Every menu item at In-N-Out Burger, ranked worst to best

There are people who enjoy In-N-Out Burger, and then there are those who love it. The latter group of people can be more than just a little involved with their orders. Rather than stick to the simple orders put on the menu, In-N-Out fans have created a bevy of "secret" menu orders. These are discussed and debated to no end on Reddit and in person. What doesn't get as much attention is the food that's right there on the menu in front of everyone.

In-N-Out's classic in-person menu is composed of a Double-Double, cheeseburger, hamburger, french fries, and shakes. The menu items are expanded out with a "Not So Secret Menu" that includes some of the most popular custom orders. In true In-N-Out fanaticism, one customer even mimicked the brand's font and colors to make a not so secret menu that looks like the regular menu.

If you're not the type of person who likes to ask for modifications, the Not So Secret Menu is a godsend, but not everything is worth ordering. These are the best menu items at In-N-Out Burger on both menus, ranked from worst to best.

11. In-N-Out Burger's hamburger

In-N-Out Burger is a simple place with a simple, pared-down menu. But there's a fair argument to be made that the hamburger is just too simple. The standard hamburger is made with sponge dough buns (a type of dough that results in extremely fluffy white bread), a thin beef patty, onions (grilled or raw), lettuce, tomato, and the In-N-Out spread. Ordering a regular hamburger at In-N-Out Burger is sort of like considering all of the 31 flavors at Baskin-Robbins and settling on vanilla.

This has been a complaint about the plain burgers for years now. In 2013, Larry Olmsted, food columnist for USA Today, had this to say about the burgers: "The very basic, thin fast-food patties housed in generic buns are nearly identical to those at McDonald's or Burger King."

There was a reason why so many In-N-Out Burger diehards created a "secret menu" of options. The hamburger feels more like an empty paint-by-numbers canvas than one that's filled out and full of life.

10. In-N-Out Burger's Double Meat

Double Meat is the first item listed on In-N-Out Burger's "Not So Secret Menu" online. It's basically the hamburger, but it has two of the thin patties rather than one. Stacking the patties makes for a much more balanced burger compared to the standard hamburger. There's more heft to it that balances out the thick slices of tomato, and double meat means that each bite doesn't taste like a mouthful of bread and trimmings with a side of patty like the hamburger does. 

Focusing on the meat isn't a bad thing and falls well into In-N-Out Burger's fresh-ingredient philosophy. According to Business Insider, every restaurant has to be within 300 miles of a distribution center (one reason why In-N-Out Burger isn't everywhere by now) to ensure all of the food is in prime condition when it makes it to the customer. The Double Meat has no extras or big flavors to hide behind. Burger purists will appreciate the Double Meat, but if you're looking for the most flavor-packed and balanced order possible, there are much better options on both the regular menu and the Not So Secret Menu.

9. In-N-Out Burger's 4x4

On paper, this burger sounds like it has potential. All of the components are there: an equal balance of meat to cheese (four patties, four slices of American cheese), and some flavor-equalizing lettuce, tomato, onion, and spread. But it's just too tall. Even two-ounce patties can add up to formidable heights when they're repeatedly stacked. The 4x4 (also called the Quad-Quad, according to In-N-Out Burger) has a vertical height that'll make you want to stretch out your jaw muscles before trying to tackle it.

This is the largest burger listed on the Not So Secret Menu, but the chain should have stopped earlier. In a Reddit Ask Me Anything, an In-N-Out Burger employee noted it's also the largest the restaurant will make for people.

"We aren't allowed to make anything larger than 4x4s anymore," the poster wrote in response to a question of how big one can go. "4x4s are already ridiculously hard to wrap and anything larger would just look like a total mess. Again, it's about presentation. If you want a larger burger, we can give you cheese patties on the side but we're not allowed to actually assemble it for you."

