The (Sort Of) Guilty Pleasure: Satisfries Where To Get It: Burger King, locations Valleywide Price: $1.49 and up; 20 to 30 cents more than the regular fries depending on size. What It Really Costs: Less damage than your average fry. Don't eat more to compensate.
If there's one practically universal thing about fast food, it's that it's not good for you in the slightest. The highly processed food (or in many cases, the highly processed substance that vaguely resembles food) doesn't have much flavor, so it's loaded with fat, salt, and sugar to compensate.
Almost every major fast food chain has a small selection of healthy-ish items to at least give a façade of sensible choices. Needless to say, most of these are blatant cop-outs. Salad from a drive-thru? Yeah, right! Bring on the burgers!
Diners are increasingly health-conscious; fast-food outlets have had to seriously up their game as a result. Last year, Wendy's offered (sadly short-lived) baked sweet potatoes as a side dish. McDonald's McWraps are one of the most noteworthy entries; in particular, I think the Sweet Chili Grilled Chicken McWrap is criminally underrated, but that's a different column. McWraps didn't take off as well as McDonald's brass had hoped, but apparently the wraps done well enough that they expanded the line from three flavors to four.
The newest entrant in the healthy-ish fast food game is perennial also-ran Burger King. Instead of coming up with something different and new (a very risky proposition), they decided to put the humble french fry on a diet. Their new Satisfries (it's a silly name, I know, but what better name would you call them?) look like regular crinkle-cut french fries, but have less fat and calories than every other fry on the market.
The nutritional difference is pretty substantial. A medium order of Burger King's ordinary fries clocks in at 410 calories, 18 grams of fat, and 570 milligrams of sodium. The Satisfries slash the numbers across the board, coming in at a more sensible 410 calories, 14 grams of fat, and 370 milligrams of sodium. BK is all too happy to point out that this is a considerable amount less than McDonald's fries, where the large fries (which are the same size as Burger King's medium fries, give or take 4 grams) are 500 calories, 25 grams of fat, and 350 milligrams of sodium.
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How do they do it? For fry aficionados, the answer is a polarizing issue. You see, BK uses coated fries. The advantage of coated fries is that they stay hot and extra-crisp longer than regular uncoated fries. The main disadvantage of coated fries is that they aren't as good as uncoated fries. It's like getting curly fries when you wanted the regular one; the coating just seems unnatural and unnecessary. BK made adjustments to their coating recipe so that it absorbs less oil. Of course, less oil means fewer calories.
How do the Satisfries stand up? It turns out, they're a decent fry. On their own, they seem more like just "french fries" than "lower fat french fries", and that's a very good thing indeed. The coating on the Satisfries isn't as pronounced as on regular fries. This is, of course, a benefit. The slightly larger diameter means the interior cooks up extra-fluffy. When tasted side-by-side with regular BK fries, the fluffy interior seems relatively dry. On the other side of the same coin, the Satisfries' reduced oil content made the regular fries seem unappealingly more greasy.
The most noteworthy thing about Satisfries is how they taste pretty much like any other fry. If anything, because of the more natural-feeling coating and lower grease content, I like them more than Burger King's too-salty regular fries. I'm secretly hoping that they take a chance and flat-out replace their regular fries with Satisfries. One can only wonder what McDonald's would do about a move like that.