Secrets Of McDonald's You'll Wish You Knew Sooner

McDonald's burger and drink
McDonald's burger and drink - Patcharaporn Puttipon4289/Shutterstock

As everyone's favorite fast food chain, or at least one of the oldest and longest-standing ones, McDonald's remains the restaurant with the most reliable food offerings for its loyal customers. From the nostalgic Big Mac to the McFlurry, we can hardly get our hands on (thank you broken ice cream machines), McDonald's has become synonymous with comfort food around the world. But there's much more to the chain than most people are aware of. For example, did you know that there are quite a few McFlurry flavors you can't get in the U.S. or that dehydrated onions are the secret ingredient to a McDonald's-worthy burger?

The chain has plenty of hidden gems and hacks just waiting for customers to stumble upon and renew their love for McDonald's. Regardless of whether such hacks come from glitches in the chain's app, or from former employees exposing secrets online, there is a plethora of ways to get food free, fresh, and fantastic from the Golden Arches.

On the other hand, McDonald's also has plenty of secrets that might make you frequent the chain much less, like the fact that most of its menu items are pre-cooked and delivered to the restaurant frozen. If you're undecided about your stance on the chain, its little-known secrets may help you decide whether you want to swing by for lunch or avoid Ronald McDonald altogether.

Read more: McDonald's Menu Items That Even The Staff Won't Eat

Some Surprising McDonald's Menu Items Come Premade

frozen fries
frozen fries - Andriy Blokhin/Shutterstock

It should come as no surprise that a global fast food chain like McDonald's serves some ready-made items on its menu. Stuff like the french fries, buns, and ice cream mixes typically come factory-sealed in plastic bags, but it's the things we might think were freshly prepared that may carry some shock value. In a video that went viral on TikTok in 2023 and has since been removed, a McDonald's worker filmed the restaurant's storage room, which had breakfast items like folded eggs and hotcakes stored in sealed plastic packs (via New York Post).

In fact, many of McDonald's breakfast items are pre-cooked, including the McGriddle buns, English muffins, biscuits, and even the burrito mix. According to one alleged former employee on Reddit, ''You wrapped a slice of cheese with the stuff [burrito mix] and it was put in a 'queuing oven' which was a glorified microwave until hot. That's it. No real cooking done.'' Other McDonald's employees on Reddit confirmed that many items came pre-packaged, while older former workers expressed their dismay, saying that many items were prepared by hand in the chain's earlier days. Since efficiency seems to have taken over preparing food fresh at the chain, don't expect the vegetables in your order to be truly fresh either. Employees disclose that they use dehydrated onions in the burgers; the ingredients are soaked in water to achieve a more fresh-looking diced appearance.

You Can Make Your Own McDonald's Secret Menu (Just Ask Nicely)

person holding a McDonalds burger
person holding a McDonalds burger - New Africa/Shutterstock

Secret menus have been all the rage in fast food. However, McDonald's has never officially released one, so most of the secret menu lore you'll find online is the work of creative geniuses testing their luck. Aside from the fairly well-known McDonald's secret menu items, employees took to Reddit to divulge the biggest trick to a secret menu: customization.

As an alleged former employee claims on Reddit, ''Nobody seems to realize how much they really can customize their order. There aren't many things that you can get that aren't on the menu, but you can basically create your own food from what is there. For example, I will never buy a McFlurry. This is because I can just get a fudge sundae, or a plain sundae and add McFlurry topping for WAY cheaper.'' They also mention ways to get expensive chicken sandwiches for cheap by ordering the Southern-style chicken sandwich (currently the Crispy McChicken sandwich) and customizing it by adding sauces and vegetables.

Other employees shared their custom creations which landed them with sweet treats like a funnel cake made with a fried bun, soft serve, and strawberry topping. You can also potentially score cinnamon donuts by topping fried buns with chai latte powder (though of course this can change depending on location and availability). Just be sure to pick a slow hour and politely ask staff to either make it from scratch or provide you the ingredients.

You Can Get Some Favorite Items For Much Cheaper

McDonald's burger, fries, and drink
McDonald's burger, fries, and drink - Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Why pay full price for McDonald's when you can pay significantly less? According to a study by FinanceBuzz, McDonald's prices have seen a 100% increase from 2014 to 2024. Although McDonald's clarified its stance by stating that the number isn't fully accurate as pricing is set by individual franchises, it appears fairly close nonetheless. In response, fans of the chain have found their way around paying full price for beloved menu items like the Big Mac and the Double Cheeseburger.

A Redditor observed that, ''A McDouble and a Big Mac have the same amount of beef to them. The difference between them is the Mac sauce instead of ketchup and mustard, the middle bun, sesame seeds, and lettuce. The difference between a Double Cheeseburger and a McDouble is 1 slice of cheese.'' They claim that you can simply order the McDouble from McDonald's $1, $2, $3 menu and add sauce, lettuce, and extra cheese to imitate the Big Mac (some restaurants may charge extra for Big Mac sauce).

