Life

The Best Fast Food French Fries, Ranked By A True Fry Aficionado

I love French fries so much that I often grab fast food simply as an excuse to eat them. In fact, I find that my “where to go” decision is more often about the fries than anything else on the menu. If you ask me whether I want Chick-fil-A or Popeyes, I’m going to consider who has better fries, not who has the most cult-beloved chicken. I can’t even choose a favorite style, I love shoe-string fries, home fries, cajun fries, curly fries, steak fries, fries with the skin on, and yes, I even think there’s a place for the divisive as In-N-Out fries.

In other words, I’ve never eaten a fry I didn’t like. But that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize the good from the… less good. So I went on a quest and changed my diet to one that consisted of mostly French fries in order to develop what I consider to be the most definitive ranking of french fries in the entire fast-food universe. There are a lot of fries out there, and while I think it’s inevitable that the comment section on this article is going to explode with differing impassioned opinions, I think it’s pretty hard to argue with the top five here.

Let’s jump in!

15. Shake Shack Crinkle Cut Fries

Shake Shack

I figure I’ll get some haters coming after me in the comments for this one but I seriously do no get these fries. When I first embarked on this journey, the thought of giving any of these fast-food restaurants the bottom spot was unthinkable, but Shake Shack deserves to be at 15. There is absolutely no excuse — let me repeat: No. Excuse. — for a restaurant that serves such delicious high-quality cheeseburgers to have fries that resemble and taste like Ora Ida frozen crinkle-cut fries.

Get this, Shake Shack actually made an attempt in the past to up their fry game and started serving fresh fries, and then they caved to a crazed audience who missed these ridiculous things. Dumb. These are way too salty and overly crispy to the point where the inner potato is almost non-existent. They’re sharp enough to cut the rough of your mouth if you aren’t careful.

Seriously, f*ck these fries.

The Bottom Line

The worst. An insult to everything else on Shake Shack’s menu.

14. Burger King French Fries

Burger King

People really seem to hate Burger King fries. They’re not that bad, but they’re not very good either, so I get it. They have an odd thickness to them, but they’re not thick enough to be steak fries, or even enough to be called thicc really.

Make up your mind Burger King, this medium width fry shit is weird.

They’re very salty, with thick noticeable salt crystals caked randomly in odd clusters and their weird thickness soaks up grease like a sponge. Don’t let these fries sit, eat them while they’re hot to get the best experience.

The Bottom Line

Too wide. Yeah, it’s a weird thing to complain about, but order some and tell me these things aren’t too wide. Solid in a milkshake, though.

13. KFC Secret Recipe Fries

KFC

KFC’s new Secret Recipe Fries are fairly new, dropping at some point to little fanfare last year, and they make me so very sad. KFC’s potato wedges were one of the chicken chain’s best menu items and they’ve replaced them with these lightly battered overly greasy French fries. Like the Shake Shack fries, they’re inexplicably sharp, if you’re ever in need of a makeshift weapon, just bring along one of these fries — they’re lethal.

As far as flavor goes, the Secret Recipe fries are good, and while the batter seems excessive, the crispy bite of each fry is actually very addicting and holds its crunch once dipped in the sauce of your choice (or you know, honey). But they’re such a downgrade from the wedges.

The Bottom Line

Crispy battered French fries that are good, but not nearly as good as the potato wedges that had to die so they’d live.

12. Del Taco Crinkle Cut Fries

Del Taco

Del Taco’s crinkle-cut fries are leagues better than Shake Shack’s. Del Taco. Let that sink in. What makes Del Taco’s fries superior is the softer outer, it’s still crispy but you get much more potato on the inside, with — and I can’t believe I’m writing this, it feels so ridiculous — a tamer crinkle that results in an overall smoother, more pleasing mouthfeel.

Del Taco goes a little nuts with the salt though, so I’ve never enjoyed them plain as is. Squirt your favorite Del Taco hot sauce on top, dust them with pepper, or stuff them in your beef or chicken soft taco to make the best use of these fries.

The Bottom Line

A great addition to your taco or burrito and a significant step up from the hard-as-rocks Shake Shack fries.

11. Wendy’s French Fries

Wendy

I really wish Wendy’s fries were better. They know how to nail a burger, giving us one of the best-tasting fixtures in the fast-food universe (the Baconator baby!), their chicken sandwich game rivals heavy hitters like Chick-fil-A and Popeyes, they have baked potatoes and chili bowls, and yet their fries are middling. At best. They’re often overly salted, though we love the inclusion of sea salt, often limp and soggy, and they have a sort of dirty taste to them, probably as a result of the potato skin that’s left on.

