Budget, Frenchies, Lambweston, and More: We Try 6 Brands of Frozen French FriesOctober 29, 2018
French fries rank high up as one of the top food indulgences, combining the comforting starchiness of potatoes with a most addictive crispy exterior from the time spent submerged in bubbling hot oil. While there’s evidence to suggest against it actually having originated from France (as well as multiple other theories on why they’re called “French” fries anyway), the deep-fried treat transcends regions with its near–global popularity. The term essentially refers to spuds that are fried (twice, for the best results), but French fries as they’re usually thought of today are of the commercially-sold, often pre-cooked, frozen sort developed by a farmer-turned-entrepreneur after World War II. They not only continue to grace the freezers of fast food chains, diners, street food stalls, and other eateries everywhere; a number of manufacturers have made it possible to enjoy the same experience at home with frozen fries sold at the supermarket. How do the different brands available compare?
NOTE: We narrowed down our selection to the most default (if available, unseasoned) variants, skipping the seasoning powder for brands that only offer their fries flavored. Each brand was cooked from frozen, as is printed on its respective package’s instructions, using canola oil and using new oil in each batch. The fries were tasted within 5-10 minutes of having been cooked; to account for potential variations due to cooking, we noted the characteristics present in most french fry pieces of each brand, focusing on the general textures and tastes of their spud interior.
Budget’s fries come as boxy, roughly 2-4 inch-long, roughly quarter-of-an-inch thich spuds that fry up to a pale yellow hue. They well fall under the so-called ”standard” sort of French fry found in the country, with an outer layer that’s just thick enough to clench against the teeth and yield a soft crunch as you bite through (fried for 2-3 minutes as the instructions state, though we prefer them fried a tad longer to crisp up the edges). It gives way to a fluffy interior that’s similar to that of boxed mashed potatoes, just airier and lightened up. We find it bland however, not only in that it’s of the plain, unseasoned variety (the ingredient list reveals it has no salt added), but also for its lack of potato flavor.
Golden Premium French Fries
Golden’s version comes identical to Budget’s in size and general form. Compared to the said brand however, its exterior exhibits a slightly paler color when fried, is a touch thinner, and feels a degree less leathery (thus making it easier to bite). It reveals an interior that’s lighter, fluffier, and somehow more flavorful; aside from likely being pre-salted (there’s salt in the ingredient list), it ends with peculiar sense of linamnam we can’t identify but nevertheless helps boost the flavor of the potato.
Frenchies’ version are also of the same general form as the previous brands’ yet are amusingly of a brighter yellow hue—even in its frozen state. Fry them up (the package calls for a relatively longer cooking time than the others) and you get spuds that are especially crisp and distinctively crackly in a way we’d liken to the fries from local fastfood joint Jollibee. Even without adding salt or any other flavorings, each piece comes mildly seasoned, holding a mild fried chicken-y essence to it (as confirmed from the “natural flavor dried chicken broth” in the ingredient list) which makes it tasty enough on its own, yet takes wonderfully to just about any seasoning you shake on it afterwards. It stay crisp for long, too, still giving off a welcome crunch even after sitting at room temperature for two hours.
This American brand’s fries stand out for being of a taller, fatter cut, similar to Belgian frites or the fries of chains like NYFD. In line with the larger size, the instructions call for pan-frying fewer pieces at a time (enough to fit in a single layer) in a small amount of oil for an even longer amount of time (10-12 minutes, turning 2-3 times). The resulting exterior feels similar to Budget’s, being slightly rough outside and a touch leathery, but crisp enough that it makes for an audible crunch—and stays crisp for quite some time (about half an hour in our trials, though we devoured them too fast to have tested for longer ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). With the thicker cut comes a greater volume of space within, and you get a wonderfully light, fluffy interior with mild but ample potato flavor.
Marby’s lacks instructions for cooking on the package, but—being of the “standard” size of French fry, around the same size as Budget’s—can likewise be fried in a similar vein, for 2-3 minutes in oil that’s 350-375°F. Mostly similar on the outside, it has a slightly softer interior with what seems to be a less-dense, fluffier potato mix. Though also primarily neutral on its own, it has a degree more of what a taster describes as a more siomai-esque, somewhat shrimpy undertone to it; it doesn’t distract from the overall taste, but does raise our curiosity.
Another brand of the standard French fry form (albeit a tad fatter), Senorita’s version again looks similar to the fries of Budget, Golden, and Marby, albeit oddly greasier on the outside in its frozen state. Within its similar exterior as it’s fried however, it greets the teeth with a less-fluffy, more waxy-feeling interior. It’s also on the especially bland side, barely giving off much of a potato profile. Still it shines with salt, and the relative waxiness within somehow helps it stand up to liquids (without absorbing them or getting soggy as quickly) if you’re using them in other applications—e.g., for whipping up your own animal-style or chili cheese fries at home.
The Verdict: Frenchies
Not one to blend in with the crowd, Frenchies’ distinctly cracklier texture, subtle bouillon-y essence, and long-lasting crispness makes it a wonderful standout we’d happily down plain or in other recipes that call for fries. Should you desire a cleaner-tasting spud, Golden’s version—with its fluffier interior and more potato-boosted profile—is our top pick. Lambweston has an obvious advantage with its different size (for which reason we won’t compare it to the rest), but it nonetheless is a great pick should you be up for a thicker cut. And though the three remaining brands are generally similar, Budget ranks higher by just a notch, in so far as it offers no off-flavors or particularly negative characteristics.