McDonald's Hacks You Need To Know

You're waiting in a line full of people eager to satisfy their fast food hunger. You've probably done this dozens of times in your life, adhering to the McDonald's menu norm at the time. But what if we told you there's a whole set of unofficial menu options? A secret world between combos nine and 10 at the Golden Arches? Wouldn't it sort of be like learning about platform nine and 3/4 at King's Cross? 

Yes, McDonald's has a secret menu — a list of remarkable items composed of life hacks by pioneers who dared to dream outside the Big Mac. Because of course the menu at McDonald's is nothing short of glorious, but it can also get a bit boring if you eat there often enough. Try these moves the next time you're craving some Mickey D's. You can thank us later (and you definitely will).

The Land, Sea and Air Burger

This monstrosity looks like what you would find if Dr. Frankenstein tackled the fast food industry. The Land, Sea and Air Burger happens when you combine the likes of a Big Mac, Filet-O-Fish and McChicken sandwich, but it's reconstructed and stacked together in a haphazard sort of way.

So if you're feeling adventurous and have a stomach worthy of all that protein, take the dare. You might be in luck and the staff will assemble it for you, but if not, the set-up is fairly simple: just take the fish and chicken patties out of their own individual sandwiches, wedge them in between the hamburger patties on the Big Mac...and you have a monster. Totally up to you if you want to shout "It's alive!" before taking the first bite.

The steamed bun

If you've ever ventured into McDonald's for a Filet-O-Fish sandwich, you'll notice a difference compared to the rest of its sandwiches — the bun is a lot more light and pillowy. You can credit that to a steamed bun. While McDonald's burgers offer a regular toasted sesame bun, the steamed version pairs perfectly with the fish and tartar sauce — and arguably enhances the taste because of its fluffy texture. And believe it or not, you can get that airy doughiness whenever you want, just by asking for a steamed bun with any sandwich.

The Hash Brown McMuffin

Breakfast time at McDonald's is a sacred ritual thanks to the one-two combo of an Egg McMuffin and a hash brown. Together they form a satisfying punch to start the day. But if you're looking for a light and quick modification to any McMuffin sandwich, the solution is right in front of you; stack in that crispy golden hash brown right inside of your already-tasty breakfast sandwich. It's got to be one of the easiest hacks for the morning breakfast binge — and both your mouth and your mind will thank you.

The Chicken Cordon Bleu McMuffin

It's the next morning after an especially wild night, the hangover is more unforgiving than a winter in Canada, and you're openly demanding a brunch sandwich to beat all brunch sandwiches. We get it, and there is a solution. McD's secret menu has you covered with the Chicken Cordon Bleu McMuffin. Thanks to the creative minds in the amateur culinary world, you'll be ordering and combining an Egg McMuffin with an extra McChicken patty. With fried chicken, Canadian bacon, egg and cheese, all smacked between slices of an English Muffin, you can say goodbye to that killer migraine.

Adding an egg to your burger

Here's a fast food fun fact: did you know McDonald's actually sells four types of eggs at their locations? And you can order any of them on any sandwich? McD's offers round eggs, folded eggs, scrambled eggs and scrambled egg whites. That means you can order the Egg McMuffin's round egg on a burger (especially now that breakfast is available all day long). And here's a bonus fact for you: the round egg is the only egg actually freshly cracked from the shell. Regardless, just pick the sandwich you want and specify which egg you want added to it.

The McGangbang

Yes, the name is pornographic, but it's so good, I've chosen to ignore that completely. The McGangbang is a wild option on the McDonald's secret menu — and best part, it gives you the best "bang" for your buck via the famous Value Menu. Simply ask for a Junior Chicken sandwich and a McDouble sandwich. The fried chicken patty will then be placed in the middle of the McDouble hamburger patties. The concoction should amount to just under $3 and give you three slabs of meaty variety. And here's a piece of advice: I recommend being mindful of actually saying "Can I get the McGangbang?" in front of human beings. Actually, now that we're thinking about it, don't even mention the name. Order a McDouble and a Junior Chicken and just build the craziness at your table.

The Poor Man's Big Mac

If you're a fan of the Big Mac but running short on change, how about hacking the McDonald's "Value Picks" again to get the best of both worlds. Let's look at the McDouble sandwich for a moment from that category. Considering that it's a Big Mac, minus the third middle bun and some condiments, all you have to do is order a McDouble, ask for extra lettuce and some Big Mac sauce – and presto, you have a Poor Man's Big Mac. And you can bet you'll be saving some cash — with a Big Mac costing you about $4 and the light version coming to around $1.50.

The Monster Mac

On the complete opposite end of the Big Mac hacking scale is the Monster Mac, a creation destined to give you an ultimate challenge. If you love the Big Mac and want to test the depths of your hunger, order a Big Mac with eight beef patties. It should be stacked as bun, four patties, bun, four patties, bun. Bonus points if you order and survive eight slices of cheese too. Good lord.

