I reviewed and ranked every item I could order off of In-N-Out's regular and not-so-secret menus.
The Flying Dutchman and veggie burger were underwhelming compared with other options.
The fast-food chain's Double-Double and Animal Style options were my favorites.
As a West Coast local, I'm a longtime In-N-Out fan.
In-N-Out is about as iconic as it gets when it comes to West Coast fast food.
While In-N-Out's no-frills menu has made the chain a bit of a fast-food anomaly, there's a not-so-secret set of orders customers can also choose from.
Many fellow Californians would argue there's no bad thing to order, but some menu items are more worth the long line than others.
So with the help of three hungry friends, I sampled the burger joint's entire menu and ranked every item from worst to best.
Flying Dutchman - $3.10
The Flying Dutchman looked pretty lackluster, since it's literally just two patties with two slices of cheese. Because of the extra beef, it costs more than a regular hamburger, even without the bread or toppings.
You can opt for a Protein Style burger, which has lettuce instead of buns, if you want something gluten-free, but not everyone wants veggies. Sometimes, you're just craving a no-frills high-protein snack.
It didn't taste bad — nothing at In-N-Out really ever does — but without the warm, soft pillow of the bun, or at least lettuce and sauce, it sort of felt like eating repurposed leftovers.
The item also needed to be consumed right away. Once the melted American cheese and patty came to room temperature, they formed into a chewy mass.
At that point, it was hard for me to view it as a menu item I could take seriously — but with a name like Flying Dutchman, maybe I was never supposed to.
Veggie burger - $2
In-N-Out is known for delicious buns and toppings, so the chain simply removed the beef patty and called the meal a veggie burger.
"Veggie" is a loose description, though, since the ingredients in question are crunchy iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes, onions, pickles, and the chain's signature spread.
This cheese-free option left a lot to be desired. It was essentially like eating a fast-food salad with some bread. The tomatoes were definitely the dominant flavor, which wasn't what I wanted in a burger.
Plus In-N-Out's sauce isn't vegan, so the only way to make the sandwich free of animal products is to swap the Thousand Island-like dressing for ketchup and mustard. That said, I can't imagine eating this without the standard spread.
This vegetarian option was nowhere near as satisfying as the other delicious items on the menu. And without a layer of cheese or a meat patty to absorb all the moisture from the veggies, the bun got soggy pretty quickly.
I'm not sure if I'd order this again, but maybe if I had been more innovative and stuffed french fries between the buns, it would've been more substantial.
Strawberry shake - $2.60
Compared with the chain's other shakes, this strawberry one didn't quite deliver.
It wasn't bad. The strawberry flavor was bright and sweet, with notes of vanilla that rounded out the fruity taste.
But it had a slightly synthetic flavor that reminded me a little too much of strawberry Nesquik.
So if you're looking for a fresh taste, skip the strawberry shake and go for one of the others.
French fries - $2
They don't come with any additional seasoning except extra salt packets, and they're usually a bit soft and limp. They're sort of a bland, starchy afterthought on a menu focused on burgers.
But the fries I tasted for this review were very fresh. If you peek into In-N-Out's open kitchen, you can watch employees smash whole potatoes into hand-cut sticks.
Plus letting the customer control the amount of salt they add makes for a more customizable experience. I ate mine as they came and genuinely appreciated how they didn't leave a salty feeling in my mouth.
Once dipped in sweet ketchup, their undersalted taste wasn't a big deal. And if I alternated bites with a burger, the potato flavor stood out way more.
But despite holding up to the ketchup better than I expected, these could've been much crispier. If you want crunchy fries, order them well done.
I didn't totally hate these, especially since the price seemed fair.
Hamburger - $2.80
In-N-Out has proved you can win customers over with high-quality simple ingredients in the right proportions. I could tell the chain viewed burger making as a craft just by looking at this hamburger.
The ratio of meat to toppings to bread was Goldilocks-level perfection.
The beef patty was quite thin, but it made for a better burger. Plus, In-N-Out's patties are entirely preservative- and additive-free.
As I bit into this burger, I savored the fresh, crispy produce and juicy grilled beef. I also loved how the potato bun perfectly fit the patty.
This burger also stood out with its nearly picture-perfect produce. The tomatoes tasted fresh and flavorful, as if they had been handpicked from a private garden. The lettuce was crisp and refreshing, and the white onions had a nice, sharp bite.
I usually have a strong preference for red onions on burgers since they're milder, but In-N-Out might've changed my mind.
The sauce, sporting a tangy, slightly sweet flavor that enhanced the savory and salty notes in the burger, was more like a dressing because it was thinner than mayonnaise.
I'd order this again without question.
