Don't Eat At In-N-Out Burger Until You Read This

In-N-Out pretty well set the standard for fast food back in the day, when its first restaurant opened in 1948. And since then, the chain has continued to increase its cult following day by day. Part of In-N-Out's allure is the fact that you can only stop at one of the popular burger joints in six states, and you won't find one further east than Texas. And although In-N-Out hasn't boomed like McDonald's or Wendy's in an international capacity, with more than 70 years under their belt, we know that In-N-Out must be doing something right. 

For those of you who have only dreamed of visiting a restaurant, or you're headed for your next visit later this week, there are a few things you may not know about this ever-popular chain. From secret menu hacks to tips on enjoying a meal with your dog, we put together a few tips and tricks you ought to know before your next (or first) In-N-Out experience.

You can look forward to a really fresh burger at In-N-Out

Most fast food joints, or even sit-down restaurants for that matter, can't boast that their beef is never frozen. But that isn't the case with In-N-Out. In fact, part of the reason the chain is so limited in its locations is due to the quality control standards on the beef they serve. According to In-N-Out, they don't freeze, pre-package, or microwave any of their food, meaning those beef patties (made at In-N-Out facilities, of course) arrive fresh at each location, and stay that way in a walk-in cooler, rather than a giant freezer, until they get cooked to order on a grill. The chain doesn't even use heat lamps to keep their burgers warm. 

With those strict standards, deliveries of fresh meat must be organized in a timely fashion, with deliveries to the restaurants on a daily or almost-daily basis. Stacy Perman, author of In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks all the Rules, told NPR that all locations are actually within 500 miles of their patty-making facilities, which ensures that your burger is always top quality.

It's not just the hamburger patties that get the gold-star In-N-Out treatment — the iceberg lettuce is hand-leafed, the American cheese is the real deal, not processed, and the french fries are made from fresh potatoes that are hand-cut in the stores.

You get to choose between fresh or grilled onions at In-N-Out

In-N-Out burgers are all about quality, and that means you also get the ability to customize, because at the end of the day, what's a good burger that isn't made the way you want it? 

In addition to fresh lettuce and tomatoes, one of the most beautiful things In-N-Out offers is the choice of onions, depending on your preference. If you're a raw onion eater, your burger will come with a whole slice of onion as a standard. But if grilled onions are your thing, In-N-Out is your place to go. According to Serious Eats, the grilled onions are cooked down on the hot griddle in the collected meat juices, adding even more flavor to your burger. Typically, grilled onions will come chopped on your burger, but rumor has it you can also ask for whole grilled onions. Just know that ordering the whole grilled onion option means your burger will take a bit longer to get out to you, but it may just be worth the extra wait. If you're feeling really wild, you could even ask for all three. 

In-N-Out has vegetarian menu options, too

For those who simply cannot or do not eat meat, In-N-Out still has an option for you. Mind you, it may not be nearly as exciting as those fresh beef patties covered with delicious melty cheese, but ya know, they still have you covered. 

All you need to do is order a grilled cheese off their not-so-secret menu. That'll get you a fairly substantial sandwich consisting of two slices of melted American cheese, hand-leafed lettuce, tomato, and spread, and, of course, it's up to you whether or not to say yes to those savory grilled onions (though, remember, word on the street is those onions are grilled in meat juices, so vegetarians and vegans beware). There's also the option to add chilis to amp up your veggie "burger" a bit more. Pro tip: Chilis can actually be added to any menu item if you ask for them.

If you're really trying to hack the menu for a vegetarian meal on the cheap, Serious Eats reports that a side salad is an option, if you know how to ask for it correctly. Ask for extra lettuce, tomatoes, and onions on the side, as well as extra sauce, and you'll be able to whip up a freebie salad to go with your fries.

Your In-N-Out order won't be piled all on one tray, and that's intentional

Going into a McDonald's or Burger King and having your burger, chicken nuggets, fries, and a shake piled onto one tray is pretty normal. After all, it's just going to end up getting destroyed anyway, right? That's not the case for In-N-Out. If you order more than a couple burgers and fries, they'll never be jammed into the same tray, and there's a good reason for that.

