French fries (called chips in Britain, Ireland, and other parts of the Commonwealth; pommes frites in France and Belgium) are potatoes that have been cut and deep-fried (i.e., french-fried potatoes). The name is often shortened to just fries in the US. Usually, the "french" in french fries is not capitalized, since it does not refer to the nationality. French fries are distinct from potato chips (also called crisps).

Most authorities believe that french fries are Belgian in origin, but that they have gained international prominence due to their pre-eminence in American fast food menus, propagated by fast food chains like McDonald's and Burger King (Hungry Jacks in Australia). In American fast food chains, french fries are typically served with hamburgers. They are also often eaten with meat, fish, and vegetables or by themselves. They also make up half of the classic food combination fish and chips.

The largest producer of french fries in the world is McCain Foods Limited, a Canadian company in Florenceville, New Brunswick. Such is the popularity of french fries that McCain Foods Limited can produce more than one million pounds of potato products every hour in its 30 potato processing plants on six continents around the world.

Table of contents
1 Origin of the name
2 History
3 Variants
4 Accompaniments
5 Health aspects
6 US Political controversy
7 Chips in court
8 See also
9 External links

Origin of the name

There are many theories about the origin of the American name of the dish. By one account, the fried potatoes are called french fries because they were once fried in the French manner (that is to say frying them two times with a small pause in the middle). Other accounts say that they were once called German fries or Belgian fries but the name was changed either for political reasons (Germany was once the enemy of the US) or simple historical reasons (because France was where World War I American soldiers first encountered the dish). It is also possible that it is a misunderstanding of the archaic British usage of "French fried potatoes" to mean sauté potatoes, i.e. the French way of shallow frying potatoes that have been peeled, parboiled, allowed to cool and then sliced thinly; this is far more convenient than deep frying if frying other items as well, or if using previously prepared materials in a hurry (as in the English cooked breakfast).


Potatoes cut and fried in this manner are said to have first been served in the United States by Thomas Jefferson at his Monticello estate after his return from his ambassadorship to France.

According to the Food Reference Web site,

The first reference to French fried potatoes was in 1894 in O. Henry's Rolling Stones, "Our countries are great friends. We have given you Lafayette and French fried potatoes."


French fries have numerous variants, from "thick-cut" to "shoestring", "curly", and "waffle-cut". They can also be coated with breading and spices to create "seasoned fries", or cut thickly (often with the skin left on) to create "steak fries".

In Britain, the term french fries is only used by fast food restaurants serving narrow-cut (shoestring) fries prepared in the American style. British chips are usually cut much thicker, making them less crunchy and more fluffy. This results in a healthier dish, as the relative surface area exposed to the oil is much less. However, chips tend to be cooked for a shorter period resulting in a somewhat "soggy" texture when compared to American-style french fries. In another example of two nations being divided by their common language, potato chips are called crisps in British English.

According to culinary celebrity Alton Brown, Belgian pommes frites are usually fried in horse fat. However, he is mistaken, as traditionally, ox fat was used, although now nut oil is usually preferred for health reasons. Belgian fries must be fried twice, and are thicker than French fries, but thinner than British chips.

In Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the word chips is used for both forms of fried potato; although the phrase hot chips unambiguously refers to french fries or chips.


French fries are served with a variety of condiments, most notably ketchup, tomato sauce, mayonnaise, tartar sauce or vinegar (especially malt vinegar). In the Netherlands, peanut sauce is also popular (also called satay sauce, after the Indonesian meat sateh on which the same sauce is used). The Dutch also use the word mayonnaise to refer to frietsaus (fries-sauce) a thicker, less acidic sauce made specially to accompany french fries. In Quebec, french fries are the main component of a dish called "poutine" a mixture of French fries with fresh cheddar cheese curds, covered with gravy. In the United States, fries are sometimes coated with melted cheese, called cheese fries. Often this is in combination with chili. Fries are often salted for enhanced flavor.

Health aspects

French fries may contain a large amount of fat from frying and from some condiments or topping and may be bad for your health. Some researchers have also suggested that the high temperatures used for frying such dishes may have results harmful to health (see acrylamides.)

US Political controversy

On March 11, 2003 the cafeteria menus in the three U.S. House of Representatives office buildings changed the name of french fries to freedom fries in a symbolic culinary rebuke of France stemming from anger over that country's opposition to the U.S. government's aggressive position on Iraq. French toast was also changed to freedom toast. The French embassy noted that french fries are Belgian and commented "We are at a very serious moment dealing with very serious issues and we are not focusing on the name you give to potatoes," said Nathalie Loisau, an embassy spokeswoman.

Even though the name change started with private restaurants across the country and was later picked up by the House of Representatives, many French people considered the quick and highly visible reporting of the name change needlessly spiteful, and a media-driven attempt to direct Americans' attention away from the serious reasons for French opposition. See media manipulation and anti-French sentiment in the United States.

Chips in court

In 1994 the well-known owner of Stringfellows nightclub in London, Peter Stringfellow took exception to McCain Foods use of the name "Stringfellows" for a brand of long thin french fries and took them to court. He lost the case.

See also

External links