Cheeseburger - $3.10
I don't ever eat American cheese at home, but I can't imagine any other slice going with this patty. The mild taste and natural melty texture enhanced the beef's savory flavor and juiciness quite well.
My burger came with bread, patty, cheese, and In-N-Out spread. There wasn't any produce on it, even though photos of the cheeseburger have lettuce, onion, and tomato, so I think there may have been a mistake.
Even though In-N-Out's beef is delicious, this was quite underwhelming.
Between the one-note chewy texture and boring colors, this would've tasted better if it had a pop of crispy lettuce or the bite of white onion.
4x4 - $7.15
As implied by the name, this burger has four patties with four slices of cheese. I've heard this is where In-N-Out caps the official number of stacks you can ask for on a single burger (unless you order à la carte and manually add them).
I have respect for anyone who orders this because I think it had way too much meat for a single serving. We cut the burger into sections to share, and I still felt uneasy knowing the patties in a quarter section added up to the amount of beef in a regular burger.
This was also difficult to eat because of how tall it was. Even when I managed to get a good bite, I didn't care for how overly meaty it tasted. The tomato, lettuce, and pickles were totally muted under the beef flavor.
With the extra meat came more weight and juices, which made the lower, thinner portion of the bun pretty soggy.
But as massive as this burger was, the stacks of meat stayed perfectly aligned, possibly because of the curvature of the bun holding everything together or the secret sauce serving as a glue.
This is the most expensive item on the menu at $7.15 for just the burger, which almost defeats the purpose of eating at In-N-Out, since it's partially known for reasonable prices.
Why In-N-Out added this to its secret menu, I will never really know, but if you're a serious carnivore, you'd probably appreciate it. Even if you're looking for something beefy, I'd say the 3x3 is the way to go.
Protein Style hamburger - $2.80
Because In-N-Out's toasted buns deliciously hold everything together, this Protein Style burger seemed silly to me, but my prejudgment turned out to be a bit harsh.
The iceberg lettuce somehow worked as a burger wrapper. Its crunchy, refreshing qualities made for an interesting background to the bold flavor of beef, onions, sauce, and tomatoes.
Unfortunately, this burger became less uniform after every bite, with pieces of lettuce frayed about in the wrapper as I got to the middle.
Without the bun to absorb the juices, sauce leaked out of the sides, making for a messy eating experience. And since iceberg lettuce is mostly water, the paper sleeve struggled to hold in all the moisture.
Nevertheless, I cannot recommend this Protein Style burger enough to people following a low-carb diet. Every single component tasted as fresh and yummy as it normally does.
If I ever became more mindful of my carb intake, I could see myself ordering this Protein Style burger again. But I don't think I'd ever ask for it Animal Style.
3x3 - $5.80
In-N-Out's 3x3 makes a really good case that the best things come in threes.
With three layers of alternating beef and American cheese, this burger had a savory, fresh flavor.
All the sauce was concentrated on one of the buns, rather than on both ends. I liked how as I sank my teeth into the tender, juicy burger, my palate was hit with the meat flavor before giving way to the refreshing, crunchy lettuce and sharp onion on the bottom.
That said, it's clear the 3x3 is fit for meat lovers who think of produce as just burger enhancements. But I'm someone who's all about tasting every topping, so this wasn't my favorite.
Plus, $5.80 is a pretty steep price since it's not really anything new.
I'm not sure if I'd opt for this again, but I'd recommend it to anyone with a large appetite. If you're really hungry but don't want to order two burgers, the 3x3 is guaranteed to leave you feeling super satisfied.
Grilled cheese - $2.60
When I was a vegetarian, In-N-Out's grilled cheese was my staple.
At a glance, the grilled cheese is essentially a cheeseburger without the beef. And while some may ask why the chain doesn't opt for a veggie patty, I don't think it needs to.
Serving a grilled cheese on a toasted hamburger bun is revolutionary. It made for a much breadier bite, and the combination of the fluffy interior, ever-so-slightly toasted edges, and melted American cheese was simply scrumptious.
It can be ordered plain with just cheese and bread or with all of the standard burger toppings for a more substantial meal.
I opted for the full experience this time and, honestly, didn't miss the meat at all. The combination of the creamy, slightly salty American cheese with the tangy spread was divine.
There was something about eating a grilled cheese with tomato slices that made it feel like I was essentially enjoying a grown-up version of one of my comfort foods.
I also appreciated that it validated the experience of vegetarians who have visited fast-food restaurants and ordered burgers without patties, to the confusion of cashiers. At In-N-Out, I could just ask for a grilled cheese.
Vanilla shake - $2.60
Creamy, sweet, and rich, this vanilla shake hit all of the right notes. It had a yummy, bold flavor that didn't taste artificial and paired beautifully with the savory and salty food on the table.