Because of their key focus on quality control, In-N-Out employees are trained to high standards, especially when it comes to looks. According to one In-N-Out employee's Reddit AMA, "In-N-Out really prides itself on quality and presentation. So we can only fit two burgers and two orders of fries on a tray at once without ruining presentation." In addition to the burger/fry math on each tray, In-N-Out also has set standards on the number of napkins given out. According to the same employee, In-N-Out staff are trained to put one napkin for each burger and one napkin for each fry in the tray, and they're always put on top of the burger — a practice that some customers actually find a bit annoying since the sauce tends to dirty up the napkin before they even have a chance to. With that in mind, you might want to grab a couple extra napkins on your way to the table.

In-N-Out doesn't have bacon, so don't even ask

While you can head to Wendy's for the Baconator, or Burger King for the Bacon King, In-N-Out is not your go-to destination for your favorite salt-cured pork. Bacon is not on the menu at any In-N-Out location, and some speculate the reason is to follow suit with their high quality standards. After all, you would never catch In-N-Out serving pre-cooked bacon, and the fresh stuff can be a challenge when it comes to storage, cooking, and having to clean up the grease. Since In-N-Out restaurants don't have freezers, it would make the storage scenario especially complicated.

At this point, there has never been bacon offered at an In-N-Out, and that may be a make or break point for some people. It's such a prominent discussion that some food sites have posted April Fools' articles announcing bacon as a new menu addition. Bacon-loving In-N-Out customers have even gone so far as to taking matters into their own hands: One Serious Eats writer actually brought his own cutting board, cooked bacon, and avocado to his local In-N-Out to assemble the Double Double of his dreams. For the foreseeable future, this is the route you'll have to take if you want bacon on your In-N-Out burger.  

You can get 4 burger patties at In-N-Out if you're really hungry

Double cheeseburgers are pretty typical in the fast food world, but if you're feeling ridiculously hungry, or you're just up for a challenge, In-N-Out offers a 4X4, or Quad Quad, on their not-so-secret menu. This beast of a burger comes stacked with four beef patties and four gooey slices of American cheese piled in between. Of course, it also comes piled high with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and your choice of onions, all put together flawlessly on a freshly baked bun. If your hunger and wild cravings surpass that burger size, though, you're going to have to just buy two 4X4s, because In-N-Out won't stack any higher than that. Or, at least, they won't do it anymore. 

Once upon a time, In-N-Out would actually let you order any number of patties on a burger and just upcharge you for each. That was the standard, until one blogger ordered a 100X100 (which cost $97.66 and came complete with a whopping 19,490 calories), and In-N-Out ended up revising its policy. Remember, they're big on presentation, and a 100X100 looks more mess than masterpiece. 

You can order your fries well-done at In-N-Out

If you weren't already obsessed with In-N-Out as it is, the option to customize the cook on your fries might change your life. In-N-Out prides themselves on their hand-cut fries. According to their quality standards, the potatoes for their fries are shipped straight from the farm they were grown to the store they'll be dished up in. Each store has a fry cutter, and employees are devoted to cutting fresh potatoes throughout their shift before the fries are cooked in sunflower oil. And while a normal order of french fries at In-N-Out is delicious, one In-N-Out aficionado told HuffPost that you can order your fries well done, resulting in an extra-crispy fry. But the fry options don't stop there. 

Perhaps one of In-N-Out's most quintessential menu hacks is an order of Animal Style fries. In-N-Out's not-so-secret (anymore) menu features the Animal Style burger, with a mustard-cooked patty, tomato, lettuce, cheese, grilled onions, pickle, and extra spread, but customers took it to a whole new level when they started asking for Animal Style fries. These glorious fries come topped with cheese, extra spread, grilled onions, and pickles, and they're definitely worthy of a few extra napkins. 

You can grab a special burger for Fido at In-N-Out

Of course, like most food establishments, bringing your dog inside is a little frowned upon. However, as In-N-Out adds more locations, many of them feature outdoor seating, which is the perfect spot to enjoy your meal in the sunshine while your furry BFF does too. And while feeding your pup a burger with lettuce, tomatoes, and sauce on a beautifully baked bun is probably not the best idea, you can still include Fido in the In-N-Out Burger experience. 

