Make Your Own In-N-Out Burgers

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Make Your Own In-N-Out Burgers

What's up TQfam, I found this post, and I had to share with y'all. If you ever wondered what them In-N-Out burgers from Cali are all about, you can finally make your own with this step by step guide.

The Burger Lab: The Ins-n-Outs of an In-N-Out Double-Double,

It's time for another round of The Food Lab. Got a suggestion
for an upcoming topic? Email Kenji here,
and he'll do his best to answer your queries in a future post. Become a
fan of The
Food Lab on Facebook or Twitter
for play-by-plays on future kitchen tests and recipe experiments.

serves two 1/4-pound burgers

  • 1/2 pound fresh beef chuck with plenty of fat,
    cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • 2 soft Hamburger buns, preferably Arnold brand
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 dill pickles chips
  • 2 quarter-inch-thick slices ripe tomato
  • 2 leaves fresh iceberg lettuce, white core
    section removed, torn to bun-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard
  • 4 slices deli-cut American Cheese

Gone animal. [Photographs: Kenji Alt]

The In-N-Out Double-Double Animal Style at Home

East-Coasters rejoice!: Make
your own In-N-Out burger! »

You West Coasters have it easy. Your dogs have yards to run in. Your
grapes have vines to grow on. You get to watch the sun setting and
the ocean at the same time. You're never faced with the tough decision
of Motorino
Brooklyn or Motorino
Manhattan. Even the darn earth's rotation goes in your favor,
letting you sleep three hours later than me every single morning!

And all that before we even mention In-N-Out, perhaps the second most
compelling reason to move out west
like my wife would like me

I've been a rabid, if underexposed fan of the cult-ish fast food
burger joint since I tried my first Double-Double (that's two patties,
two slices of cheese) a couple years back. As burgers go, it's an oddity
in my book, in that it's not about the beef.

It's a bomb that's rigged to hit every
pleasure center on my brain's taste analyzation terminal
the fresh-never-frozen patties are tasty enough, but the sandwich is
more than that. It's the interplay between the ooey-gooey American
cheese, the sweet, darkly-toasted bun, the juicier-than-average
tomatoes, the crisp iceberg, the full, un-separated-into-rings slice of
onion, and the all-important sweet, tangy, pickle-laden Spread. It's a bomb that's rigged to hit every pleasure center
on my brain's taste analyzation terminal (by which I mean my
tongue). Salty, sweet, savory, soft, crisp, and fresh. "Overrated",
people say? I think not. Let me quote the much more
eloquent Nick Solares in saying "In-N-Out
at the very least represents the platonic ideal of what a fast food
hamburger should be."

Order the burger "Animal Style" off of their not-so-secret
menu, and you bring the party to a whole new level. The onion slice
gets replaced with a dollop of a sweet, darkly caramelized chopped
onions, an extra stack of pickle chips goes underneath the tomato, and
the patties get fried with mustard directly on the griddle.

But here's the thing: I've had my share of regular In-N-Out
burgers, but never an Animal Style.
That's something that
needed to change, and stat.

Of course, the biggest problem with In-N-Out is that due to their
commitment to freshness, they have a policy of never opening up a
location that's not within a day's drive of their meat processing plant
in Baldwin Park, California. For us East Coasters, that leaves two
options: We lobby to put money into revolutionizing our ground
transportation system and wait, or we get off our a*ses and try and make
the darn things ourselves.

Option 2 sounds much more fun to me.

Fresh Frozen

Before I could begin, I'd need to get a good model to work off of.

The Mission: Get a West-Coast-only In-N-Out Animal
Style Double-Double to my New York front door with less than 24 hours
notice. There was only one man up to this job: I put in
a call to my former MIT colleague Marios
Assiotis. There are certain things that slightly nerdy Cypriot
expats living in San Francisco and working for Microsoft are
particularly cut out for.

Needless to say, he jumped at the excuse to hit In-N-Out. $120 in
overnight delivery fees later, the UPS man showed up at my door at 9:30
the next morning, golden package in hand.** Inside were two regular
Double-Doubles, two Animal Style Double-Doubles, two plain cooked beef
patties, two packets of Spread, and one large chunk of dry ice to freak out Dumpling

I knew that the flavor of a frozen-then-thawed burger could never
compare to the freshness of the original, but nevertheless I felt
compelled to resurrect them—not a minor feat in and of itself!

After a totally failed attempt at reheating one whole, I realized
that the best way is to separate it into individual components, and
reheat each individually, tossing the veg and replacing them with fresh
ones. Within the hour, I had my lunch of Zombie In-N-Out burgers:

Why did you disturb my peaceful slumber? [Photograph:
Kenji Alt]

Delicious? Certainly. As good as real? Absolutely not. But still, as a
research tool to base the rest of my fresh sandwich construction on, it
was invaluable.