A former employee took to Quora to share hacks on getting cheaper items, suggesting that adults can also benefit from ordering the Happy Meal sans toy, which should be cheaper since the toy costs extra. Another former employee recommends getting the Sausage McMuffin with the round egg added, which is the same as getting the Sausage Egg McMuffin and may save you a dollar in the process.

Those Perfectly Round Eggs Are Fresh

McDonald's egg mcmuffin
McDonald's egg mcmuffin - Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A repeated question among McDonald's customers is whether the perfectly round egg used in the chain's signature Egg McMuffin is real or not. Surprisingly enough, despite the folded eggs that come frozen in a bag and scrambled eggs made with liquid eggs cooked on the grill (which are also arguably "real"), a tried and true grade A egg is made fresh and on the spot for your round egg breakfasts.

An employee answered the most pressing questions customers had about McDonald's on Reddit, revealing the eggy reality: ''They actually are [real]. We have to break the shells and place the eggs in special rings on the grill. We then place a cover over top the rings (our store cooks 8 at once) and put a bit of water into a small funnel at the top. The eggs are steamed and cooked at the same time!'' This checks out with the McDonald's breakfast FAQs, which claims to use Grade A eggs cooked in a metal ring to get that signature shape.

Ordering At The Drive Thru May Get You A Quicker Order

order handover at a McDonald's drive-thru
order handover at a McDonald's drive-thru - Alexander Farnsworth/Getty Images

McDonald's is recognized for its quick service and even quicker meals that are prepared minutes after you order. But you'll often find yourself at the end of a line of cars extending a few blocks down if you opt for the drive-thru, especially during promotions or a particularly generous discount. At times like these, don't pivot to takeaways or dine-ins, as the crowd will likely be double inside, too. Former employees instead recommend that customers stay in line at the drive-thru as McDonald's workers need to prioritize the cars, keeping them moving at a steady pace.

An employee shared the science behind this strategy on Quora, stating, ''We were trained to serve drive through customers first. It's far and away the highest-volume side of the business and drives most (at least 60–70%) of the revenue.'' While dine-in orders at McDonald's may endure a relatively longer wait time depending on volume, drive-thru orders have to be ready when the driver pulls up to the collection window. A former employee shared with Delishably that the total time for drive-thru orders at the locations they worked at was a mere 90 seconds from start to finish. Although McDonald's claims to not set time limits for order completion at its restaurants, the average fast food consumer in the U.S. expects to receive their order within five minutes of ordering (via CivicScience), which drives the quick service of fast food chains.

10:30 A.m. Is The Worst Time To Order McDonald's Breakfast

McDonald's coffee, and McMuffin
McDonald's coffee, and McMuffin - AngieYeoh/Shutterstock

Although we're still mourning its loss, McDonald's all-day breakfast was a real problem for the staff, who had to prepare breakfast orders amidst lunch and dinner rushes. After its 2020 discontinuation, breakfast is back to being available only from opening until 10:30-11 a.m. (the time varies by location). However, the chaos of shifting from breakfast to lunch still has employees under pressure. Chef Mike Haracz, former corporate chef and Manager of Culinary Innovation at McDonald's, shared behind-the-grill facts on TikTok, letting customers know why they shouldn't leave breakfast orders until the last minute.

Haracz explains that the same cooking equipment is used for breakfast and lunch, so at 10:30 a.m., the staff needs to replace hash browns with french fries in the fryers, clear holding cabinets to add freshly-cooked items, and get rid of breakfast leftovers. Seme customers consider this an ideal time to eat at McDonald's so they can get items like the "Mc10:35" (a McDouble and McMuffin mashup) but orders can get messed up in the hassle of menu and shift changes.

Another ex-employee seconded this warning on Delishably, revealing the chain's working conditions. ''Never order breakfast at 10:29 a.m. unless you want them to dig your food out of the waste trays," they claimed. "At the end of breakfast (and throughout the morning), all of the extra food is thrown in a special trash can that is used only for expired products.''

Asking For A Receipt May Give You The Best Order

McDonald's receipt
McDonald's receipt - ZikG/Shutterstock

The internet is littered with ways to upgrade and improve your McDonald's experience, but the best advice may be from employees disclosing what times to order, and what exactly to ask for. In a viral TikTok from 2020, a food creator named Dre Pao shared that the best time to get McDonald's for fresh burgers is between 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. ... and to always ask for a receipt with the order. That's because McDonald's employees expect random spot or inspector checks at these times, from inspectors who will evaluate the order's freshness. These customers are actually secret shoppers who get paid by corporate to visit the restaurant and rate their experience. Employees at McDonald's generally pay special attention to such orders, guaranteeing a great meal and overall experience.

McDonald's acknowledges the role of mystery shoppers in helping to ensure all customers receive the same standard of quality food and customer satisfaction. Any shoppers asking for receipts is said to be a dead giveaway of their identity (they need to get those receipts in order to be reimbursed). This, in turn, reportedly helps them obtain a fresh order each time. If you want to reap the benefits of fresh fast food and for free, you may want to see how to become a restaurant mystery shopper.

