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I Tried Fries at 7 Major Fast-Food Chains & the Winner Blew Me Away

From McDonald's to Shake Shack, only one chain had the absolute best fries.

When it comes to fast-food fries, fans are usually fiercely divided on which chain offers the very best version. Some are adamant that there's no fry like a McDonald's fry, while others prefer the skin-on variety from Wendy's. Even chefs have strong opinions on the topic.

Whether you're a curly fry kind of person or you prefer funky seasoning on your spuds, there are many great french fry options on the market right now. But to settle the dispute on the best fast-food fries once and for all, I tried the classic, most basic fries from seven of the biggest chains to see how they stack up. My taste test included McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Chick-fil-A, Popeyes, KFC, and Shake Shack—burger and chicken joints that are only as strong as their soggiest fry.

While each of these brands has its own unique style and preparation method, fries should always be measured against a main criteria. For one, great fries need to have great texture, preferably a golden brown, crispy exterior and a soft, fluffy interior. They also need to be salty enough, which can be a major pitfall. Extra seasonings besides salt aren't a must, but they're definitely enjoyable when done right. To ensure that I could taste the true flavor of each fry and provide the most accurate ranking, I didn't taste these with ketchup or any other dipping sauces.

Here's what I thought about each option and how I ranked them from least favorite to the absolute best.

Burger King's Classic Fries

Burger King Classic Fries
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Burger King's website doesn't offer any information about how it makes its Classic Fries, apart from saying they come "piping hot and perfectly salted." A medium order cost me $4.15.

The look: These were some of the thicker fries of the bunch. They looked slightly golden brown, but I would have liked to see a stronger color that pointed to a perfectly cooked fry.

The taste: Unfortunately, I can't say many good things about Burger King's fries. They were extremely underseasoned and definitely needed a big sprinkle of salt to make them worth the calories. And while they had the slightest hint of crisp, the inside was so thick and potatoey that the whole textural balance was off. The only way I could see myself finishing these is if I had a ton of dipping sauce to drown them in. While almost none of the fries I tried in this taste test were perfect, I thought all the others brought a little extra to the table compared to Burger King's version.

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Chick-fil-A's Waffle Potato Fries

Chick-fil-A Waffle Potato Fries
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Chick-fil-A's Waffle Potato Fries feature waffle-cut potatoes that are cooked in canola oil and seasoned with sea salt. A large order cost me $3.36.

The look: There's no denying that waffle fries are fun! So, I couldn't help but be excited to try Chick-fil-A's version. They looked like pretty standard waffle fries, with potato skin on the edges and that special shape that can hold a ton of sauce.

The taste: I generally enjoy Chick-fil-A's fries, but the chain frequently misses the mark on execution. While the texture was decently crispy, the fries were tragically undersalted. Without enough salt or sauce to boost their flavor, these just fell flat. Totally forgettable.

McDonald's World Famous Fries

McDonald's World Famous Fries
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McDonald's World Famous Fries are always made with "premium potatoes" like the Russet Burbank and Shepody, which are fried in a canola-blend oil and seasoned with salt. A large order cost me $4.25.

The look: There's always something about pulling one of these bright red cartons out of a paper bag that makes me feel really nostalgic, but I could tell just from looking at these fries that they needed to be cooked longer. They were too pale and looked a little wilted, as if they weren't freshly made when I got them.

The taste: I know that placing McDonald's so low in this ranking is a controversial move, but I didn't make this decision lightly. Like Chick-fil-A, the quality of McDonald's fries really depends on execution. When they're fresh, hot, and perfectly salted, they could easily seize the No. 1 spot. But when they've been sitting out a while, haven't been cooked long enough, or aren't properly seasoned, they're one of the worst fast-food fries. Unfortunately, the batch I got was more in line with the latter. They weren't crispy at all and needed more salt, though they were better seasoned than the fries from Chick-fil-A and Wendy's.

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Popeyes' Cajun Fries

Popeyes Cajun Fries
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Popeyes' Cajun Fries are skin-on and seasoned. A small order cost me $4.25.

The look: Popeyes' fries were some of the most attractive-looking fries of the bunch, with their deep golden brown color, potato skin edges, and a dusting of seasoning. They were thicker than the McDonald's fries but not quite as thick as the Burger King fries.

The taste: You might be tempted to opt for more traditional fried chicken sides like mashed potatoes and mac and cheese when you visit Popeyes, but I don't think you'd go wrong with their fries either. The texture of these spuds was really pleasing, thanks to a crispy exterior and a soft, fluffy middle. That crispy texture held up even after the fries sat around for an hour, which I can't say for any of the fries that ranked lower on this list. My one small complaint about Popeyes' fries is that it's hard to single out any specific flavors in whatever seasoning blend they use, but the salt levels were perfect, and they still tasted great.

Wendy's Natural-Cut Fries

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Wendy's Natural-Cut Fries are skin-on and seasoned with sea salt. A large order cost me $4.15.

The look: While Wendy's fries weren't as visually exciting as the Popeyes fries, they still looked really promising. They were about the same thickness as the Popeyes fries with a light golden brown color with darker edges thanks to the patches of potato skin.

The taste: What I love about Wendy's fries is that they're consistently good, at least in my personal experience. Sure, I think the batch I got could have used a little more time in the fryer to up the crispiness, but they still had a great texture and were perfectly salted. Overall, the flavor and execution were great, and I really appreciate that this seems to be the norm at Wendy's.

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KFC's Secret Recipe Fries

KFC Secret Recipe fries
Zoe Strozewski / Eat This, Not That!

KFC's Secret Recipe Fries are seasoned with the chicken chain's secret blend of herbs and spices. A large order cost me $6.39.

The look: One look at KFC's fries left no doubt that they were perfectly cooked and seasoned. They had a deep golden brown color from the spices and their time in the fryer.

The taste: I've never had fries from KFC before and my expectations weren't that high coming into this taste test, but I was really blown away by these. While the seasoning wasn't as strong as on the Popeyes' fries, KFC's fries were super salty and flavorful in a way that I've rarely experienced at major fast-food chains. The texture was also perfectly crispy on the outside, with a soft, fluffy middle. The only factor that separated these from the winner was that they were a little greasier than I would have liked. Still, perfectly enjoyable!

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Shake Shack's Fries

Shake Shack fries
Zoe Strozewski / Eat This, Not That!

Shake Shack's Fries are crinkle-cut and seasoned simply with salt. A regular order cost me $4.25.

The look: Every Shake Shack fry in my order looked crispy and perfectly golden brown in every nook and cranny, a level of perfection I didn't see with any other fry I tried. They were also the thickest of the bunch, with only Burger King coming close.

The taste: There wasn't one thing I would change about Shake Shack's fries, so crowning them the winner of this taste test was a simple decision despite the fierce competition. I believe thicker fries need to be extra crispy and salty on the outside, or the flavor and texture will be completely off. Shake Shack hit the bullseye on both criteria. I even went back to try them again after they sat out for a while to see how they held up, and they were still extremely crispy and tasted great even when they were cold. While I didn't need ketchup or a sauce in order to enjoy these, their crinkled surface makes them extra great for retaining sauce.

This story has been updated to include new information,  fact-checking, and copyedits.

Zoe Strozewski
Zoe Strozewski is a News Writer for Eat This, Not That! A Chicago native who now lives in New Jersey, she graduated from Kean University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Read more about Zoe