Spread 'em

I never understood why In-N-Out refers to their sauce as "Spread".
Maybe they're just a little too cool for school. In any case, all it is
is a basic Thousand Island-style dressing: a mixture of ketchup,
mayonnaise, and sweet pickle relish
. But as anyone from the Thousand Islands will tell you,
not all dressings are created equal. What's the exact ratio of ketchup
to mayo? Are there other seasonings involved?

Now, gifted as I am with an extraordinarily delicate and precise
palate, I could do this the artistic way, tasting the path to victory,
adding a little of this and a bit of that until I'd achieved a good
enough balance. But the inner nerd in me is always seeking ways to
express itself, so I decided to take the mathematical approach.

According to the In-N-Out
nutrition guideline, replacing the Spread with ketchup results in a
decrease of 80 calories per sandwich. I know that ketchup has about 15
calories per tablespoon, so If we estimate that an average sandwich has
about 2 tablespoons of sauce on it (that's the amount that's inside a
single packet), then we can calculate that the Spread has got about 55
calories per tablespoon (110 calories in two tablespoons of Spread minus
30 calories in 2 tablespoons of ketchup = 80 calories difference in the
sandwich). With me so far?

It just so happens that relish has about the same caloric density as
ketchup (15 calories per tablespoon), and that mayonnaise has a caloric
density of 80 calories per tablespoon. Using all of this information and
a bit of 7th grade algebra, I was able to quickly*** calculate that the
composition of the Spread is roughly 62 percent mayo, and 38
percent ketchup/relish blend:

To calculate the ratio of relish to ketchup, I washed two tablespoons
of Spread through a fine mesh strainer, which got rid of the mayo and
ketchup, but kept the pickle particles. Two tablespoons of
rinsed Spread resulted in 1 teaspoon of strained pickle relish.

So the final Spread formula (rounded to the nearest convenient
measure) was: 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons mayonnaise (62 percent), 1
tablespoon ketchup (23 percent), and 2 teaspoons pickle relish (15
percent). Damning the math, I also decided to add a tiny splash of
vinegar and pinch of sugar to round out the flavors before moving on to
the next phase of the operation.

Sweet Success

A regular Double-Double gets a full slice of onion in between the two
patties. Upgrade to an Animal style, and those onions come intensely
caramelized, their sweet complexity playing perfectly off the beefy
patties. We're talking onions slow-cooked to oblivion,
French-onion soup style.
They're melted into a near fondue-like

I've had some experience cooking onions, but my first try at these,
done by simply slow cooking a fine dice of onions in a little oil fell
miserably short. They were brown alright, but they still had a distinct,
crunchy, oniony texture. I was cooking them over the lowest heat
possible, but they simply weren't melting—they were threatening to burn
before they were sufficiently broken down.

if onion soup-like texture is what I'm
after, why don't I use the onion soup method?
Then I
thought—if onion soup-like texture is what I'm
after, why don't I use the onion soup method? I slowly
caramelized onions in a little oil, then deglazed the pan with a little
water and repeated this process several times, allowing the liquid to
evaporate and the onions to brown further with each iteration. By doing
this, the onions cool as they cook, allowing for slower caramelization,
as well as distributing the browned sugars more evenly throughout the
mix, improving texture and flavor.

That's 6 whole onions there, cooked down to a single
cup of meltingly sweet, spreadable jam.

The Smoking Bun

In-N-Out has their buns custom made for the restaurant, and I briefly
considered baking my own buns for this process, but decided against it.
I can bake a good loaf of bread, but I've never come across a recipe
for a soft, squishy burger bun that's an improvement on the supermarket
offerings. To my mind, a Martin's potato roll or an Arnold burger bun is
the apex of its form. Just like toilets or my mom's dumplings, the best
you can hope for by making them yourself is an interesting variation,
not an improvement.

I scanned the supermarket shelves with my frozen Double-Double in
hand until I found a bun that matched it perfectly in size: Arnold it is.

The only issue is that the In-N-Out buns are a little darker. A
two-minute stay in a 400 degree oven (I used my toaster oven) solved
that dilemma handily. And like all good buns, these ones get
toasted—nearly burnt in fact. It adds a key component to the flavor, and
helps solidify its structure, crucial to keeping the torrent of gooey
juices at bay.

How Fatty's the Patty?

Next up: the beef. This was going to be a little bit tougher. All I
knew so far from the In-N-Out
Food Quality
page was that the beef is 100 percent ground chuck and
that it's never frozen. That leaves a lot of room for interpretation. How
big are the patties? What's the fat ratio?

Well, sizing the suckers was no problem. I simply had my good man
Marios ship a couple of cooked plain patties. They both weighed in at
precisely 37 grams (1.3 ounces). Accounting for the standard 35 percent
loss**** in weight for a well done thin patty, that kicks us up to 57
grams or exactly 2 ounces pre-cooking—that's 1/4 pound for a
***** A nice, round number.