8. In-N-Out Burger's French fries

Of all the fast food french fries in the world, In-N-Out Burger's get the worst rap. Critics hate them, the internet hates them, it feels like anyone who voices an opinion hates them. A food critic for SFGate ran a story with the headline "No Debate: In-N-Out fries are bad" because they're "soggy, sickly beige, under-salted, wilted, and unworthy of being called a fry at all." The Los Angeles Times listed them as dead last in its ranking of fast food french fries, while LAist felt the need to explain how to order In-N-Out fries that don't suck. The general public's opinion isn't much better. TV writer Matt d'Ambrosio tweeted that the fries are trash and said, "Love yourself. Eat better french fries."

Changing all of those opinions would be monumental, and the french fry's place on this list isn't an attempt to do so. In-N-Out proudly proclaims that the fries are shipped straight from the farm, individually cut, and cooked in 100 percent sunflower oil. Still, the fries aren't great, but they're fine — just fine enough to land close to the middle of the list. After all, it's easy for some average menu items to fall by the wayside when compared with cult favorites like the Double-Double. If you want fries, go off menu with Animal Fries.

7. In-N-Out Burger's cheeseburger

The cheeseburger is a classic menu option that elevates itself above the hamburger with the effortless addition of a slice of American cheese. American cheese doesn't get a lot of love from true cheese connoisseurs (just consider all the publications that have tried to answer the question "what is American cheese?"), and In-N-Out Burger doesn't do a whole lot to fix that reputation by describing its cheese only as "the real thing." There's one food that proves not all American cheese is bad, however: cheeseburgers. American cheese makes essentially every basic hamburger better. Cheesemongers agree, according to Insider, because it melts perfectly.

The main thing holding In-N-Out Burger's cheeseburger back is that it only has one two-ounce patty. The balance isn't there, and the cheese can overpower the rest of the flavors without a strong protein presence. In short, In-N-Out's cheeseburger leaves you wanting more. The best fast food orders at In-N-Out — or any fast food burger joint, for that matter — can stand up on their own. The cheeseburger simply can't do that.

6. In-N-Out Burger's Protein Style

Protein Style is a Double Double (two patties, two slices of American cheese) that replaces the bun with lettuce. Bunless burgers have their place. It also helps that the standard bunless burger is modeled after one of the best menu options, a Double-Double, rather than a Double Meat, single patty burger, or anything with three patties or more (that last one would get really messy really fast). The order is a boon for people who are looking to eat a little healthier but still want some In-N-Out Burger. Protein Style burgers top the healthy lists of numerous publications, including coming in as CBS's best low-carb burger and topping the list at Eat This, Not That! as well.

The lettuce for the Protein Style burger acts as a clamshell to hold it all together, which would in theory keep the insides from falling out. Unless you're foregoing carbs, though, it's better to just go with one of the standard burger options with buns. The sauce can get runny, and the washed lettuce makes the whole thing a little moist and messy.

5. In-N-Out Burger's shakes

Like the rest of the menu, the shake options are short and sweet: vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. In-N-Out's big selling point for the shakes is that they are made with "real ice cream," which is similar to the fresh-ingredient selling point for the rest of the menu. It makes In-N-Out Burger different from other fast food places, like McDonald's, that use soft serve in the shakes.

Soft serve ice cream has more air, which results in an easier-to-drink milkshake. Soft serve ice cream can be mostly air, according to Smithsonian Magazine, while regular ice cream has less than 30 percent air. There's nothing wrong with that — especially when the ice cream is tasty, as it is at In-N-Out — but it does make the drink thick.

For fans of the three primary flavors, the milkshakes are always worth ordering. It's important to note that simplicity has driven people to try to hack the milkshakes just like people have hacked their way into better menu items. Case in point: the Neapolitan, which is a blend of all three flavors. At least one person even suggests the best way is to order two and drink them at the same time. Perhaps the best way to handle an In-N-Out milkshake, though, is to start with a spoon.

