Unique Things At McDonald's You Take For Granted

On the surface, it's pretty easy to write off McDonald's. After all, when nearly every city and town in the country has at least a couple of them and you can find them on every continent except Antarctica, how unique can they really be? 

While it's fair to say that eating at McDonald's probably isn't a special or unique experience for most people, the popular burger chain really does do some things better than just about anybody else in fast food. One doesn't become a global sensation without forging their own path and delivering some serious innovation. 

It's easy to grab a bag of food from the McDonald's drive-thru and not put a lot of thought into how those near-perfect fries were made or the sauce on the Big Mac that you've eaten countless times. Those truly standout food items and business aspects that many of us might take for granted at McDonald's are what make them different from the competition. From the McGriddle to the ever-evolving Dollar Menu, McDonald's just wouldn't be McDonald's without these unique offerings that you can't find anywhere else.

The Coke just tastes better at McDonald's than at the competition

If you're a fan of Coke, then you know there's something special about McDonald's. When it comes to Coke, McDonald's soft drinks just seem to taste a little better than those of their competitors.

This shouldn't be the case, after all, a medium Coke is just a Coke whether it comes from Wendy's, Burger King, or McDonald's, right?

Wrong. McDonald's just dishes out its Coca-Cola products better and it all has to do with how they handle the soda. According to Business Insider, most fast food joints have their soda delivered in plastic bags before it's mixed with carbonated water. McDonald's on the other hand, has its Coca-Cola delivered in stainless steel canisters to keep the soda as fresh as possible. They also take extra steps to filter their water before it's hit with pre-chilled syrup and sent through the soda dispenser. 

Speaking of the soda dispenser, McDonald's wants to make sure your Coke is as bubbly and cold as possible, so the restaurants have an insulated tube running from the refrigeration unit to the soda fountain to keep the soda at the perfect chilled temperature before ice ever hits it. If all that wasn't enough, McDonald's website says they opt for slightly wider straws so that "all that Coke taste can hit your taste buds." Well played, McDonald's.

The seasonal sensation that is the McDonald's McRib

There's perhaps no sandwich on the McDonald's menu that gets more fanfare than the McRib. It's been coming and going for three decades and when it decides to return to the Golden Arches menu "for a limited time," the internet rejoices all over again with headlines proclaiming "The McRib is back!"

The sandwich itself is a pretty interesting thing altogether. Unlike most McDonald's sandwiches, it comes on a long bun and it's most notable feature is that it's boneless, yet resembles a full slab of pork ribs. There's really no other sandwich on a major fast food menu quite like it, and McDonald's has successfully created a cult following around it. Farewell tours and comebacks have only added to the hype of the McRib and even when late-night TV hosts are making fun of it, the sandwich still pulls in McRib devotees whenever it returns (via Forbes).

McDonald's has tried pulled pork sandwiches a few times since the McRib first came on the scene, but they're no longer on the menu — which should tell you how they went over. The McRib may never be a regular item on the McDonald's menu, but it continues to generate buzz every time it returns because you won't find it anywhere else — and that's just how McDonald's likes it.

The "invention" of all-day breakfast at McDonald's

Fans of McDonald's breakfast may be accustomed to the wonderful option of having an Egg McMuffin at noon, midnight, or any other time that they please, but that's a fairly recent option. Let's not forget that from the time McDonald's first started selling breakfast in  the 1970s up until 2015, if you showed up after 10:30 a.m. with a hotcakes craving — buster, you were out of luck.  

Now, of course, McDonald's didn't invent the idea of having all-day breakfast. Mom and pop diners, Waffle House, and IHOP have been doing that for decades. No other fast food burger chain as big as McDonald's though had ever been so brazen as to open up its breakfast menu to all hours of the day — though White Caste did offer its waffle sandwich after midnight a year earlier (via Time). Still, when McDonald's finally did start serving all-day breakfast in 2015 it was a pretty big deal. "It's been the number one requested thing from our customers for years," McDonald's President Mike Andres told USA TODAY at the time. 

McDonald's has tweaked its all-day breakfast offerings in the years since and some fast food competitors have tried to follow suit with their own all-day breakfast offerings. So far, none have matched the buzz and success that followed when McDonald's first stepped into those uncharted waters. If you want a fast food breakfast sandwich at lunch time, you better head to McDonald's.