But what made this drink memorable was how smooth the ice cream was. I'm well aware In-N-Out has a shake machine, but that doesn't take away from the great ingredients.
Were it not for the shake being served in In-N-Out's signature palm-tree-stamped cup, you could probably fool me into thinking it came from a creamery.
I'm usually not one for plain vanilla treats, but I appreciated that there were no added mix-ins like brownies, candy, or whipped cream to distract from the flavor.
While this shake was delicious, I struggled to sip it through a straw because it was so thick, so I ended up popping the lid off and using the straw as a spoon.
Despite that minor flaw, this vanilla shake was satisfying. If you're looking for a no-frills dessert that's reliably good and will pair well with your meal, look no further than this one.
Chocolate shake - $2.60
As a chocolate lover, I may be slightly biased in ranking this shake above the vanilla one.
But this chocolate option was all the more memorable — as soon as I tried it, I felt like I was transported to an old-school diner.
The cocoa flavor was silky smooth and sweet, likely the byproduct of mixing rich vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup, rather than simply combining chocolate ice cream and milk.
I find chocolate shakes made with just chocolate ice cream tend to lean more into the cocoa's bitterness and sometimes border on chalky, while the other option produces a flavorful, decadent treat.
In-N-Out's version struck just the right balance of milky and chocolaty. Once I tried it, it was pretty much impossible for me to put down.
All the compliments to whoever engineered this recipe, because it is absolutely superb.
Animal Style hamburger - $2.80
Animal Style is probably In-N-Out's biggest claim to fame. It doesn't cost any extra to add to your order, but it seriously upgrades the entire meal.
The phrase is the code word for adding extra sauce, pickles, and grilled onions to your burger. The onions were caramelized golden bits of natural sweetness that tasted divine.
It also upgrades your meal with a mustard-grilled patty, complete with a nice golden crust on the edges of the beef that held in all of the moisture, while adding a subtle kick of flavor.
For years, I incorrectly assumed the extra dressing caused this change but was pleasantly surprised to learn something as simple as yellow mustard could make that much of a difference.
The combination of the upgraded patty with the sauce, vinegary pickles, and onions created a complex explosion of savory, sweet, and tangy flavors that made the burger taste like something from a sit-down restaurant.
Plus the extra pickles and onions added different textures that played well with the soft bun, slightly chewy meat, and crispy lettuce.
It was so yummy that I barely noticed it didn't come with cheese (unless you order an Animal Style cheeseburger). If you're going to visit In-N-Out, you must give this a try.
Animal Style fries - $4
Perhaps the superior of the Animal Style options, these fries had a surge of flavor from the addition of cheese, caramelized onions, and the chain's signature spread. They were absolutely delicious.
Since In-N-Out's fries aren't salty and are cooked in neutral sunflower oil, they perfectly paired with the thick sauce.
The potatoes were softer than most fast-food fries, giving way for a mouthfeel that reminded me of a potluck side dish.
The potatoes weren't the star, but rather a vessel for all of the delicious toppings, so the combination of savory, sweet caramelized onions, tangy dressing, diced pickles, and melted cheese may be yummy enough to win over those who despise the soft texture.
This option was quite messy, though. And I'd recommend sharing this order with a friend because it needs to be eaten fresh. When trying it for this review, the cheese eventually got kind of gross and clumped together with the spread.
And at room temperature, the limp structure of the fries became more apparent, and they developed an unusual leftover-food taste, but you can order your fries well done to avoid this.
Many other chains have cheese fries, which are wonderful and delicious in their own right, but none are quite doing it like In-N-Out.
Whenever friends ask me what to order, I always say Animal Style fries.
Double-Double - $4.45
Right off the bat, I could tell the Double-Double was going to be my favorite of the burgers.
It looked the most appetizing. In addition to the toasty bun and standard toppings, it sported an extra patty and cheese slice that made the burger appear more stuffed and substantial without going overboard.
I loved how the melted American cheese clung over the outsides of the stacked patties, forming a cheese curtain that was practically begging me to take a bite. Plus colorful produce lied neatly on the beef, and ample spread covered the entire surface of the bun.
Tastewise, this was far superior to the 3x3 and 4x4, since the taller the burger, the less consistently cheesy and uniform it becomes.
But the Double-Double's extra 2 ounces of beef gave the meal just the right level of heartiness, while the mix of lettuce, tomato, and onion served as delicious accents.
Best of all, it wasn't greasy, even with the extra meat and cheese.
If you don't want the extra cheese, you can order just double meat. I recommend getting this Animal Style as well.
Overall, it was a delicious, well-crafted burger — an all-around perfect 10 in my book.
Read the original article on Insider