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Sandwiches

You lucky devil. You just found recipes for all of your favorite famous foods! Bestselling author and TV host Todd Wilbur shows you how to easily duplicate the taste of iconic dishes and treats at home for less money than eating out. Todd's recipes are easy to follow and fun to make! See if Todd has hacked your favorite sandwiches here. New recipes added every week.

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    Score: 4.70. Votes: 10

    When Popeyes debuted its new crispy chicken sandwich on August 12, 2019, the company was not prepared for the eruption of social media video posts comparing the new sandwich to Chick-fil-A’s classic chicken sandwich. As a result of the apparently unplanned instant viral campaign in which Popeyes almost always emerges as the winner, customers swarmed the stores and waited in long lines to try the now-famous sandwich. The buzz continued to build, day-by-day, and just two weeks after its debut the sandwich had sold out—an entire month ahead of schedule.

    But—sold out or not—you don’t need Popeyes to get the great taste combo of the crispy buttermilk breaded chicken breast, soft buttered brioche bun, mayo, and pickles. Fortunately, I was able to get my hands (and mouth!) on several of the sandwiches before they were gone, and cranked out a clone recipe so you can now re-create the hit sandwich any time you want. With these new tricks you’ll be able to make crispy chicken at home that’s flavorful, juicy, and tender, just like Popeyes, coated in a thick golden breading with the same light crunch.

    The secret to moist, tasty chicken is to brine it for several hours in a mixture of buttermilk, salt, and MSG. The buttermilk is slightly acidic, so it will help tenderize the chicken without making it too tough like harsher acids, while the salt adds flavor (as does the MSG) and keeps the chicken juicy. The MSG (monosodium glutamate) is an amino acid with a salt-like flavor that at one time was thought to be unhealthy but is now considered an important culinary additive. Popeyes uses it in their chicken because it provides an essential savory flavor to the chicken called “umami,” and you cannot make an accurate clone without it.

    To imitate the light, crispy breading, we’ll use baking powder in the flour. The baking powder forms bubbles in the flour when the chicken cooks so that the breading is tender and crispy, rather than crusty and dense. I found that self-rising flour works great since it conveniently has just the right amount of baking powder and salt already added. But don't use a low-protein self-rising flour like White Lily. That brand is awesome for biscuits, but its low gluten content makes it not stick well on chicken breasts. I used Gold Medal self-rising flour, and it worked great. If all-purpose flour is all you’ve got, that can work as well. I’ve put measurements for using A.P. flour, plus baking powder and salt, in the Tidbits below. 

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    Score: 4.17. Votes: 52

    In 1946, twenty-five-year-old S. Truett Cathy and his younger brother Ben, opened a restaurant called The Dwarf House in Hapeville, Georgia. In the early sixties Cathy began experimenting with different seasonings and a faster cooking method for his original chicken sandwich. The finished product is the famous pressure-cooked chicken sandwich now served at all 460 Chick-fil-A outlets in thirty-one states.

    Annual sales for the chain topped $324 million in 1991. That makes Chick-fil-A the fourth largest fast-food chicken restaurant in the world. And Cathy still adheres to the deeply religious values that were with him in the days of the first Dwarf House. That is why you won't find any Chick-fil-A restaurants open on Sundays. 

    Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 3.89. Votes: 9

    The year 1963 was a big one in McDonald's history. The 500th McDonald's restaurant opened in Toledo, Ohio, and Hamburger University graduated its 500th student. It was in that same year that McDonald's served its one billionth hamburger in grand fashion on The Art Linkletter Show. Ronald McDonald also made his debut that year in Washington, D.C., and the Fillet-O-Fish sandwich was introduced as the first new menu addition since the restaurant chain opened in 1948.

    Check out my other Micky D copycat recipes here.

