I learned this the hard way a few years ago… I was hanging out with a couple of my buddies in a cafe, and we had collectively ordered a significant amount of french fries, as they were – and still are – universally loved by everyone in the group. At that point, someone in the group brought up an interesting topic, and all of us basically forgot about the fast food adorning our table.
We must have talked on for a while, because when the discussion ended and we went back to eating the fries, they tasted awful! That was the day I learned (the hard way) that…
In order to answer this, we’ll first have to look at the composition of french fries.
What’s inside french fries?
You probably know that french fries rarely appear on any list of healthy foods. The reason for this is simple; their ‘nutritional’ content is not particularly enriching, nutritionally speaking. French fries contain saturated fats, which is classified under the category of ‘bad’ fats (olive oil and almond oil are some examples of ‘good’ fats). The reason it’s considered a bad fat is because saturated fats have been found to increase the levels of Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) or ‘bad’ cholesterol.
Fries are also packed with calories, which is another reason for you to worry if you don’t exercise regularly (but still want to take moderately good care of your body).
You see, french fries are made of potatoes, which happen to have a high starch content. An average, medium-sized potato consists of 25-30 grams of starch. It’s (mostly) the starch present in potatoes that make fries so irresistible for many people (even those on a diet).
The Role of Starch
Starch is a polymeric carbohydrate formed by the combination of glucose units (to the order of 300-1000 units), which are held together by glycosidic bonds. Starch is produced by most green plants as their energy storage, and happens to be the most common carbohydrate consumed by humans.
The thing about starch is that it’s sweet when it’s hydrated. To put this in perspective, think of starches as small crystal spheres. Water is one of the requirements for cooking fries, and this happens at very high temperatures, such as those attained during frying. During this process, water enters these starch spheres and inflates them like balloons. It’s these inflated starches that give fries their puffy texture, which people simply can’t resist.
If fries are left ‘unattended’ for a few minutes, however, they begin to cool down. Due to this, water begins to move out of those water-inflated starch spheres. The fact that fries are salty doesn’t help either, because as fries cool, salt pulls out their moisture. This is what makes fries eventually lose their characteristic texture, which converts them from ‘puffy goodness’ to ‘soggy unpleasantness’. Without the swollen starch spheres and water, fries are just a way to shove cold oil and salt into your mouth.
Hot foods generally taste better
This is highly subjective, but generally speaking, people prefer hot foods over cold ones (we’ve already written an article about this preference). Just like in the case of other foods that we like better when they’re hot, fries simply taste better when they’re hot, partially because heat heightens certain flavors present in these salty snacks. Heat also contributes to their sweet, brutally attractive smell.
It is true that cold fries not only taste awful, but also smell different. That’s why you should avoid keeping your beloved french fries ‘unattended’ for too long.
- North American Culinary Schools
- St.Joseph’s College
- The University of Maryland
- University of Massachusetts