Have it the Healthier Way: Burger King Reveals Low-Fat Satisfries

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Noel Barnhurst
Noel Barnhurst

We tasted them, and you may not miss the 40% fat and 30% calories stripped from the spuds.

When I was invited to taste test Satisfries, I was skeptical. A healthier fry? (The company is very careful not to say that their latest spuds are healthy, just healthier than the regular version.) Frying up anything isn’t the best way to make them good for you, and fries are sacred in that regard. So I was curious, but realistic.

The hotel rooftop for the french fry unveiling was decked out with Burger King crowns (but no King) and large-than-life cutouts of fries–and plenty of ketchup, which made me a little wary about just how appetizing this next generation fried potato would be. As soon as we were seated, Burger King’s North American CMO Eric Hirschhorn informed us that Burger King is rolling out a better-for-you fry.

(MORE: Don’t Be So Quick to Shun the French Fry)

So the next time you’re at a Burger King and asked ‘Do you want fries with that?’ you might feel a little less guilty about saying yes. Just over half of the the fast food chain’s 100 million monthly customers orders fries. And while most of them aren’t expecting to get a health boost from their meal, heightened awareness about diets and nutrition, and the role that fried foods play in obesity, are starting to weigh on customers’ choices. And the fast food industry is aware of changing dietary demands too. It’s not entirely realistic to expect a healthy, nutritious meal delivered at a fast food counter, but it does makes sense that their menu developers start listening to what people want.

“We couldn’t not address these changes,” says Hirschhorn. “We decided to meet people halfway.”

That’s why quick service restaurants are all offering healthier fare. There is a grilled chicken option for nearly every fried item, and salads freshen up the menu boards of all fast food chains now. But it turns out visitors to these restaurants want only one thing — the food that made these chains so popular in the first place — burgers, fries and shakes.

(MORE: Forget the Food: Fast Food Ads Aimed at Kids Feature Lots of Giveaways)

So Hirschhorn says that when he and his team decided to adapt their menu, they turned away from adding another healthy item (which past history showed most of their customers don’t order) and focused their attention on re-fashioning their tried and true staples. And where better to start than with the beloved fry?

The SatisFry looks and tastes just like the chain’s regular crinkle fries. They are battered and deep fried in vegetable oil, and they maintain that distinct Burger King flavor (If you’re a fast food fry aficionado, you know what that means). But here’s the secret — they don’t absorb as much fat from their deep-fried bath. When I peeked inside my fry carton, I was surprised to see few grease stains and very little soggy cardboard.

(MORE: Nutrition at Fast Food Restaurants Still Leaves Much to be Desired)

It’s important to note that although Burger King cleaned up its recipe with the oil-shunning batter, a fry is still a fry. Which is why the company says it will not be promoting Satisfries as a healthy food. “Baking fries lacks attributes like the crunchiness,” says Hirschhorn explaining why they didn’t want to change ingredients or process. “Fries are still indulgent, [and] these taste great. It’s the small changes.”

Getting people to eat healthier food at fast food joints is a major challenge for the industry. Burger King’s market research, for example, showed that people who walk into a restaurant intending to order grilled chicken change their minds at the register and consistently order fried. “We know that attitudes are changing and our consumers are becoming more mindful of the foods that they eat. But changing attitudes is much different than changing behavior. We have seen time and time again that consumers don’t want to sacrifice the foods that they love,” says Hirschhorn. “We set out to introduce a great tasting french fry with all the french fry attributes that people expect – crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.”

Satisfries are made with the same oil and equipment as the traditional french fries, and, not surprisingly, Burger King won’t reveal the oil-repelling agent responsible. But we consulted some food science experts who say that lowering fat content in fried food is more an engineering trick than a nutritional one.

(MORE: Why French Fries Are Such Good Comfort Food)

“There are several patents out there now. It’s actually kind of an old technology,” says Mary Ellen Camire, the president-elect of the Institute of Food Technologists of the fat-fighting batter technique.

Adding modified starches to the surface of foods like potato chips, or adding ingredients to wet batters like proteins, gellan gum, methylcellulose and hydroxypropylmethyl cellulose and soy and pea flours, are well known ways to make fried foods less absorbant.

The challenge however, is in maintaining the taste of the deep-fried food. “I always wonder how good they are going to taste. Because when the fat goes in, the water goes out. That’s how you get the crispiness. So different products vary in how well they still maintain taste,” says Camire, a professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Maine.

(MORE: A Heart-Healthier Way to Eat Fried Food?)

Camire says many fast food industry efforts to lower fat content costs them customers because the loss of fat leads to loss of taste or texture or both. “The big concern is, will consumers notice a difference? People have an expectation for a certain fast food chain fry,” she says. “Fried foods are a part of the international cuisine. There is something people like about that crispy golden brown fat. Trying to keep that while making it lower fat is really a challenge. You can make it, but you may trade off for what you want to have in terms of quality.”

