive if not raving, with Redditors debating the issue back in 2021 leaving comments like: "I thought they were much better than the old ones" and "I found them slightly more fresh lately, which I guess is all I would ask for."

One thing that didn't change with the new Hot & Crispy Fries at Wendy's is that before they are hot or crispy, they are frozen.

Arby's

arbys large fries
Arby's

The famous Crinkle Fries from Arby's have won fans far and wide. The chain's Curly Fries have also become a favorite fast-food side of many diners. While quite different in shape, texture, and taste, the Crinkle Fries and Curly Fries certainly have one thing in common: they arrive in Arby's kitchens frozen.

And Arby's fries can arrive in your kitchen frozen, too. So popular are both the Crinkle and the Curly fries that the company sells them in bags in the frozen aisles at major grocery retailers like Target, Walmart, and more.

As for consumer sentiment in general when it comes to the fries from Arby's, one Redditor posted this statement: "Arby's curly fries are the best fries ever. I mean they just are. It's the perfect flavor and adequate bite-size to be the perfect fry. I'm not sure how unpopular this is but all my friends and family think that I'm weird for preferring Arby's curly fries over any other." Don't worry, the poster got lots of support.

Sonic Drive-In

sonic drive in fries
Sonic Drive-In / Facebook

The fries from Sonic Drive-In are kind of an interesting anomaly in the fast-food world in that they are rarely polarizing. From our deep dive into the web, we found very few instances where anyone claimed they were anything all that amazing, but very few instances of people outright panning them, either.

Where Sonic's fries are just like so many others in their preparation before they make their way to restaurants. Per the site Brand Eating, 10 years ago the chain switched to skin-on "Natural Cut" fries made like so: "The new fries are cut from whole, unpeeled russet potatoes and then blanched and dusted with starch before frozen and shipped out to Sonic locations."

If you want some decent fries, Sonic is a decent bet. And if you want some excellent Slushes, it's a good place, too.

Chick-fil-A

chick fil a fries
Chick-fil-A / Facebook

Those waffle fries from Chick-fil-A are certainly unique, and one could be forgiven for thinking they must be cut into their shape right there in the restaurant's kitchen, but in fact, they arrive that way via a temperature-controlled truck.

But it hardly seems like anyone minds: per Chick-fil-A's own site, the chain's fries are "the most ordered item on Chick-fil-A's menu (yes, even beating out the Original Chicken Sandwich)."

Before being frozen, the fries are cut from whole potatoes, which is why some of them will be irregular shapes and will still have some potato skin attached.

Taco Bell

taco bell nacho fries
Courtesy of Taco Bell

First things first, the Nacho Fries at Taco Bell are on the menu at the time of this writing, and it seems like this on-again, off-again menu item may be permanent this time. Second, these fries very much arrive frozen and are then cooked at each restaurant and then served with their requisite cup of queso. Third, the Nacho Fries have a lot of fans. On the recent re-release of the fries, one Reddit user summed up a common opinion when he wrote: "I'm supposed to be dieting, but I'll ditch a day to eat these."

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Burger King

two orders of burger king fries
Shutterstock

Burger King's fries are often found in the second-place spot right behind McDonald's, the usual winner in rankings of fast-food fries. That's good news for Burger King, which was knocked out of the #2 spot in terms of overall sales by Wendy's in recent years, per Forbes.

A food critic with USA Today's Reviewed vertical said of a Burger King's fry: "What set it above Wendy's was its crunchiness and also its temperature coming out of the bag. The fries were hot, but not piping hot and had a good crunch as well."

What does not set these fries apart from any others featured here today is their being frozen and shipped to restaurants instead of being made fresh in-house.

Steven John
Steven John is a freelancer writer for Eat This, Not That! based just outside New York City. Read more about Steven