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4 simple tips for re-creating fast food at home, according to chefs who do it on TV

INSIDER logo INSIDER 27/1/2022 insider@insider.com (Rachel Askinasi)
Chefs Jeremy Ford (far left), Kristen Kish (second from right), and Justin Sutherland (far right), in the "Fast Foodies" kitchen with celebrity guest Jesse Tyler Ferguson (second from left). Anna Maria Lopez/"Fast Foodies" © Anna Maria Lopez/"Fast Foodies" Chefs Jeremy Ford (far left), Kristen Kish (second from right), and Justin Sutherland (far right), in the "Fast Foodies" kitchen with celebrity guest Jesse Tyler Ferguson (second from left). Anna Maria Lopez/"Fast Foodies"
  • Chefs Kristen Kish, Jeremy Ford, and Justin Sutherland compete again and again on "Fast Foodies."
  • The three chefs compete against each other to mimic and then elevate a certain fast-food item. 
  • In an interview with Insider, the TV stars shared their tips for re-creating fast-food favorites at home. 

Kristen Kish, Jeremy Ford, and Justin Sutherland have become staples in the culinary television world as competitors on truTV's "Fast Foodies."

On the show, the three chefs each work to re-create and then elevate a fast-food dish of the celebrity guest's choosing. In an interview with Insider ahead of the show's season two premiere, the chefs shared tips for home cooks who want to take a swing at making their fast-food favorites in their own kitchens.  

The chef's tips for In-N-Out fries are to under-cook and under-season. Rachel Askinasi/Insider © Rachel Askinasi/Insider The chef's tips for In-N-Out fries are to under-cook and under-season. Rachel Askinasi/Insider

1. Try not to overthink it

"I think the approach is to kind of think less, do less," Kish, chef and partner at Arlo Grey, said. 

All three chefs agreed that home cooks shouldn't put too much focus on trying to get the flavors exactly right.

"So much of it is really impossible to nail those flavors," Sutherland, who owns the Handsome Hog, added. "They are generally lab-created proprietary things that we don't even have access to."

After trying to replicate items like the McDonald's hash browns or certain buns for burgers, they've come to realize that there are a lot of ingredients and flavors you simply won't be able to get at home. So don't sweat it if your recipe is not exact.

2. Over-season or under-season depending on what you're making

Something that sets one fast-food chain apart from another is the seasoning. For example, if you want to replicate a Five Guys burger, you wouldn't add salt to the meat because that's not something its team does. 

When it comes to french fries, each chain has its own unique flavor profile, some of which may have you adding in some white pepper or even sugar.

"If you're talking about In-N-Out fries, you're under-seasoning and under-cooking," Kish told Insider. "And if you're talking about McDonald's [fries], you're over-seasoning just a little bit with a pinch of sugar."

If you're unsure of how to season, start by tasting the original. "Just really break down in your mind what it is that you're tasting and try your best to match it," Sutherland said.

Notice what flavors you're picking up on, what ingredients you can pinpoint, and what textures you're noticing as you eat.   

a hand holding a sandwich: Regardless of what you're trying to make, start by breaking down the components of the fast-food original. Rachel Askinasi/Insider © Rachel Askinasi/Insider Regardless of what you're trying to make, start by breaking down the components of the fast-food original. Rachel Askinasi/Insider

3. Exercise restraint

Sutherland said putting his own culinary instincts aside is the most challenging part of trying to replicate existing fast-food items. 

"For home cooks or chefs, we always want to make something as good as possible, execute it as good as possible, and for us, when we're trying to re-create these things, I think every single one has been too good," he said.

So when he's really trying to nail a dish, he says the key is "holding back, saying, 'Nope, I know this is what you would do to make it taste good, but that's not what McDonald's does.'"

This goes for portion sizes as well. Ford, who is a chef and partner of The Butcher's Club and Stubborn Seed, says he still gets lost when it comes to measuring out ingredients like patty sizes because he thinks the 4-ounce pile of meat can't possibly be all that goes into a quarter-pound burger. 

"I'll add like another 1/4 or 1/2-ounce because I'm like, it's just too small — I can't," Ford added. 

4. Shop the center section of the store

"You know how they say you want to shop around the perimeter of the grocery store?" Kish said. "For this, go for the center."

If you're trying to mimic the McDonald's onions, the chefs say to reach for the dehydrated allium instead of fresh. "That's what they use and then they rehydrate them into those little onion flavor crystals," Sutherland said. "If you use fresh onions, the onion flavor is just going to be way too overwhelming."

And don't be afraid to reach for the prepackaged french fries in the freezer section, or pre-diced onions, Kish added. 

She says those shortcuts are more than fine for re-creating fast food, but also just in everyday life. You also may be able to find premade versions of your fast-food brand favorites. 

"They sell Arby's french fries in Publix," Ford added. He said he cooked them in an air fryer and the result was curly fries that "tasted like they came out of a fryer."

Ultimately, all three chefs agree that fast food is just food that's made quickly. So just try your best!

Read the original article on Insider

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