According to I Heart Dogs, you can order a "pup patty" while you're at the counter or going through the drive-thru for your burger fix. They'll whip up a plain hamburger patty, without any salt, so your dog has their own fresh In-N-Out snack. Plus, they'll even put it in its own doggy bag. Talk about royal treatment for man's best friend.

Don't expect a discount, unless you're an In-N-Out employee or a police officer

While most fast food joints offer a value menu or promo offers from time to time, In-N-Out strays from that route. According to one In-N-Out employee on Reddit, the only discounts given at the register are to police officers. In order to receive the discount, police officers have to be in uniform, and the employee speculates it's because seeing an officer in uniform in an In-N-Out restaurant makes customers feel safer. Firefighters don't even get the same treatment. 

According to the AMA, employees, who are compensated incredibly well for a fast food joint, can also order a free meal for every shift, up to the size of a Double Double. They aren't able to order animal fries or shakes, unless they pay for them on their own, and they definitely can't give out discounts to friends and family.

Your In-N-Out burger can be cooked medium rare

For those of you who appreciate a well-done patty, this is absolutely not for you. But all of you pink burger fans, listen up. Perhaps one of the most unique concepts of In-N-Out is the ability to have your burger cooked to medium rare, which is pretty much unheard of at any other quick burger joint. According to Serious Eats, any patty can be cooked so that it retains a nice pink center for those medium rare burger lovers. 

The USDA recommends an internal cooking temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit for ground meats. And although there is continuous debate about whether eating rare meat is safe or not, ultimately the decision is up to you and whether you feel like you can trust the quality of beef being grilled. So while you're deciding what type of onion you'd prefer to add, and whether you're up for spread or no spread, consider this option as well. It's definitely a favorite for those who prefer their beef a little, well, less cooked.

You can get a root beer float at In-N-Out

In-N-Out offers three types of shakes made with real ice cream, including vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. And while a classic vanilla or rich chocolate shake is delicious on its own, there are some customization options you can try to really up your ice cream game. 

According to HuffPost, you can order a root beer float to satisfy your warm-weather cravings. They'll make it for you with a half-filled cup of root beer, paired with a creamy vanilla shake. Talk about summer dreams. But if root beer isn't your thing, you can still get any number of combinations of shake flavors. Classic chocolate and vanilla swirl? No problem. Chocolate and strawberry? Yep. But if you're really wanting to hack the menu, or you just can't decide on a flavor, ordering a Neapolitan milkshake is totally acceptable as well, and you get all three tasty flavors in one cup. No matter what you choose, you end up with a delicious way to top off your meal. 

You can go home with In-N-Out swag

In-N-Out is a destination for all ages, especially for those who don't live in a region that hosts an In-N-Out location. And although this may be a bit more popular with children, there are probably quite a few adults who get just as giddy about stickers, especially if they commemorate a place they don't get to visit very often. Good news, sticker lovers: According to one former employee on Quora, you can get free In-N-Out window and bumper sticks, as well as stickers for the kids.

In addition to those flashy stickers, you can ask for a paper hat. Employees wear either a baseball cap or the traditional paper hat, so you can look just like one of the team. Plus, they fold up easily and make for a great souvenir if you're just visiting once. Even further, if you're feeling like you really need to be a part of the In-N-Out craze, most stores also sell additional swag items including t-shirts, hats, and cups.

There's an app to get you to the nearest In-N-Out

Pretty well any company can now say "there's an app for that," and In-N-Out is definitely part of that crowd. Because In-N-Out's locations can be far and few between, especially once you're out of California, using Google Maps may not cut it when you're trying to find the nearest location to satisfy those Animal Style cravings. If you're on the hunt, the In-N-Out app will give you directions to the location closest to you, as well as a whole listing of locations in a particular state and surrounding areas. 

App users can also look up normal store hours and drive-thru hours to be sure the restaurant is open when they get there. Plus, the app even spills the beans on the locations that In-N-Out has in the works, which really, is probably the most interesting thing about it. Don't we all want an In-N-Out next to our house? For those of us that aren't in reach, the anticipation is unreal.