Burger Patties Start As Frozen Discs And Are Cooked Fast

frozen hamburger patties
frozen hamburger patties - Yevhen Prozhyrko/Shutterstock

When enjoying fast food, healthiness is hardly on anyone's radar. Still, you should at least know what's entering your system. McDonald's burgers seem to bear the quality stamp of approval as they use 100% USDA-inspected beef. However, this high-quality meat isn't necessarily served fresh, as employees will have you know. A purported McDonald's worker took to Reddit to explain that the beef comes in the form of ''Frozen patties. They went down on the grill as small white disks and came up (after a pre-set time, yes) as engorged pieces of meat.'' To be fair, McDonald's publicly admits that its beef patties are flash frozen.

The flash-frozen state of patties is expected, considering the McDonald's scale of mass production, but the cooking process is similarly speedy. Employees who've worked the kitchens at McDonald's reveal that hamburger patties are grilled in under 40 seconds before being served on burgers or spending a limited time in a holding cabinet. The British branch of McDonald's likewise states that it takes about 42 second to cook a patty, though it takes longer for larger burgers like the Quarter Pounder.

You Can Ask That Your Meal Be Made Fresh To Order

McDonald's kitchen with staff
McDonald's kitchen with staff - IMG Stock Studio/Shutterstock

Once you've had fresh fries straight out of hot oil at the Golden Arches, there's no going back. Although you'll often get a serving of fresh burgers and fries at McDonald's, especially during lunch and dinner rushes when everything is prepared on the spot, there's a chance that some items become cold or stale when you arrive at odd hours. To avoid such mishaps, simply request that your meal is cooked to order. A former employee revealed on Reddit that you can have anything you wanted on the menu made fresh by requesting it that way, so long as you're careful to do so only during low-volume hours. According to them, items like nuggets only take 5 to 6 minutes to cook, and beef items take 4 minutes max.

A few customers have found their way around getting stale fries by asking for unsalted ones, then adding salt later. Still, ordering a freshly-made meal may still be easier. On Reddit, an alleged employee shared that this hack is especially important if you're ordering something like the Filet-o-Fish or the McCrispy, which don't get as many orders and may be left to sit for longer than more popular menu items. Just be prepared to wait longer than usual and compromise on the fast part of your fast food.

Some Hacks Can Get You More Food For Less Money

a McDonald's meal
a McDonald's meal - Patcharaporn Puttipon4289/Shutterstock

With the prices of food rising seemingly everywhere, there's no shame in looking for deals, discounts, and hacks that can get you the best bang for your buck. An especially useful method of getting more food at McDonald's for less is to keep the receipt with your order. That typically has a survey code at the top for a buy-one, get-one free or BOGO meal. Fill out the survey, and you can get a free meal on every purchase of a breakfast sandwich or double cheeseburger, as one Redditor informs. Additionally, the McDonald's app presents a potentially goldmine of ways to get free food, such as a BOGO offer on McDoubles combined with the free medium fry deal on every $2 purchase, which will serve a generous meal for under $4 (of course, prices may vary by location and deals aren't necessarily long-term things).

If you've ever looked down on Happy Meals at McDonald's, look again, as fellow penny-pinchers on Reddit reveal that they offer more value for money than a regular meal. A hamburger Happy Meal is currently around $5.49, and you can sub the apple slices for double fries and get a soda in place of the milk or juice, which is likely cheaper than ordering the items separately. You can also ask for add-ons such as onions, mayo, or Big Mac sauce, which are free at many locations (it never hurts to ask!).

The Ice Cream Machine Might Just Be Getting Cleaned Instead Of Fixed

McDonald's soft serve cones
McDonald's soft serve cones - Karolis Kavolelis/Shutterstock

If we got a penny for every time the ice cream or milkshake machine was broken at McDonald's, we would be fantastically rich. For a fast food giant like McDonald's, it's unusual for basic machinery to always be down -- except that's not always what's really happening. The real reason McDonald's ice cream machines always seem to be broken is more likely that they're just being cleaned, which can be a fairly long (but necessary) process. It's made more time-consuming if someone on the first or last shift forgets to put the machine on its pasteurization cycle.

As one employee on Reddit said, ''The shake machine works just fine, so long as someone remembers to fill it before it gets too empty and goes into automatic 90-minute self-clean mode. It also takes a VERY long time to start up, so if someone forgets, there's no shakes for 30 minutes.'' Employees find it easier to inform ice cream-hungry customers that the machine (which makes both milkshakes and soft serve ice cream) is broken rather than in self-cleaning mode.

However, sometimes the machines are actually broken. Yet the McDonald's partnership with Taylor, the company that manufactures the machines, means that only certified technicians are allowed to fix the notoriously complex machines. Since employees at the chain can't get a hang of its difficult interface, the fixes take longer than many think they should.

Read the original article on Mashed