What’s the big deal about french fries being gluten-free?
Fries are made from potatoes…
Potatoes = gluten-free…right?
Well, sometimes. Maybe. It depends.
Engineered Fries Vs. Potatoes
There are a lot of fries out there…
Fast food fries, restaurant fries, store bought fries, and homemade fries. The first three types are special.
The fast food and restaurant industries in particular require some level of standardization with the food they serve…meaning, they want to serve you a consistent, crispy, delicious french fry every time.
Achieving this goal of consistency is not just luck…it is engineered.
Of course, picking the right potato, cutting it perfectly, and getting the perfect balance of starch are part of what they accomplish.
The flavor must be perfect as well. And that’s where gluten may come into the picture.
For example, McDonald’s french fries (arguably the world’s most popular french fry), have 10 ingredients (9 besides the potato). Wheat is one of those ingredients.
Chick-fil-a’s waffle fries come in with 4 ingredients (and gluten-free)…so it is possible to find fast food fries that are gluten free as far as ingredients go…
Based on the discussion so far, we know the first thing we need to find out is are the fries themselves gluten-free?
It’s easy enough to ask…it might be even easier to look it up online.
That’s step 1. If yes, the fries are GF, then we move on to step 2…
What about cross contamination from the fryer?
Glutened By the Fryer
Assuming we find some fries that are gluten-free, then we move to checking if they are cooked in a fryer where other gluten foods are fried…
In other words, is there gluten in the deep fryer from other fried foods?
It may not be possible to find out online…With this question, you may need to call ahead or ask in person.
The question is: Are there other foods being fried in the deep fryer?
If yes, then it would not be a good idea for anyone sensitive to gluten to eat the fries.
However, sometimes you’ll find that the fries have a ‘dedicated fryer’ – which means that the deep fryer is dedicated to frying one food only – or only gluten-free foods.
This is how they do it at Chick-fil-a – they have dedicated fryers just for the fries. So because the fry itself is GF and the fryer is not cross contaminated, then people avoiding gluten can eat the waffle fries…
Based on what we know so far, we need to find out, is there a dedicated GF fryer?
I’m going to stop here for a second…because maybe you’re sitting there wondering…does anyone actually have a dedicated gluten-free fryer (besides Chick-fil-a as was already noted)?
The answer is yes. 🙂
So When Are French Fries Gluten-Free?
Let’s recap what we’ve learned so far…
First, we need to know if the fries themselves are GF…and to find out, we can look online, call, or even ask in person.
Second, we need to know they are fried in a dedicated fryer that means they are going to remain gluten-free and not get cross contaminated.
Those are our two main criteria for restaurants and fast food.
One other option mentioned at the beginning was store bought fries.
With store bought fries, the instructions call for cooking them in an oven. These fries have usually already been fried once and then flash frozen.
Like with other food from the store, check the ingredients and labels to see if they are gluten-free.
Oreida packaged fries, tater tots, and breakfast potatoes are gluten-free…so that is the brand we always buy.