In this moment of social and political upheaval, there are issues that deeply divide us, pitting neighbor against neighbor and mother against daughter. Perhaps one of the most difficult and intractable of these issues is the debate over fry texture. I know, I know: It seems like the consensus has settled on crispy fry dominance. Some people crave that crisp you get when you enjoy a fry that was, just minutes before, bubbling away in a vat of probably week-old oil. And as a girl who generally loves texture and crunch, I can totally understand why someone would uphold the crispy fry as the platonic ideal.
But while I understand crispy fry people and do my best to accept them for who they are, I have a confession to make. I, for one, prefer soggy fries. Crispy fries are fine, and—don’t get me wrong—I’ll definitely eat them. But when I am greeted with a delightfully soggy, limpid, flaccid fry dangling out of its paper packaging, I am delighted and entranced. Even better if it’s slightly undercooked and generally anemic-looking. And I think it’s time for all of us to appreciate the blessing that is a soggy fry.
Not every soft fry is considered a soggy fry. For example, crinkle cut fries are often very clearly not crispy or crunchy in any sense. Despite their ridges, they often come out soft and unremarkable, but it’s important to realize that these fries are not, in fact, properly soggy. For one, they’re usually too thick to literally bend from the weight of their oil content. Secondly, those ridges ruin everything—the last thing you should want in a soggy fry is texture.
A properly soggy fry should be thin. In fact, the thinner, the better. It should not be brown or overcooked; even if it has the right texture, too much intense heat on a potentially soggy fry can ruin it. Additionally, the best soggy fries have some length to them. Those little ends that fall to the bottom of your fry vessel are too small to hold their own in the fryer—they almost always come out over-crisped.
Lastly, the ideal soggy fry will be properly, liberally, salted. What’s missing in the way of substance or structure must be rectified by a blood-pressure-raising amount of salt. Flaky and Himalayan salt have no place here. Instead, a fine, powdery kind of salt (think those weird little tube-like packets that you find at the bottom of your McDonald’s bag) is going to be your best bet here.
We all have our favorite fast food fries, but some lend themselves to sogginess better than others. You can forget about any spot that cuts their fries too thick, of course, but that still leaves you with quite a few options to choose from.
If you want to go the classic route, you can never go wrong with an order of McDonald’s fries. But let’s be clear: You’re looking at maybe 30% soggy fries max. If you want to maximize your soggy fry ratio, the bigger the order, the better. Why? Because when you have a ton of fries packed on top of each other, you get less airflow, and that allows the hot fries to steam in their packaging. This is an especially useful tactic if you give the fries plenty of time to sit and soften before you eat.
But in my opinion, the best soggy fast food fries come from none other than Steak ‘n Shake. This is certainly a controversial statement, but I would argue that they have the best fast food fries in the game. The tiny shoestrings are the absolute perfect size if you’re looking for ultimate sogginess. Plus, once they get packed into their little paper tube, there’s very little airflow, rending the already-soggy fries even soggier. True, they could be saltier, but that’s a relatively easy fix.
Look, I know we all have our differences, and I know that some of you crispy fry people are haters. But open your mind. Embrace the flaccidity. Enjoy the feeling of oil-soaked carbs nourishing your body. Maybe, just maybe, this is the contentious issue that can unite us.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.