Wendy’s deserves better but if the company ever proposed a refresh, I think their fan base would freak out. Still, sometimes you gotta push against the masses, or you end up in a Shake Shack situation.

The Bottom Line

One of Wendy’s weakest menu items, which is really a shame. Order a side of spicy nugs instead.

10. Jack in the Box Curly Fries/Regular Fries

Jack in the Box

I’m just going to go ahead and stick these two together. I’ve noticed that almost everything at Jack in the Box that is fried kind of has the same flavor. Whether you’re getting regular fries, curly fries, chicken strips, jalapeno poppers, mozzarella sticks (they keep discounting these for some reason), or cinnamon churros, they all have this distinct grease flavor lurking beneath the more obvious flavors.

I love the semi-spicy onion and garlic powder flavor of the curly fries, but I have a fear of ordering above a small size because they’re so damn greasy.

The Bottom Line

Don’t go to Jack in the Box when you’re of sane mind, instead go when you’re baked out of your mind. This is stoner food.

9. In-N-Out French Fries

In N Out

I’m sure there are a few of you who are outraged that I’d put In-N-Out fries somewhere in the middle of this list, but here we are. These fries are super divisive for some reason — as if the idea of potatoes being peeled and sliced before your eyes before being dumped in sunflower oil could ever be a bad thing. Sure, they could’ve used peanut oil, but these are some high-quality fries. Don’t like them? Put salt and pepper on them, why is it that every fast food employee looks at me like I’m insane for asking for pepper, do people not season their food or something?

I will admit that they can be hit or miss. In-N-Out gets so busy that sometimes fries will come out over-cooked or a little soggy, but when they’re good, they’re delicious. They also make a great base for Animal Style fries. If you can’t like fries with Thousand Island dressing, grilled onions and melted cheese on top of them, there is straight-up something wrong.

The Bottom Line

Salt, pepper, special sauce, cheese, ketchup, grilled onions, chopped chilis, really if you go to In-N-Out and complain about the fries, you’re not doing enough to make them taste good.

8. Rally’s/Checkers Seasoned Fries

Rally

Rally’s (it’s known as Rally’s in my hood) has the same problem as Jack in the Box, there is a noticeable grease after-taste in these fries, but Rally’s gets a pass because these taste so much better. They use the same garlic powder, onion powder, paprika seasoning as Jack in the Box’s curly fries, but the outer is a lot lighter and crispier. The fries are easily the highlight of the entire Rally’s menu.

The Bottom Line

A must order at Rally’s, shockingly similar to Jack in the Box’s curly fries but with a lighter crispier outer.

7. Raising Cane’s Crinkle Cut Fries

Raising Canes

See this is how you do crinkle cut fries! They’re crunchy on the outside, but not hazardously so, but the inside reveals hot buttery potato. Sprinkle these with salt and pepper to take them to the next level and dip them in that Cane’s sauce that comes on the side of your meal. The crinkle-cut fries Cane’s sauce combination is so good that we strongly advise you to ask for extra Cane’s sauce, as you’re going to want to dip your chicken in it too.

I’ve inquired whether Raising Cane’s fries are frozen or fresh, they’re frozen, but they are made so attentively that they’re always fried to perfection. If you dig the crinkle-cut, Raising Cane’s is the move.

The Bottom Line

The fast-food frozen crinkle-cut fry perfected.

6. Arby’s Curly Fries

Arby

Arby’s gets a bad rap. A lot of people grew up watching Jon Stewart who used to mercilessly mock the brand when he anchored The Daily Show, and then Arby’s has their whole meathead, “We got the meats” anti-plant-based meat stance, so they often find themselves as the butt of a lot of jokes. But Arby’s curly fries are arguably the reason that curly fries are even a popular thing. These were the original, and they taste delicious!

The battering isn’t too crazy here, giving you a better ratio of outer to inner, with a focus on a flavor that perfectly marries buttery potato, onion, and paprika.

The Bottom Line

Take the advice of Uproxx’s Chris Osburn, “Pair them with their cheese sauce and you don’t even need to waste your time on their sandwiches.”

5. Carl’s Jr. Criss-Cut Fries

Carl

At one point while conceiving this article I thought it might be a fun take to give Carl’s Jr’s Criss-Cut fries the top spot. That’s never been done before. I used to love these things, but there is a reason they’ve never topped a list — they’re good but not that great. Maybe in a fast-food landscape that consists only of McDonald’s, Burger King, and Jack in the Box, these things are pretty interesting, but we don’t live in that world. 2021 has endless options.