The Satisfry seems to have overcome the taste hurdle. And the timing couldn’t be better for Burger King, since the U.S Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is requiring restaurant chains with over 20 locations in the U.S. to post calorie counts on their menus by 2014. The company’s execs deny that’s the reason they’re releasing the new fry line, pointing out that since the fries absorb less oil, the company will save on oil costs.

I don’t claim to be a french fry connoisseur, but I couldn’t tell the difference between the SatisFries and the regular fries I remember. (Oh, did I forget to mention that the taste test did not include a head-to-head comparison with the full fat version?) For a while, you’ll be able to choose between the Burger King fries you’re used to and the new version. But if the Satisfries take off, the same batter may find its way to their other fried fare.

Satisfries Nutrition info: 190 calories, 8 grams of fat and 210 milligrams of sodium per value-size serving.

64 comments
bkaley
bkaley

And another clue for these fast food chains... LAY OFF THE SALT! If I want salt I'll shake my own on.

bkaley
bkaley

This is just not news! 

If you want less fat in fries then eat less fries. Burger King fries and burgers are awful tasting in my opinion. There are much better fast food places to eat. For the same price at Portillos you can get a flame broiled burger directly off the broiler (not microwaved like BK) with freshly fried potatoes along with crisp lettuce, thick red tomatoes and fresh onions. No contest unless you like stale food at BK.

netter909
netter909

I don't know how anybody can find fault with a potato! It is loaded with vitamin C, potassium, B6, magnesiun, manganese, folate and many trace vitamins and minerals. It is rich in amino acids and most of the carbs in a potato are complex carbs, it has fiber and only 120 -160 calories, so what is not to like? As for fat not being the bad guy, depends on the type of fat! Proven! Fats also have no nutrients! Proven!

MattHill1
MattHill1

I used to love BKs fries, but about 8-10 years ago they changed something and they weren't really that good. Wonder if it was the trans-fat issue. I'd rather eat something good (but not good for you) once every couple weeks, than not eat it at all.

l_luv_jesus
l_luv_jesus

I applaud BK for the effort to make a "healthier" fry for consumers.

However,  I am concerned about the "coating" on these new BK fries and I shared my concerns with BK directly.   What is this coating made of? Does it contain wheat or gluten? Does it contain eggs? Does it contain milk?  There are many people who have allergies or intolerance and if BK is introducing any type of ingredients listed above, then BK needs to inform the consumer because wheat, gluten, eggs, and dairy are not usually associated with french fries (just potatoes, salt, and oil for the most part. 


Someone told me that another issue is how BK plans to change the oil they are cooking the new coated fries in?

Also, if BK cooks new coated fries in same oil as traditional fries then there may still be an issue because the traditional fries may get some of the ingredients of the battered fries. In any case, informing the consumer so they can make wise choices is key.  


pulsepaul
pulsepaul

Probably less fries in a serving, nice genius way to make the claim for fat and caloric reduction.

smooth0707
smooth0707

It's like the "fat free" yogurt onSeinfeld that made everyone fat.

BeckiJonesGursky
BeckiJonesGursky

We had these today! They are amazing!! Would never know they are 40% lower in fat etc. Kudos Burger King... Kudos

JamesDillon
JamesDillon

Why not bake them on a conveyor belt?

RichardBergstrom
RichardBergstrom

All this assumes, without any numbers, that the satisfries are actually healthier... kind of like how low fat isn't necessarily any healthier than normal products.

KellyDavis
KellyDavis

I get the idea that most of you dont understand the impact of fast food. 


The majority of people who eat it every are poor. This is why fast food is found predominately in poor places. Its cheaply made food for people with no money. So these poor people get sicker earlier than their more better off counter parts who can afford more options AND dont have a Burger King or KFC or McDonalds on every single corner. 


So its  very big deal when fas food companies make anything healthier.

Next time instead of just reacting, think it through. Think about how it affects other people.

davecu41
davecu41

What reasonably intelligent person goes to fast food places expecting RDA requirements?

They go because it is quick, convenient, or the just have to have their daily hot grease requirement.

When the juices from a satisfying burger are running down your forearm it's is soo good.

Moderation and good sense are a worthy side dish at ANY meal.

IvanAJagerbomb
IvanAJagerbomb

Wow, a lot of useless blah blah blah in this article

MikeScott
MikeScott

This is not the first time BK has changed them.  I consider myself a French fry expert and McDonald's is the only fast food chain that has been able to change their fries without much of a difference.  I won't order fries from Burger King, Wendy's, Arby's, Sonic and others because they are horrible now.  I look forward to going to places that still serve fries the way they are meant to be made.  The only reason the fast food chains have all changed their fries is to avoid lawsuits and to save money on grease.  It has nothing to do with health.