There's no guarantee the employees at your local McDonald's employees will actually serve you this monster — you may have to order all the components and assemble it yourself. Also, we're pretty sure that's not fitting into a sandwich box, so you may have to dine in with this beast.

The Poor Man's Chicken Salad

Sometimes, you may be in the mood for something a bit more on the greener and healthier side at McDonald's. Sure, the franchise has instituted a variety of salads to choose from, but if you're trying to hack the system with your wallet, you can still get the chicken salad you're craving for about $3. Start off by ordering a Junior Chicken (hold the bun, ask for extra lettuce) and a side salad. Do your own handy work by chopping up the chicken patty, tossing it into the salad bowl and you've probably got one of the most affordable and tasty salads on the McD's menu.

The Apple Pie McFlurry

Ahh the McFlurry, a frosty staple at McDonald's franchises since it was first served in Canada in 1995. While the creamy treat features vanilla soft-serve swirled with designated mix-ins like Oreo and M&M's, there's a McD's menu hack that calls for mixing in their Baked Apple Pie. Crazy? Yes. Insane? Sure. Delicious? You bet. Think Apple a la Mode...on the go! Just ask the McDonald's employee very nicely if you can order a McFlurry and a Baked Apple Pie and have it mildly blended together.

Make your hash browns even better

McDonald's hash browns are arguably the fast food chain's tastiest menu item, with only the french fries giving them a run for their money. It's no coincidence that Mickey D's two best bites are both salty, deep-fried potatoes — after all, science has proven two things: 1. We are totally and completely addicted to salt (and eat way too much of it — but hey, it's not our fault — it's delicious!), and 2. we can't get enough of that carby potatoey goodness. 

study has shown that along with the other five recognized tastes — salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami — a sixth has emerged: starchy. What do rice, pasta, bread, and potatoes — specifically hash browns — have in common? They're all starchy, and they're all amazing. And when you add a hefty dose of salt into the mix? Forget it. Aside from the fact that it makes everything it touches taste better, another study showed that increased salt levels in rats resulted in lower stress levels, and also "elevated levels of oxytocin — a compound known as the 'love hormone.'" Basically, what we're saying here is that salt has magical powers.

So there you have it — based on science alone, McDonald's hash browns are the perfect food. But we didn't need science to tell us that, did we? We've known for decades that these golden delicious bites, which the fast food chain describes as "fluffy on the inside and crispy and toasty on the outside," belong in the fast food hall of fame. 

And now, thanks to the advent of the McDonald's all day breakfast menu, we get our hands on these deep-fried potato patties for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and any time in between. Yes, the very same patties that Business Insider describes as "essentially perfection — but don't make a meal out of them, as tempting as it may be. The only reason they're filling is that they consist entirely of starch and grease. Order them as a side, not a meal unto themselves." With all due respect to Business Insider, that statement could not be more wrong. Starch and grease are the precise reasons to make McDonald's hash browns the main attraction (it's science, remember?).

See, you can count on a couple things happening when you eat these hash browns. First, you will, without a doubt, curse yourself for not ordering two. One is never enough (no matter what anybody tries to tell you — ahem, Business Insider). You probably want to order three to be safe. An entire bag full would not be out of the question. Also, you will, without a doubt, burn your mouth when you take your first bite. And then, even though you took the skin off the roof of your mouth seconds before, you will take another bite and burn yourself again. You will repeat this process until the hash brown is gone (along with any last bits of remaining skin on the roof of your mouth), because it is impossible not to dig in before you even pull out of the drive-thru lane.

Now what if we told you that there was a way to make those glorious — albeit mouth-singeing — potato patties even better?

Food Beast's Peter Pham, a former McDonald's employee, explains the latest fast food hack that has the internet frothing at the mouth. "I would work the morning shift at Micky D's during my college years, and one of my favorite things to make during break would be extra crispy hash browns. Like all well-done starches, all you would have to do is leave the shredded potato patties in the hot oil a few minutes past the wail of the fryer." And Pham has now discovered that his little breakfast secret isn't such a secret anymore — you can actually order your hash brown "well done" just like you would do with french fries. 

What can you expect out of this hack, which Pham has dubbed a "breakfast time game changer"? He says they're a bit darker in color, and "texturally, they're miles crispier and add a satisfying crunch to your bite. If you're taking your meal to go, they won't get too soggy either." Of course, if you're shoving them in your mouth at top speed, sogginess isn't really a worry...

Does a McDonald's hash brown really need to be hacked? Nope. We could happily go our whole lives eating unadulterated hash browns. But would an extra-crispy version hurt our feelings? Definitely not. Because at the end of the day, there's no such thing as a bad McDonald's hash brown.