The McDonald's McGriddle raised the bar for breakfast sandwiches

While we're on the subject of McDonald's breakfast, there's one particular item that deserves special attention — the McGriddle. Sure, the Egg McMuffin has been around a couple decades longer, but an egg on an English muffin isn't exactly head-spinning. Now, the McGriddle, a breakfast sandwich that fuses sweet and salty together by using a pancake injected with maple syrup crystals, that's something worth talking about. 

McGriddles first appeared on customers' trays in 2003 and have remained a popular staple on the menu ever since (via CNN). Wired broke down exactly what makes the McGriddle such an addictive breakfast sandwich and determined that its the sandwich's "420 calories, 15 grams of sugar, and 80 percent of the recommended daily allowance of cholesterol." This mouthful of fatty calories taps into our body's need for fuel and the McGriddle hits both the fuel and pleasure sectors perfectly in our brains. 

McDonald's likely didn't reach out to any neuroscientists when developing the breakfast sandwich, but a few bites and it's easy to see why it leaves breakfast sandwiches from any other fast food chain in the dust. 

Even today, the McDonald's continues to innovate on this unique breakfast item. In July 2019, McDonald's said that they would be testing out a blueberry pancake version of the McGriddle in select markets. Fingers crossed it comes to your town.

The McDonald's Dollar Menu was a fast food game-changer

Nearly every fast food franchise around today seems to have some sort of value menu in place. It's often a necessary evil for chains to stay competitive and customers have pretty much come to expect it. McDonald's wasn't the first to launch the value menu concept — that honor would go to Wendy's — but nobody's had more success with the idea than McDonald's. 

McDonald's launched its Dollar Menu in 2002 and over the course of 17 years, it's featured some of the restaurant's most popular items with everything from a Double Cheeseburger to McNuggets and the Sausage McMuffin finding a place on it (via Complex). While it may not have always been a popular concept with franchise owners, it's remained a hit with customers and has been instrumental in driving the company's sales growth, according to Forbes.

The Dollar Menu has certainly changed over the decades, now hosting $2 and $3 menu items, but it's still a good value and at this point, it's difficult to imagine McDonald's not having it. While other fast food chains are seeing their value menus shrink in size (or even go away completely), we can still count on McDonald's to have a good offering on that part of the menu board.

The allure of the Big Mac's special sauce at McDonald's

The Big Mac is one of those signature items that's synonymous with McDonald's and the glue that holds it all together, of course, is the special sauce. McDonald's has been boasting about the burger's secret sauce since 1968 and the burger giant for decades remained hush-hush on what was in it. 

McDonald's refusal to give up the exact recipe for the sauce helped give it a mysterious allure and led to numerous Big Mac copycat attempts — many with their own "special sauce" knockoff. For years, rumors circulated that McDonald's was just using thousand island dressing for the Big Mac, but there are actually some key differences that McDonald's does to make their Big Mac special sauce stand out. Ingredients like yellow mustard and paprika which you probably won't find in a standard thousand island dressing recipe, help make the Big Mac's special sauce... special.

The precise measurements for the Big Mac's sauce are still unknown. Chefs have certainly tried to capture this sauce's exact flavor, but for now, it remains a unique creation that's 100 percent McDonald's — and you won't find it anywhere else.

McDonald's has french fries down to an exact science

Find a person who thinks McDonald's has bad fries and we'll show you a dirty liar — or somebody who sadly has no taste buds. Before we get into a fast food fry debate, most people would agree that McDonald's is world-famous for its fries. 

This didn't happen by accident and McDonald's knows what it's doing with fries — that's why you can't find fries that taste like that anywhere else. McDonald's revealed to Good Morning America that it all starts with how they dice their spuds. The non-GMO potatoes are peeled and blasted through a fry cutter at 65 mph before being submerged in hot water to blanche them of starches that might lead to funky colorization. The process also helps give them a sort of "baked potato" interior upon cooking. 

The spuds are then given a bath of sodium acid pyrophosphate and dextrose (a natural sugar) to give them their golden color after they're cooked. When potatoes are cut the air can turn them a greyish color which doesn't look particularly appetizing. The fries then get a quick pre-fry to ensure they have a crisp exterior before they're shipped to restaurants. As for what they're fried in, it's a mix of canola, soybean, and hydrogenated soybean oils as well as some beef flavoring.

Before the fries find their way to you, McDonald's restaurants fry them up one more time in the oil mixture, along with TBHQ, an antioxidant that keeps the oil fresh.  As for the final ingredient in McDonald's fry magic... salt.