These are the healthiest and unhealthiest things to order at In-N-Out

Like most fast food restaurants, In-N-Out isn't exactly what you would call a healthy dining option. In fact, when it comes nutritious menu items at the famed burger joint, less is almost always more. If you're trying to watch your waistline, your safest bet is the plain hamburger with onion, which has 390 calories and 19 grams of fat. Health-conscious diners can go one step further by ordering the burger protein style, which swaps out the bun for two leaves of lettuce. 

"Protein style is a great option for those looking to cut down on carbohydrates or save some calories," registered dietitian Katey Davidson told Eat This, Not That. "On average, you'll save about 100 calories by switching from a bread bun to lettuce." In fact, you'll save 150 calories by making the protein style switch, along with 2 grams of fat, and 28 grams of carbohydrates.

If calories aren't your concern, feel free to dive face first into the 4x4, consisting of four beef patties and four slices of American cheese. And if you're looking for the true In-N-Out experience, you'll want it Animal Style, which adds all the fixings plus an extra dose of In-N-Out's secret sauce. "Choosing Animal Style is probably your worst option," Davidson said. The 4x4 is part of the chain's not-so-secret menu, so exact nutritional information isn't available, but for context, the non-Animal Style Double-Double clocks in at a whopping 670 calories.

People hate In-N-Out French fries

While In-N-Out's burgers receive nearly unanimous praise, another item has garnered nearly unanimous disdain: the French fries. The Los Angeles Times described them as "bland, crumbly little matchsticks," while placing them dead-last in a ranking of fast food fries. The San Francisco Gate called them, "soggy, sickly beige, under-salted, wilted, and unworthy of being called a fry at all." David Chang summed it up nicely by saying the fries are "total garbage" (via Vulture). The hate isn't reserved just for the culinary professionals either. Everyday diners feel the same contempt towards the chain's taters. When LAist asked the public for their opinion on In-N-Out's fries, the response was overwhelmingly negative.

So why, exactly, are these fries so bad? The consensus seems to be that In-N-Out isn't cooking these tasty, salty treats properly. The key to preparing a French fry is to double fry them — once to cook them and then a second time (at a higher temperature) to get them crispy. This technique is used by most fast food restaurants. But In-N-Out fries its potatoes just once. Will they ever come around? Don't hold your breath. Both the Times and Chang agree that the chain could make a better fry but simply don't need to. "You don't think they know their fries could be better? Of course they do," the Chang said. "I think it's amazing that they can take a loss right off the bat because they're priming you for the whole experience."

Don't miss out on cheese fries

By now, just about everybody knows about In-N-Out's not-so-secret Animal Style fries, which come topped with the chain's famous sauce as well melted cheese and grilled onions. If you're not ready to fully commit to this overindulgent side dish, but still want to ramp up the deliciousness of fries, try ordering them with just cheese. That's right — In-N-Out serves cheese fries. The order eschews the spread and onions, and just includes slices of gooey cheese melted atop the French fries (via Hack the Menu). According to Foodbeast, you may even be able to get extra cheese if you ask for it.

Considering In-N-Out's French fries are notoriously subpar, this simple addition could go a long way towards making the taters more delectable. And if you're putting toppings on the fries, it may be wise to order them well done, according to a former In-N-Out manager. "The best thing to do is to order them 'fry well' because the fries will hold their shape," she told Thrillist. "They won't get soft and mushy under all the sauce, especially if you take your time eating them."

You can ask for toasted hamburger buns

Depending on just how many beef patties you order, an In-N-Out burger can quickly become quite a hefty offering. This is to say that you're going to need two sturdy pieces of bread to hold this handheld meal together. Fortunately, the burger chain has just the option for those looking for a little more structure (and a crispier bite): toasted buns. According to Hack the Menu, when placing your order, you can simply ask for "extra toast" and the cooks will leave your hamburger buns on the grill a tad bit longer. The result is a slightly darkened, slightly crunchier bun to serve as the perfect platform for your patty tower.

Maybe most importantly, the extra grill time helps prevent all the burger juices from seeping into the bread. This assures you won't have to experience the dreaded soggy buns that can truly ruin any hamburger — even one as good as those from In-N-Out.