When finding out information about a burger challenge, the first component that people want to know about is the size of the burger. When finding out information about a sandwich, hot dog, or steak challenge, the first component that people want to know about is the size of the sandwich, hot dog, or steak. A very large majority of amateur competitive eaters make the mistake of worrying too much about the BIG things that make up a food challenge, and they don’t focus enough attention on the little things. Like with most aspects of your life, many little errors can gradually sneak up together and cause much larger problems than just one big error. The single most underestimated food component that causes a large percentage of challenge failures is not the burgers, steaks, hot dogs, sandwiches, and other main entrees themselves. It is the FRENCH FRIES that are typically served with them. In a few episodes of the show Man v Food, host Adam Richman called french fries his “Achilles heel,” which by definition means “a deadly weakness in spite of overall strength, which can potentially lead to downfall.” Whether there is 1/2 pound, one pound, or even five pounds of fries, if you do not include the french fries as a primary area of concern, your chances of failing the challenge significantly increase. Even if you finish the massive five pound burger, if you can’t finish the side of fries next to it, then you have failed the challenge and need to get out your wallet to pay full price. There have been multiple times where I finished all of the major aspects of the challenge, but I just wasn’t able to finish the last few bites of cold, greasy, and mushy french fries. Learn from my mistakes so that you don’t make this costly error yourself. Be sure to order and get your french fries cooked properly, and never underestimate the amount you will receive.
I learned very early on in my food challenge career that no two restaurant’s fries are the same. There are hundreds of different ways that restaurants can choose to serve french fries. There are normal french fries, curly fries, steak fries, chips (British), waffle fries, crinkle cut fries, and skinny fries. While there are many types of fries, there are even more ways to season all of them. Some restaurants even add toppings to their fries like cheese, chili, and gravy. We talk a little about how to eat fries in our Basic Strategy For Winning A Food Challenge article, but the purpose of this article is to teach you how to order your fries and get them cooked properly. Most people do consider how they should get their steak or burger cooked, but hardly anybody ever considers how they should get their french fries cooked. A massive majority of people don’t even know you are able to request how you want your french fries cooked. When I request how I want my fries cooked, most servers initially give me a very puzzled look. In a way, fries are like beef (steaks and burgers). If fries get overcooked, just like beef, they can be dry, tough to chew, and not very enjoyable to eat. It will take you much more time to eat overcooked fries and the task will be much harder on your jaw too. If you followed proper eating challenge strategy, your jaw will already be tired from finishing the main entree, so it definitely won’t want to work overtime to finish the remaining cold, crispy, chewy, and unappealing fries. Just like a steak, order your fries (especially thicker ones) similar to medium rare. Here are reasons why you should specify how to cook them:
Reasons Why You Should Order Your Fries Medium Rare
1. Overcooked fries lose their moisture and become dry – Frozen raw french fries start out loaded with water and moisture, and they will remain moist if they are not overcooked due to the moisture retained along with the new additional grease freshly soaked in. As fries overcook though, they continually lose moisture during the process. You are then left with thinner, extra crispy, dry french fries, and those are the exact opposite of what you want. To finish those, you will need to chew a lot more and you’ll also most likely need to drink a lot of extra liquid to help get the dry fries down. The dried out fries will absorb the moisture in your mouth and dry it out too, so you will need to compensate by drinking additional liquid. You won’t need to worry about this if your fries are cooked correctly so they are plumb and juicy. Even if you eat them first while warm, dry fries will still be tough to eat.
2. If the fries are weighed after cooking them, you will get less – This is another thing that nobody considers. If the restaurant weighs the amount of fries after cooking them, you will have to eat more overcooked fries than you would if they were cooked medium rare and juicy. If the restaurant overcooks the fries and sucks out (or fries out?) all the moisture, each fry will be a little lighter in weight. If each fry is perfectly cooked and full of juicy moisture, each fry will be heavier than it would be without all the juices. Each fry may be pretty small, but know that the difference between one pound of overcooked fries and one pound of golden light brown medium rare fries is noticeably and significantly different. You will have to eat less food if you take the few seconds to request your fries to be cooked correctly, and that benefit is definitely worth the extra effort. You will want to order them like this regardless of when the amount is weighed, but you may want to ask how they calculate the amount of fries beforehand when you order the meal. Doing this will keep them on their toes while letting them know this is “not your first rodeo,” and it will also boost your confidence if you know that they weigh the fries after cooking. The added grease will make the fries heavier than before they even got dropped into the fryer.
3. Overcooked fries are tougher to eat when they get cold – In our What To Eat First: Proteins vs Carbohydrates article, we teach that you should eat the meats and main entree first and then the fries, unless those fries will be too tough to eat late in the challenge when you are full and tired. Overcooked, extra crunchy, disgusting french fries are an example of high carb foods that you should eat before the main entree, simply because you really won’t want to eat them when they get cold. That is being reactive to the situation rather than proactive. You want to eat the meats and main entree first while everything is warm and juicy. Meat dries out as it cools down and hardens. Correctly cooked french fries obviously still cool down, but they don’t harden and become tough to chew, which is why the meat is more important. They may become a little limp, but it is much easier to eat cold and mushy fries than it is to eat super crunchy, cold, and disgusting fries that were very overcooked.
4. Medium rare fries require less chewing and can be eaten faster – Perfectly cooked french fries (especially steak fries) if you eat them while hot may have the consistency of mashed potatoes, and mashed potatoes can be consumed much faster than crunchy, dry french fries. Whether you eat them in the beginning, along the way, or at the end of a challenge, your mouth and jaw will have a much easier time chewing and swallowing moist and juicy fries than dry and crispy fries. You will be able to eat golden brown fries A LOT faster too which is very important towards you completing the challenge before the time limit expires. If you are short on time and have a full pound of overcooked french fries sitting in front of you, your chances of winning are highly unlikely. Those fries will take a long time to consume, especially if you are too full to drink a lot of extra liquid with each bite.
How a food challenger treats the french fries before and during an eating challenge can sometimes be the “deal breaker” and deciding factor whether he or she will win or lose the challenge. Whether you fail with one french fry left or one hundred fries left, a loss is a loss, which is something that is never a fun experience. I have failed a few challenges, and some of them I failed specifically because I underestimated the amount of fries while also using a terrible eating strategy. My most memorable challenge that taught me the lessons above is Papa Bob’s Ultimate Destroyer Sandwich Challenge in Bonner Springs, Kansas which consists of a five pound BBQ sandwich surrounded by 1.5 pounds of crinkle cut french fries. I failed four times in two years, with each failed attempt costing over $50, and then finally completed the challenge over one year later after my fourth attempt. The fifth time was a charm!! During each of the first four attempts, I was super focused on eating the sandwich first, and I disregarded the fries and ate them towards the end. I finished the five pound sandwich almost every time, but I always had fries left at the end. Each time, they were hard, crispy, tough to chew, and didn’t taste very good at all. I finally realized that I needed to specifically ask for the fries to be ordered medium rare so that they were a light golden brown, and that I needed to eat the fries first. Using that strategy, I finished in just 32 minutes which was the new record at the time. Use the tips above to order the fries with your future challenges, and you will be successful too!! Overlook the fries, as I used to, and you are likely to experience failure along the way.
NOTE: They are not fries, but this article applies to onion rings, tater tots, and other fried items too!!
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