    Source: More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

    Update 8/4/19: Current versions of this sandwich come with the bun untoasted. For a classic version, make yours as described below, or skip step 2. Be sure to microwave your finished sandwich for 10-15 seconds to warm up your bun, and steam the sandwich before serving.

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    Score: 3.67. Votes: 3

    Southern California—the birthplace of famous hamburgers from McDonalds, Carls Jr. and In-n-Out Burger—is home to another thriving burger chain that opened its first store in 1952. Lovie Yancey thought up the perfect name for the 1/3 pound burgers she sold at her Los Angeles burger joint: Fatburger. Now with over 41 units in California, Nevada, and moving into Washington and Arizona, Fatburger has become the food critic's favorite, winning "best burger in town" honors with regularity. The secret is the seasoned salt used on a the beef patty. And there's no ketchup on the regular version, just mayo, mustard, and relish. Replace the ground beef with ground turkey and you've just cloned Fatburger's popular Turkeyburger. 

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.00. Votes: 52

    This In-N-Out Double Double recipe makes a homegrown clone of what I believe is the best hamburger in the world. The ingredients are fresh, and simple and the stacking order is crucial. Certainly one of the secrets to duplicating this and other fast food burgers is getting the beef patties super thin—about 1/4 inch-thick. As for the secret sauce in this In-N-Out burger recipe, Kraft thousand island dressing will do.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

    Update 3/24/18: Get an updated re-tooling of this entire recipe with better spread, new secrets, and lots of photos on my Food Hacker blog.

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    Score: 4.50. Votes: 6

    This clone recipe may be for the whole hamburger, but anybody who knows about Tommy's goes there because they love the chili that's on the burger—and that's the part of this clone they seek. Turns out it's an old chili con carne recipe created back in 1946 by Tommy's founder, Tommy Koulax, for his first hamburger stand on the corner of Beverly and Rampart Boulevards in Los Angeles. By adding the right combination of  water and flour and broth and spices to the meat we can create a thick, tomato-less chili sauce worthy of the gajillions of southern California college students that make late-night Tommy's runs a four-year habit. And if you don't live near one of the two dozen Tommy's outlets, you can still get a gallon of Tommy's famous chili shipped to you. But I hope you really like the stuff, because you'll shell out around 70 bucks for the dry ice packaging and overnight shipping. And don't expect to see the ingredients on the label (drat!) since the chili comes packed in a gallon-size mustard jug.

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.38. Votes: 53

    It's been an Iowa tradition since 1926, and today this sandwich has a huge cult following. It's similar to a traditional hamburger, but the ground beef is not formed into a patty. Instead, the lightly seasoned meat lies uncompressed on a white bun, dressed with mustard, minced onion, and dill pickles. Since the meat is loose, the sandwich is always served with a spoon for scooping up the ground beef that will inevitably fall out.

    When this clone recipe for Maid-Rite was originally posted on our Web site several years ago, it elicited more e-mail than any recipe in the site's history. Numerous Midwesterners were keyboard-ready to insist that the clone was far from accurate without the inclusion of a few bizarre ingredients, the most common of which was Coca-Cola. One letter states: "You evidently have not ever had a Maid-Rite. The secret to the Maid-Rite is coke syrup. Without it you cannot come close to the taste." Another e-mail reads: "Having lived in the Midwest all of my life and knowing not only the owners of a Maid-Rite restaurant but also many people who worked there, I can tell you that one of the things you left out of your recipe is Coca-Cola. Not a lot, just enough to keep the meat moist."

    On the flip side, I received comments such as this one from an Iowa fan who lived near Don Taylor's original Maid-Rite franchise: "The secret to the best Maid-Rite is the whole beef. Don had a butcher shop in his basement where he cut and ground all his beef. Some people still swear they added seasoning, but that is just not true. Not even pepper."

