Filet-O-Fish was McDonald's first new product, dating back to when meatless Fridays were more prevalent. Culture shock. Fish at McDonalds.
McDonald's systematizes everything. Filet-O-Fish sandwich required its own fryer (so the fish flavor would not impact the fries), its own method of bun warming (a steamer because nobody liked the pairing of a Filet-O-Fish filet and a caramelized, grill toasted bun), and its own tartar sauce dispenser - a caulking gun-like apparatus developed by Prince Castle. Prince Castle, partially owned by McDonald's executives, developed all specialized McDonald's equipment.
The cheese - just a half slice not a whole slice - was added to make the idea of a fish sandwich more appealing to the mind's eye. Also, like the steamed bun, the Filet-O-Fish tasted better with cheese. And, it is probably in McDonald's genes. When in doubt, throw on some cheese.
Ray Kroc did not like the flavor of any of the canned tartar sauces. He did like the tartar sauce prepared by the executive chef of one of the Hilton Hotels in Chicago. McDonald's worked with the chef to replicate the sauce in a canned variety. The only way they could was by coming up with a multi-step process. Mayonnaise base went in one can; pickle relish in another can.
Every morning a crew member prepared the tartar sauce. The mayonnaise base and the relish where mixed together. Then, using an onion dicer also developed by Prince Castle, fresh onion was chopped up and stirred in. Finally the caulking tubes were loaded with a day's supply of tartar sauce. Because the onion flavor intensified with time, tartar sauce could not be carried over from one day to another. A new batch had to be made every day.
Prince castle also made the special filet holder for cooking the "North Atlantic Whitefish" filets. That was the prescribed employee response whenever someone asked, "What kind of fish." It was cod, as in the source of cod liver oil. "North Atlantic Whitefish" sounded more appetizing.
The finished sandwich was also more fragile than hamburgers. As I recall McDonald's specified a ten minute holding time for everything. At 15 minutes a McDonald's hamburger was still a hamburger. Even at 10 minutes the Filet-O-Fish was kinda gloppy - steamed bun and all the moisture from the fried filet. Anyone in the know only ordered a Filet-O-Fish during a rush period when they turned over fast. There was nothing worse at McDonald's than a 3:30 PM Filet-O-Fish sandwich.
When working at a McDonald's on a new product test, I always waited until a fresh batch came out of the fryer. There was nothing better than a piping hot Filet-O-Fish on a just steamed bun.
Edited by Holly Moore, 13 February 2008 - 11:03 AM.