Yus
Yus

You can keep the fat in and take away the carb from the fries, that I will call revolutionary.

Ocsicnarf
Ocsicnarf

BK and similar chains fries are horrible. Beginning with the frozen potato and adding a poor quality oil and disgusting massive frying process. Please learn to eat.

Jha'VaughndrahKha'adijahWilson
Jha'VaughndrahKha'adijahWilson

Didn't they already do this about 10 years ago?  BK came out with fries cooked in healthier oils 10 years ago.  Whatever happened to that? 

GlitterPrincess
GlitterPrincess

I just tried them. Not as good as regular ones, but they aren't terrible.

banddcosner
banddcosner

BK hasn't been worth eating since the 2 burger 2 fry for $2 deal. The batter dipped fries are terrible.

gsmiller
gsmiller

Too bad the ones served to the average consumer will either be half cooked or have been setting under a heat lamp for too long.

Stayinalive
Stayinalive

Now if they could only invent a pizza that comes in under 800 calories.

Jonsinny
Jonsinny

So the typical fast food junkie will think they're actually eating healthy when they order a Diet Coke, lower calorie fries, and a Double Whopper with Cheese.

bigboxes
bigboxes

You'd think that the author would at least have had a side by side comparison.  I figured out that she was going by memory when she said "the regular fries I remember", but then she gave the disclaimer.  What you really need is someone who loves and eats french fries to tell us that these taste as good.  Until that time this review is lacking.  The Burger King PR crew sat down a controlled sampling and she bit into one and claimed it was good as she "remembered."  BS.  


To all the health food nazis commenting, get a life.  I don't eat fast food that often, but you really need to just concern yourself with your choices in life and not judge what others may or may not consume.  "OMG!  I ate a potato!  Egads!"

mfarena
mfarena

French fries are the #1 profit item on the menu, followed closely by dispensed beverages.

perchedeagle
perchedeagle

I'm picturing the suicidal german exec from Breaking Bad that was tasting ketchups eating 10 different versions of these fries, then going back to the regular fries before going into the bathroom and offing himself.

zbobowen
zbobowen

This is great. French fries are bad for us. But with this new low-calorie size, they are OK now. So we can order two servings guilt free and even have the privilege of paying more. I'm completely falling for it.

MelC
MelC

Remember, "healthier" doesn't actually mean "healthy." 

It just means "less unhealthy."

They're still junk food and have virtually no nutritive value.

PhoebeJeffs
PhoebeJeffs

Is this the new "struggle size" fry?

mysticswine
mysticswine

These are not 'french fries'. If they were BK would label them as such. They are a pseudo french fry consisting of flour, rice flour and potato starch. They taste good but are not potatoes only.

Another merchandising falsehood that businesses are allowed to sell to the public. Ever hear of two by fours, half and half? They don't even call ice cream as such - it's not. Its a cone. Mostly synthetic.

BmonsterMcCarthy
BmonsterMcCarthy

@bkaley  I'm quite certain if you were given one of their burgers, not told where it was from, you'd eat it and enjoy it just fine. I get so sick of you bs-ers talking trash on fast food places like BK, Hardee's, and the like. You're full of it. 

Bozobub
Bozobub

@netter909 Er, fat IS a nutrient, and furthermore, some different kinds of fat (Omega-3, for example) have unique nutritional value.

A hint: Typing "Proven!" does not, in fact, prove a damn thing.  Proven!

bkaley
bkaley

@fish4man61 My guess...Rejected at grocery outlets and past their shelf life but they are potatoes.

davecu41
davecu41

@Jonsinny  hey guy

remember when the "Whooper" used yo BE a whopper? instead of just queen size.

rapier1
rapier1

@mysticswine Half and half, contrary to some opinions, is and must be (by law) a diary product consisting of light cream with a butterfat content between 10.5% and 18%. It may contain a very small amount of a preservative but that's it. You cannot call something half and half if it is not dairy. That's why"creamer" is not the same thing as half and half. Also, 2x4s have always had scant measurements (1.5" x3.5"). The 2x4 refers to the rough cut dimensions of the lumber prior to it being planed for smoothness and finish (you don't think 2x4s have that rounded edge and smooth finish from a saw blade do you?). The lumber industry didn't sneak in undersized lumber so they can get more wood out of a single log. You can go to a lumber yard and buy rough cut 2x4s that are 2" by 4" if you like but why bother?

MikeScott
MikeScott

@IvanAJagerbomb @MikeScott My point was they still suck, as do everyone else's except McDonald's and the places that still make them the way they are supposed to be made--greasy!

RichardBergstrom
RichardBergstrom

@MikeScott @IvanAJagerbomb If you were a fry expert, you'd know that BK's fries have dramatically changed their taste over the last ten years. And yes, McDonalds has changed quite a bit too. For instance, they no longer coat their fries in as much sugar or with beef products.