    Back in my lab, no matter how hard I examined the meat in the original product—which was shipped to me in dry ice directly from Don Taylor's original store in Marshalltown, Iowa—I could not detect Coca-Cola. there's no sweetness to the meat at all, although the buns themselves seem to include some sugar. When the buns are chewed with the meat, the sandwich does taste mildly sweet. I finally decided that Coca-Cola syrup is not part of the recipe. If it is added to the meat in the Maid-Rite stores, it's an insignificant amount that does not have any noticeable effect on the flavor.

    Also, the texture is important, so adding plenty of liquid to the simmering meat is crucial. This clone recipe requires 1 cup of water in addition to 1/4 cup of beef broth. By simmering the ground beef in this liquid for a couple hours the meat will tenderize and become infused with a little flavor, just like the real thing.

    When the liquid is gone, form the ground beef into a 1/2 cup measuring scoop, dump it onto the bottom of a plain hamburger bun, then add your choice of mustard, onions, and pickles. Adding ketchup is up to you, although it's not an ingredient found in Maid-Rite stores. Many say that back in the early days "hobos" would swipe the ketchup and mix it with water to make tomato soup. Free ketchup was nixed from the restaurants way back then, and the custom has been in place ever since.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.82. Votes: 44

    Brothers Dick and Mac McDonald opened the first McDonald's drive-in restaurant in 1948, in San Bernardino, California. When the brothers began to order an increasing amount of restaurant equipment for their growing business, they aroused the curiosity of milk-machine salesman Ray Kroc. Kroc befriended the brothers and became a franchising agent for the company that same year, opening his first McDonald's in Des Plaines, Illinois. Kroc later founded the hugely successful McDonald's Corporation and perfected the fast food system that came to be studied and duplicated by other chains over the years. The first day Kroc's cash register rang up $366.12. Today the company racks up about $50 million a day in sales in more than 12,000 outlets worldwide, and for the past ten years a new store has opened somewhere around the world an average of every fifteen hours. The double-decker Big Mac was introduced in 1968, the brain-child of a local franchisee. It is now the world's most popular hamburger and it is super easy to duplicate at home. You can use Kraft Thousand Island dressing for the special sauce, or follow the link in the Tidbits below to a recipe for cloning the special sauce from scratch.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

    For a live demo of the McDonald's Big Mac Recipe, check out this video.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 14

    If you're like me, that "limited-time" the McRib Sandwich is on sale is much too limited. But that's okay. If you've got a food processor you'll never have to go without the taste of the saucy sparerib sandwich that's dressed with pickles and onions and served on a soft, warm sandwich roll. The food processor is essential for grinding up meat that's been cut away from the bones of a large rack of uncooked pork spareribs. Once you shape the meat into patties and freeze it, you'll be able to make cloned McRibs any time you want in your own kitchen in less than 10 minutes. Follow these steps exactly and you will be shocked at how similar your home version tastes to the real McRib McCoy.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes: Step-by-Step by Todd Wilbur.

    Check out Todd's video demo: How to clone a McRib.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    When pondering casual chains with the best Monte Cristo sandwiches, two come to mind: Bennigan's and Cheddar's. They are both turkey, ham and cheese sandwiches, battered and crispy on the outside, dusted with powdered sugar, and served with raspberry preserves for dipping. Yes, it probably sounds strange if you've never had one, but monte cristo alums know it all tastes really great together. I hacked Bennigans' version years ago for my cookbook Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2, and recently, on a trip to Charlotte, North Carolina, was I able to get a taste of Cheddars' signature version of this famous sandwich.

    I planned for this mission by bringing along a cooler of ice so that I could get a fresh sample safely back home on the plane. Once I was back in the lab in Vegas I subjected the sandwich to a series of tasty tests, ran through several versions of batter, and eventually assembled this new Cheddar's Monte Cristo copycat recipe that I think is even better than Bennigan's version. The better batter is the big secret here—it's light and crispy, and perfectly golden brown, and the sandwich features two cheese, both white and yellow American cheese. Will this be the best monte cristo you've ever had? Do this to find out...

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