Fast food is, well, fast, and that leads a lot of people to think there’s no room for innovation.
Luckily that’s not the case, and a few simple tweaks here and there can make your fast-food meal taste totally out of this world. From clever budget menu ordering to the best tricks for getting fresh food, these hacks will have you worshipping the drive-thru.
1. The “Poor Man’s Big Mac”
According to Serious Eats, you can save some dough by doctoring up a dollar menu McDouble. Just ask them to hold the mustard and ketchup, add some lettuce and Big Mac sauce, and suddenly your McDouble is a Big Mac, minus the center bun.
2. Know before you go
In-N-Out Burger may be the most famous for it (animal-style fries, anyone?), but did you know that many fast-food restaurants have a secret menu? Check them out — from Arby’s to Whataburger — before you go so you know just what to order.
3. Get the best fries
Want hot, fresh fries? You can go about it two ways. Just ask for fresh fries, and they’ll usually comply — you just might have to wait a couple of minutes for the new batch. Alternately you can ask for fries with no salt so they have to make a new batch. But a word to the wise: Do the second, and they might hate you a bit.
4. Add Doritos Locos to your Taco Bell
Craving a Cheesy Gordita Crunch and Doritos Locos? You can combine the two by upgrading to a Dorito shell on your Gordita for a few cents more.
5. For fresh food, go during the rush
It makes sense — the busier a restaurant is, the more orders they’ll be going through, meaning your chicken nuggets will spend less time sitting around before they get on your tray.
6. Go custom
One way to get the freshest fast food is to ask for a change. Whether you want to hold the mustard or add some onions, your sandwich will be assembled on the spot. Otherwise you may be doled out a premade, standard-recipe burger that was made hours ago.
7. Get a real egg at McDonald’s
Do you want a real fried egg on your breakfast sandwich at McDonald’s instead of their pre-scrambled mystery egg? Just ask for a round egg, and you’ll get one, identifiable yolk and all.
8. Get more meat at Chipotle
According to some, if you ask for half of two kinds of meat at Chipotle, you’re likely to end up getting more like a 3/4 portion of each — meaning you’ll get an entire extra half portion of meat in your burrito or bowl.
9. Get more beef for your buck
Love Arby’s? Try ordering two junior-size roast beef sandwiches instead of a regular. You’ll spend less but get more of the same food.
10. Get grilled
If you or your kids are vegetarian, this is a great option. You can ask almost any fast-food restaurant for an off-menu grilled cheese. It’s just two buns, inside out, grilled with cheese in the middle.
11. Get literally any smoothie you want
At Jamba Juice, you can ask for any combination of ingredients you want to customize your drink, not just the smoothies on the menu. You can also swap and substitute ingredients in any of its listed smoothies so your beverage comes out just the way you like it.
12. Make it fancy
Want to impress a date with little to no work? Turn your KFC Double Down into chicken cordon bleu — which is also basically just fried chicken stuffed with cheese and cured pork. All you have to do is re-plate it, add a sprig of fresh herbs for garnish and serve with a cloth napkin!
13. Get a “steamed bun” at McDonald’s
If you’re sick of the almost jerky-like, dry and tough buns that come with your McDonald’s burger, there’s a solution. Asked for a steamed bun instead. It’s what they use for the Filet-O-Fish, and it’s light and fluffy, unlike the leathery buns used on the other sandwiches.
14. Eat healthy
Wait, what? It turns out fast-food meals can actually be healthier than eating at a sit-down restaurant. Because you can choose items à la carte — meaning you can forgo the side of fries and sugary beverage — you can actually end up eating a lot fewer calories than at a sit-down meal at your favorite restaurant. Just choose wisely.
15. KFC poutine
Not planning a trip to Canada anytime soon but still craving its national favorite? Just ask for fries topped with hot gravy and cheese — some KFC locations even have cheese curds for an extra-authentic version. It’s the fast-food version of your salty fried favorite and proof that gravy really does make everything taste better.
16. Get cubed
If you love Wendy’s square burger patties, then this is the hack for you. Order four patties stacked on top of one another, and you’ve got yourself… a meat cube. Managing to eat the whole thing? Well, that’s another story.
17. Drink your Nutella
Did you know you can get “Nutella” coffee at Starbucks? Just ask for a Cafe Misto with one pump of chocolate and hazelnut plus a caramel drizzle. It’s almost as good as eating it right out of the jar.
18. The Mc10:35
Probably nothing causes fast-food aficionados more panic than realizing they’re going to miss breakfast by just a couple of minutes by arriving at Mickey D’s after 10:30. But if you get there just a hair on the far side of the line, you’re in luck — you might be able to order a Mc10:35, a heinous-glorious combo of the McMuffin and the McDouble. Just don’t tell your cardiologist you heard it from me.