As for fat content, it was time to break out the math guns again. My
goal was to figure out the amount of fat vs. protein in a single
In-N-Out patty. The information I have from their Nutrition Guide:

  • A single burger: 16 grams of protein and 19
    grams of fat
  • A single cheeseburger: 22 grams of protein and 27
    grams of fat
  • A Double-Double: 37 grams of protein and 41 grams
    of fat

By subtracting the value of a hamburger from that of a cheeseburger,
we can calculate that a single slice of cheese contains 6 grams of
protein and 8 grams of fat. Then, subtract the value of a cheeseburger
plus the value of a slice of cheese from the value of a Double-Double,
and you've got the fat and protein makeup of a single burger patty. It
breaks down to 9 grams of protein and 6 grams of fat.
accounting for both moisture loss and fat rendering during cooking
(which in my experience is about equal), that leaves you with a 60
percent lean, 40 percent fat beef blend—a far higher fat percentage
than any store-bought ground chuck.
No wonder the things are
so-darned delicious!

This could mean only one thing: I'd have to grind the beef

I went to the butcher and got the fattiest chuck steaks I could find
and ground them without trimming away any of the excess fat.

And by the way, if any of you are still buying pre-ground beef, you
should stop this instant!
your own meat is super easy, and is the single best way to give any
burger an instant and gigantic upgrade in quality. Do it.

The Full Cast

  1. The patties: 2 ounces each, pressed flat to
    4-inches in diameter
  2. The bun: Arnold, toasted whole in a 400 degree oven
    for 2 minutes, cut sides toasted on a lightly greased hot skillet until
    dark brown
  3. Pickles: Standard on the Animal-style burger. Four
    dill chips
  4. Real American cheese: Thick-sliced, from the deli
  5. Black pepper: Fresh ground
  6. Kosher salt: Lots.
  7. Iceberg lettuce: Fresh, leaves picked, core
    removed, torn to bun-size
  8. Tomato: The best hothouse tomatoes I could find,
    sliced 1/4-inch thick
  9. Spread: Tangy, sweet, creamy, delicious
  10. Caramelized onions: The stuff dreams are made of
  11. Yellow mustard: Signature Animal-Style trick (more
    on this later)

After carefully studying photographs and performing several
meticulous autopsies on my frozen burger cadavers, I derived that the
sandwich is built by first laying a mortar foundation of 2 tablespoons
sauce on the toasted bottom bun, along with a layer of pickles slices
for the Animal Style version. Next comes the tomato, followed by the

As for the patties, Animal Style is described only as "mustard
which in my book, is not all that well defined. For
the complete rundown, I turned again to my spy network (a.k.a. my Facebook
fan base) for support. I was almost immediately aided with photos
(thanks Joe
Sparks!) and detailed descriptions from past (thanks Dave
Tytell!) and current employees.

The process is simple: Sear the patty on one side, and squirt some
mustard on it as it sizzles. Flip the patty over so that the mustard
cooks into the second side.

The patties are covered with the cheese, then the caramelized onions
are applied liberally to a single patty before topping it with the
second, fusing all the elements together into a single cheesy, beefy,
sweet, oniony, gooey, salty, oozy, crispy, meaty, savory, melty,
delicious mess. American food don't get much better than this!

So there I had it: my first taste of an
honest-to-goodness, scientifically re-constructed Animal Style
Double-Double clone. Would it compare with the real thing? Honestly, I
didn't care—it was that good******.

Indeed, the only thing I can think of that would improve this burger
is if it were available across the entire nation or—dare I say it?—the
world. Don't you just love the internet?

Now about those Animal
Style fries...

Thank you guys! Serious Eats
TQ Hosts
TQ Hosts

Number of posts : 746
Location San Diego
XBL Tag TQcast
Preferred System : PS3
Age : 38
Registration date : 2010-01-08

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Make Your Own In-N-Out Burgers :: Comments


Post on Thu Aug 19, 2010 11:52 pm by V8SuperCars

Desz thanks for the post up, im going to show the wife when she is finished at work and maybe try this on the week end or when we can looks like we will have fun making them.

What looks like a simple burger at the first image, ends up a huge process to get it like that.

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Post on Fri Aug 20, 2010 3:08 pm by TheL1T1G4T0R

Awesome!!! Glad to see the recipe here cuz Five Guys SUCKS!

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Post on Fri Aug 20, 2010 5:53 pm by V8SuperCars

Well from ep121, Denoch was totally into 5 guys, dont recall Denoch saying the 5 guys suck also? but im guessing that was private hahahah rotf Laughing

JKS Denoch, that part of the show was so funny, Denoch was like "you are talking about the burger right?" hahahahah.

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