French fries are a big money maker for fast-food restaurants. That’s partly because chains create a huge markup on french fries, charging customers many times more for fries than what they pay for the raw potatoes used to make them. In fact, as we’ve previously reported, the markup can be as high as a staggering 3,900%. Plus, most fast-food chains use pre-cut, frozen fries making the popular side order even more cost-effective than those that make fresh-cut fries with real potatoes every day. Consumers may not even realize that they’re eating a previously frozen product; either way, people really, really love french fries.
And what’s not to love? Crispy, salty, crunchy on the outside, warm and soft within, and a perfect vehicle for dips, sauces, and spreads of all kinds. As to which fast-food chain has the best fries? That’s a debate that can go on indefinitely. But if you ask us, fresh-cut fries are simply a superior product when compared to their frozen counterparts. And the seven chains featured ahead take their french fries seriously, making fresh batches daily with potatoes they cut right on the premises.
1. Elevation Burger
Elevation Burger has had the same mission since its opening in 2005, “to change the world one burger at a time.” While it is known for its bold burger combos, using 100% USDA-certified organic and grass-fed beef—which very few burger chains use—it also makes amazing hand-cut fries.
In fact, it is one of very few national brands that serve gluten-free fries cooked in olive oil. Plus, everything is made to order and Elevation strives to offer everything at an accessible and fair price. While the chain isn’t huge, it has about 30 locations concentrated in the Northeast—it is one of the healthiest burger chains out there.
2. Hopdoddy Burger Bar
Hopdoddy Burger Bar is the place to get a delicious burger made by hand with top-notch ingredients. The brand has taken many Southern states by storm, with reviewers raving left and right about the smaller chain due to its range of high-quality menu items. And while the different hand-crafted burgers are amazing, a big hitter for the chain is its fresh-cut fries.
Hopdoddy strictly uses Chipperbec Potatoes—which are white potatoes that are grown specifically for chefs to use in chips and french fries—and chops new batches of fries every single day. The company even posted an in-depth YouTube video showing customers exactly where Hopdoddy fries come from and how they’re made. “These potatoes are grown by sixth-generation potato farmers and produced specifically for making the best fries,” says Chef Matt of Hopdoddy Burger Bar, “they come in fresh and we hand cut them every day.”
Peek into the kitchen of any In-n-Out and, along with a lot of patties of beef cooking (including many frying with a smear of mustard applied, AKA Animal Style), you’ll see one of the employees sending potato after potato through the slicer. This chain churns out fresh-cut fries aplenty day after day.
Whether fresh-cut fries are the better choice is up to personal preference. Celebrity Chef David Chang said to Vulture that he “hates” the fries at In-N-Out. He blames the show of the worker cutting the fries and says, contrary to popular belief, fresh isn’t best when it comes to potatoes. These out-of-season potatoes are not the best tasting and make an inferior fry, said Chang. The next chain has a remedy for those out-of-season potatoes.
4. Five Guys
Every burger you get from Five Guys is made fresh at the restaurant each day—and the restaurants don’t even have any freezers on the premises. Also freshly made? The fries, which it takes very seriously.
The chain uses Idaho-grown potatoes, most of the time, that are cut and power washed to remove the outer starch—which is quicker than the traditional soaking method. To ensure it always uses the best quality potatoes, Five Guys sources what it calls ‘gap potatoes’ from Washington for the two months of the year that the Idaho potatoes are too soft, according to an interview published on Food Republic.
The fries also follow a strict cooking process. The fresh-cut potatoes are fried twice on location. After the first cook, the fries must rest for at least 15 minutes before they are refried in the chain’s signature peanut oil. Frying the fries twice allows for maximum crispiness.
This upscale burger joint, born in 2007, has enjoyed rapid growth over the past decade and a half because it makes some very fine burgers using some very fine beef. Mooyah even claims the beef it uses is a higher grade than that used in most steaks. And, while known for its burgers, the chain’s fries also keep people coming back. The chain prepares them all on-site, washing, cutting, rinsing, and then double-frying them every time in an intense six-step process. It also carries sweet potato fries.
You go to Wingstop for the wings, but you just might stay for the fries. Per the company’s site, its fries are cut fresh at every restaurant, tossed in the signature seasoning, and served hot. And that’s true for all the many types of fries it offers, from the Cheese Fries smothered with jalapeño cheese sauce to the Louisiana Voodoo Fries served with cheese sauce, ranch, and Cajun seasoning.
With over 120 locations, BurgerFi is the little burger chain that everyone should be talking about. The chain has been commended for using beef that is free of all antibiotics and keeping its commitment to serving food that customers crave in a healthier and more sustainable way. The chain also has hand-cut fries cut daily and fried in 100% refined peanut oil.