The Criss-Cut fries have a great crispy exterior and are well seasoned but taste better shoved in a burger than they do on their own.

The Bottom Line

Carl’s Jr’s best french fry option, but the best waffle fry award goes to…

4. Chick-Fil-A Waffle Fries

Chick fil A

Chick-fil-A’s fries come out perfectly. They’re crispy on the outside, but buttery and soft on the inside, likely a result of the hot peanut oil they’re fried in. And they’re modestly dusted with sea salt in a way that doesn’t make them inedible the way the fast-food restaurant prepares them (take note Wendy’s). My only gripe, and I hate that this bothers me, is that Chick-fil-A gets real… relaxed with the way they load up the fries in the box. Seriously I’ve dumped out a small order and counted — again, I hate complaining about this — eight waffle fries.

That’s not enough fries, I’m sorry.

The Bottom Line

Oh, you don’t like Chick-fil-A’s sandwich huh? Have you tried the one where you take a nugget and fold a waffle fry around it? Taste that and circle back.

3. Popeyes Cajun Fries

Popeyes

I’ve seen these ranked waaaaay too low on other french fry rankings. How? Why? These fries are nearly perfect with a light exterior seasoned with onion and garlic powder, paprika, and black pepper that is good crispy and hot and tastes even better after they chill in the box and get soggy. Easily Popeyes best side on a menu that includes some great sides like red beans and rice, Popeyes cajun fries have an appetizing smell and, best of all, don’t include that weird greasy aftertaste that all of the other fries seasoned in this style have.

Pour ketchup on them, douse them in honey, dip them in sauce, or eat them on their own. These fries are perfect.

The Bottom Line

People go crazy for that Popeyes Chicken Sandwich, but the cajun fries are really where it’s at. Shove them in your Popeyes Chicken Sandwich and thank us in the comments for making a good thing even better.

2. McDonald’s French Fries

McDonalds

It’s hard to beat the best. Just ask our own Zach Johnston.

McDonald’s used to fry their French fries in beef tallow, and a lot of people seem to think that made them better. Does it really matter? McDonald’s fries are still the GOAT. Few things beat an order of fresh fries from McDonald’s, they’re crispy, salty, and — I swear — they must have a sprinkling of sugar on them to make them all the more addictive. McDonald’s is probably the first major fast food place that ever sold an order of fries in one of their large cups of soda for the especially french fry obsessed (they don’t do this anymore) and even if you’re someone who avoids McDonald’s at all cost, you’ve probably found yourself either craving an order, or saying to someone picking of McDonald’s, “just get me a larger order of fries.”

I asked my Uproxx colleagues what their favorite fast-food fries were, and they all unanimously agreed that nothing beats McDonald’s. I didn’t listen to them of course, but it’s hard to argue that anything could beat french fries this good, as cliche as it is to admit.

The Bottom Line

On some days, easily the best french fries in the fast-food universe, forever and always. And some days…

1. Five Guys Burgers & Fries

Getty

A lot of people are going to fiercely disagree with me on this one and I get it. These fries can be hit or miss, but they basically take In-N-Out’s concept of using freshly peeled nonfrozen potatoes and prepare them the right way, giving them a thicker cut and using a par-fry method that gives them the perfect crispy exterior with molten hot Idaho potato inside. I know why these french fries are so divisive for some people too, so allow me to improve your life non-believers:

Do not, under any circumstances, order the cajun fries.

I get it, why wouldn’t you order cajun fries over regular fries? Who doesn’t want more seasoning?

True, but Five Guys’ whole ethos is to go nuts, so they haphazardly dust your fries in way too much cajun seasoning — making some fries in your order completely inedible. Instead, order the regular fries, they come unseasoned. Ask for a side of cajun seasoning, grab salt and pepper, and season to taste. Yes, you’ll have to put some work into it, but when you control the seasoning, Five Guys fries become a delicious blank canvas for you to do whatever you like with them.

Toss them with some malt vinegar, dip them in BBQ, these french fries are as good as you want them to be, and I’m always going to prefer that approach. I know it burns McDonald’s, but I have to be true to myself here. Hate on.

The Bottom Line

I know they’re not McDonald’s but when seasoned right they’re the best french fries you can ever hope to get in a brown paper bag.

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