In-N-Out, McDonald's Style

The California-based chain In-N-Out Burger maintains a devoted and adoring fan base for their simple menu of burgers and fries, and off-the-menu-hacks that are pretty much an open secret among the chain's most dedicated adherents. But In-N-Out has a presence in only seven states, per ScrapeHero. So, what's a true fan of In-N-Out supposed to do if they've got a craving but are in the wrong place? If you're looking to re-create some of the burger chain's pleasures at a much more ubiquitous McDonald's location, then take heart. It's fully possible to engineer the experience yourself.

For example, one of the most famous and popular modifications at In-N-Out are fries ordered "animal-style." Similar to poutine, the spuds come piled high with grilled onions, melted American cheese, and thousand island dressing. Turns out that it's pretty easy to replicate that with McDonald's ingredients. To do so, simply order some fries with a side of Big Mac sauce (and an extra slice of cheese). Voila! You've now got a pretty good mimic of those classic In-N-Out fries virtually anywhere you want.

In-N-Out Burger also makes, upon request, a sandwich for kids, vegetarians, and finicky eaters. It's a simple grilled cheese sandwich, made up of sliced American cheese on a bun. McDonald's also has buns and cheese, so you politely ask the cashier for a cheeseburger with no meat. Or, if you're craving one of the fancier sandwich rolls, a deluxe sandwich with no meat and cheese only.

New horizons in shakes, floats, and creamy tea

McDonald's sweet, smooth, and creamy milkshakes make an ideal complement to a salty, savory meal of hamburgers, fries, and McNuggets. At most locations and at most times of the year (not counting the seasonal but still much-anticipated Shamrock Shake) a customer's choice of shake flavors is limited to chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. If you want something a little different, all you have to do is ask. If you order a Neapolitan-style milkshake, the McDonald's employee in charge of the machine will layer all three flavors into one cup — just like Neapolitan ice cream

McDonald's also sells coffee and espresso, which can be modified for a new drink hack. Mix coffee in with a chocolate shake for a frozen mocha, or add an espresso shot to a vanilla shake.

Shakes aren't the only drinkable form of ice cream at McDonald's. Customers can devise their own soda float with stuff already on the menu. To do so, order a soda along with a vanilla soft-serve cone. Gently plop the ice cream into the drink and let it settle (and do what you will with the cone itself). A sweet, cold beverage close to boba tea can even be had at McDonald's with a little ingenuity. You won't get the chewy tapioca balls that characterize boba tea, but you can approximate the sweetened milk tea that constitutes the rest of the drink. Simply order a sweet tea, ask for two coffee creamer cups, and mix.

A Big Mac hack for a small price

The Big Mac, one of just a few signature McDonald's menu items, is appropriately named. It's a veritable mountain of meat, bread, salt, and fat, with two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions. There's so much stuff inside a Big Mac that McDonald's had to throw an extra load-bearing half-bun in the middle of it all. In short, the Big Mac is a behemoth.

But the Big Mac also has a pretty big price in the world of fast food — $3.99 on average in 2021, according to Real Menu Prices — which far exceeds many of McDonald's famously more affordable options. And yet, there's a hack to get the price of even the Big Mac down to more wallet-friendly levels. Or, rather, there is a seriously clever way to order a common, cheaper McDonald's sandwich to get what's basically a Big Mac out of the deal.

According to a video by TikTok user @drepaofficial, the secret lies in tweaking the McDouble, a menu item that is essentially a standard McDonald's cheeseburger with an extra patty. It can be pretty easily turned into a Big Mac by requesting one without mustard and ketchup and with Big Mac special sauce added. Seriously, that's all. That makes for a Big Mac at about half the price, just without the middle bread. And if you'd like the same ad hoc sandwich but with extra cheese, start with a Double Cheeseburger instead of a McDouble.

How to score fresh McDonald's French fries

How exactly does McDonald's manage to turn out perfectly-cooked, piping hot meals to customer after customer, and just two or three minutes after the order is placed? It's simple: a McDonald's outlet anticipates the demand for what it will need to have on hand. This means that a franchise's employees must pre-cook lots of items. Ultimately, it's all a matter of assembly and packaging. 

One major example of this is the chain's french fries. As virtually the only side dish offered in combo meals, the average McDonald's sells a high volume of fries each day, so they prepare them in huge batches. When an order comes in, employees just scoop some up out of a warming tray until they're gone and replaced with a new array of fried and salted potato sticks.

But if orders slow and there are still some fries waiting to be sold, they can get a little stale, cold, and generally unappetizing. Fortunately, there's a hack that can be used in an attempt to procure the freshest, hottest fries. In such a situation, according to a McDonald's employee on Quora, you can order fries — but with no salt. Because a batch of McDonald's fries is salted all at once upon cooking, salt-free ones (a legitimate request for health-conscious patrons watching their sodium intake) have to be made to order. Once you get your brand-new salt-free fries, you can go ahead and salt them to your own liking.