4. In-N-Out Burger's grilled cheese

The grilled cheese often gets thrown on the children's menu at restaurants, but at In-N-Out Burger, it's on the Not So Secret Menu. It's made with the buns rather than white, wheat, or sourdough bread. Slices of American cheese are loaded inside along with lettuce and sauce. Ask for an extra toasted bun for a little more crunch (sponge dough is designed for spongy fluffiness, after all, and something in a grilled cheese needs to add texture), and you've got yourself one of the best fast food grilled cheeses you can order.

When reduced to the most basic definition, the grilled cheese is just a meatless burger, kind of like how the Protein Style is just a bunless burger. The only thing removed is the patty, and viola: a grilled cheese. That's not a knock on it, however. Even David Chang, creator of Momofuku and celebrity chef, appreciates In-N-Out's grilled cheese. Chang told Eater that his go-to order is "one grilled cheese with griddled tomatoes, animal-style and spicy."

3. In-N-Out Burger's 3x3

Say you're very hungry when you approach the In-N-Out ordering counter. A Double-Double won't cut it — let alone a single patty hamburger or cheeseburger — and the 4x4 is, as mentioned previously, too uncomfortably large to eat. That is when the 3x3 is the perfect order. 

The 3x3 (or Triple-Triple) is big but not unmanageably so. It's like a cheeseburger viewed through a magnifying glass, with three patties, three slices of American cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, and spread. And though it's easier to eat than a 4x4, there's no denying that a 3x3 is a lot of food. The calorie site My Fitness Pal found each patty has 100 calories, six grams of fat, and ten grams of protein. Multiply that by three and add in everything else, and there's no questioning that the 3x3 can erase any hunger pains. That said, this is far from an everyday burger (or every week, or maybe even every month ...). However, there's a time and a place (like when you're famished and would like to be full for the remainder of the day) when the 3x3 is the most satisfying order at In-N-Out Burger.

2. In-N-Out Burger's Burger Animal Style

Animal Style fries helped make in-n-out's "secret menu" popular. The Animal Style sauce at In-N-Out refers to the spread put on all of the In-N-Out burgers, which, according to food scientist J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, is a Thousand Island-style sauce composed of ketchup, mayonnaise, and sweet pickle relish. Though the spread is put on the other burgers and sandwiches at In-N-Out, ordering a burger Animal Style changes things up in all the best ways.

First, the two burger patties are cooked with mustard for a tangy flavor boost. The bun is covered with even more spread than the classic orders, and the mustard patty, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and grilled onions are put in between the buns. It's the burger for people who ask for "everything" regardless of the type of sandwich or burger they are ordering. More ingredients, plus that mustard-cooked patty, fill the Burger Animal Style out. It's filling and messy. It drips in excess rather than balance but in a way that's satisfying rather than off-putting.

Chefs tend to agree. Six of 21 chefs polled by Eater, including Anthony Bourdain, said that a Double-Double Animal Style (which is the same as ordering a Burger Animal Style) is their go-to order.

1. In-N-Out Burger's Double-Double

The Double-Double is the Goldilocks burger. It has the perfect ratio of meat to bun to trimmings to spread. Whereas the Burger Animal Style is flavor-packed, the Double-Double doesn't need to hit anyone over the head with extras. The meat isn't overpowered like in the single-patty cheeseburger, yet it's not overwhelming like in the 4x4. Balance is what makes food sing, and the Double-Double is like a world-class opera singer who is both approachable and talented.

Of those 21 chefs polled by Eater, many of the ones who didn't say the Burger Animal Style was their favorite opted instead for a well-balanced Double-Double. The Double-Double combo meal is not just number one on the menu, it is number one in flavor. There's no thrill of ordering off the secret (or not so secret) menu, and therefore no credit from the most extreme of In-N-Out Burger fans who hear your order, but the burger itself makes up for it. In the end, it's better to have a great tasting burger than to look like an In-N-Out Burger insider.