The Obsessive’s Guide to Dipping Your French Fries

The Obsessive’s Guide to Dipping Your French Fries

The best way to dip fries says a lot about your personality.

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Photo: New Africa (Shutterstock)

You can tell a lot about a person by the way they dip their fries. Are they an elegant aesthete with a discerning eye? Are they an unapologetic hedonist throwing caution to the wind? Are they a baby?

Take it from me, an obsessive potato consumer and lifelong amateur fry scientist. My travels have taken me far and wide, from a fancy Barcelona McDonald’s to an Arkansas diner that serves shoestring fries out of waxy Dixie cups. Everywhere I go, I’m struck by God’s truth: that one’s chosen fry-dipping method is an instinctual behavior with deep anthropological implications. Here are my findings.

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The Lit Cigarette

The Lit Cigarette

Got a light?
Got a light?
Photo: Lillian Stone

The Lit Cigarette, otherwise known as the Single Plunk, is your standard vertical dip. (The name comes from the ketchup at the very end of the fry, which looks a bit like the burning end of a cigarette if you squint.) The Lit Cig is a conservative method, to be sure—dip, lift, and eat—but it’s a classic for a reason. It’s a confident approach, a way to enhance a nicely seasoned fry without drowning it in ketchup. Not that there’s anything wrong with drowning a fry in ketchup, which brings us to:

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The Kayak Paddle

The Kayak Paddle

First one end, then the other
First one end, then the other
Photo: Lillian Stone

Picture a kayaker, propelling their watercraft by lowering one end of their paddle into the river, then the other. Now, mimic that action as you dip a fry in ketchup, one end at a time. The Kayak Paddle ensures that you have ample ketchup on either end of your fry, leaving the fry’s hot center untouched. The result is a generously dipped fry that looks a bit like a ketchup-covered Q-Tip. Proponents of the Kayak Paddle method are thorough and methodical, but they’re also down to have a little fun.

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The Multi-Fry Ketchup Raft

The Multi-Fry Ketchup Raft

Image for article titled The Obsessive’s Guide to Dipping Your French Fries
Photo: Lillian Stone

Another river metaphor! It’s your lucky day. The Ketchup Raft method involves selecting two or three fries of roughly the same size and lining them up next to each other like an old-fashioned timber raft. The dipper must then dip the fries as a unit, scooping up maximum ketchup and hoisting the entire raft—essentially a mega-fry—to their waiting lips. This is my preferred method, which makes sense: I, like all Ketchup Rafters, love a challenge. In my experience, Ketchup Rafters are big-hearted, economical, and often prone to exaggeration. Speaking of which: Some say a young man by the name of Johnny Fiesta once constructed the world’s largest ketchup raft, at six fries deep. But then, that’s only a rumor.

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The Horizontal Plunge

The Horizontal Plunge

Note the digit gently pressing the fry into the ‘chup
Note the digit gently pressing the fry into the ‘chup
Photo: Lillian Stone

If you don’t mind getting your fingers a little tomato-y, the Horizontal Plunge is an excellent way to apply an even layer of ketchup to the entire long face of your fry. It’s messy, but it can also be awfully satisfying. This is also a great way to experience new and exciting sauces. Party girls, this one’s for you.

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The Lothario’s Knot

The Lothario’s Knot

If you’re feeling nasty
If you’re feeling nasty
Photo: Lillian Stone

A real panty dropper, the Lothario’s Knot offers a showier spin on the Lit Cigarette. It’s a little Reno, a little Las Vegas—basically, the french fry equivalent of tying a cherry stem with your tongue. To achieve the Lothario’s Knot, you’ll need a fry long enough to bend at the middle, forming a distinct u-shape. You must then apply ketchup only to the cleavage at the center of the fry.

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Fries on a fork

Fries on a fork

I guess???
I guess???
Photo: Lillian Stone

I don’t have much to say to those of you who skewer your fries on a fork before dipping them. I can only envision one scenario in which I’d employ this method: I’ve just had my nails done, and I’m afraid of getting ketchup stuck underneath the tips.

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The dreaded drizzle

The dreaded drizzle

Who would do this?????
Who would do this?????
Photo: Lillian Stone

The only thing worse than skewering your fries on a fork is drizzling ketchup over the top of your fry pile. This method demands an enormous amount of faith—faith that the pre-drizzle will somehow provide enough ketchup coverage for every fry on the plate; faith that the top fries will somehow receive even coverage instead of growing mushy under an ill-thought-out pile of ketchup. I’m not a religious person, but I guess I respect it. Either way, it’s a maneuver beloved by dads on road trips.

And there we are. The full field guide to of fry-dipping methods. A formal taxonomy, and the result of my decades-long anthropological research (read: staring at strangers in fast food restaurants). Haven’t found your perfect method yet? Don’t sweat it, amigo: It’s an excuse to eat more fries.

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