fried food for thought

Browning chicken in a skillet or on a grill doesn’t add calories by itself. Of course if you use oil or butter it might, but you can modify that part. It does take some patience, and you have to babysit it for a while and make sure it’s not over or undercooked. That’s fine when you know how to do it. For reproducibility’s sake, though, how do you run a restaurant where you might have a teenager manning that station that doesn’t really know how to cook? Especially when you have to compromise on ingredient quality for the sake of margin? If you want to create an easily reproducible system that fulfills the requirement of the typical American palate (salt, fat, sweet) then it stands to reason that deep frying is the way to go. Why? Because it’s so easy that anyone can do it: take it out of the freezer, dump it into the fryer, and take it out when the alarm goes off.

Drill down on the nutritional information just a bit, and look at what you find. The Chick-fil-a website publishes the nutritional breakdown of their food, but they don’t tell you what each component contributes. Fortunately, we know that regular sandwich contains bread, chicken, and two pickles. Consider the following:

For a typical bun:
Calories 110
SOdium 210
Carbs 20
Sugar 3
Protein 3

Chick-fil-a chicken sandwich:
Calories 440
Sodium 1400
Carbs 42
Sugar 6
Protein 30

Subtract the bun, here’s what you have:
Calories 330
Sodium 1190mg
Carbs 22g
Sugar 6
Protein 27gm

Meat is low-carb, right? Wrong in this case. About 50% of the carbs in the whole sandwich and 75% of the calories come from the actual chicken itself. Mostly the breading, but probably also from whatever they brine the chicken with. A pertinent question to ask then is this: is fried food bad because it’s greasy, or because it really is nothing more than fried bread surrounding highly salted meat and animal fat?

I’m not saying that we have to abandon all fried foods, we just have to be realistic about what it actually is. Something that we’ve taken as common knowledge (that fried food is greasy) may not be so simple. It has cultural momentum, and everybody nods and moves on, but is it the whole truth? Remember that the best trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

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