This legendary hamburger is a construct of simple ingredients, but until now no one has succeeded in creating a perfect clone recipe—most likely because they miss the subtleties that make this 70-year-old recipe so great.
If there is such a thing as hamburger perfection, In-N-Out Burger has achieved it.
The 330-unit West Coast family-owned chain learned a long time ago that if it ain’t broke, don’t be fixing. This means the menu today looks nearly the same as it did at the first In-N-Out Burger in Baldwin Park, California over 70 years ago. With the exception of the not-so-secret “secret” menu, there are very few decisions to make from the limited choices of a hamburger, cheeseburger, Double-Double, fries, and drinks. It’s this simplicity that pins In-N-Out Burger to the top of every “Best Hamburger” list—a testament to doing just a few things and doing them really well.
The first choice on the menu is the chain’s signature, the trademarked Double-Double which comes with two beef patties and two slices of cheese, and a whole onion slice stacked between them.
There are lots of secrets to share with you regarding the construction of this amazing burger: the crispiness of the buns, the size of the relish, the best beef to use, and how to make a burger “smile”—details that, on their own, seem trivial. But put all of these tricks together in one burger, and you’ll be surprised by how much the little things matter.
Yes, the little things.
Which is a perfect place to start our hacking…
The majority of clone concoctions for the In-N-Out spread that I’ve seen call for sweet pickle relish, and you should steer clear of those recipes. Hacky hackers assume that all pickle relish in burger sauces is sweet pickle relish, but that is not the case.
After running the spread through a fine-mesh strainer and tasting the leftover green solids, it was clear that the relish was not sweet at all, but sour and tart. It wasn’t hard to conclude that the spread at In-N-Out is made with dill pickle relish, and that is why traditional sliced dill pickles are absent from the burgers on the menu board. That would be dill pickle overkill.
Also, the size of the pieces of chopped dill pickle in the relish is very small. Much smaller than the pickle chunks in the bottled relish you buy at the store.
That means you must finely mince the relish out of the jar, before adding it to the spread, to get the same ratio of sourness in each bite as the original burger.
And while you’re in a mincing mode, mince up that onion super fine as well.
Once you’ve minced the relish and onion, combine them with the other ingredients for the spread: mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, vinegar, paprika, and salt.
Stir this up in a small bowl, then give it some alone time.
Just as the quality of chocolate and vanilla determines the quality of your chocolate chip cookies, the ground beef you use in your hamburgers matters a lot. The beef patty is the star of every hamburger, and it can make or break a good recipe. In this case, it’s a double bill, so ground beef is an especially important component.
One big reason In-N-Out’s beef tastes so good is its high-fat content. It’s higher than the 20% fat most commonly found in pre-ground chuck from your local butcher.
Ideally, you want beef that is 25% to 30% fat, and that means you’ll need to grind your own (or have a butcher do it). If you have a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, all you’ll need is an attachment, and it’s well worth having. It’s nice to be in charge of what goes into your ground meats.
It will be hard to tell what the fat percentage of your home-ground beef is, however, but if it looks like the photo above, it should be just right. If you start with a well-marbled chuck roast, there’s a good chance your freshly ground beef will be in the recommended fat ratio ballpark.
If you don’t have a meat grinder and are not planning to get one just because you found a cool hamburger hack on the internet, then get pre-ground chuck with an 80/20 meat-to-fat ratio.
In-N-Out uses fresh, never frozen, beef patties. Judging by the final cooked weight of the patties, the beef portions start at around 2 ounces.
To get the perfect final cooked size of In-N-Out’s patties you must start with circles that are 4 inches across.
Press the ground beef onto wax paper, then place another piece of wax paper on top until you are ready to cook ’em.
When you bite into a fresh hamburger from In-N-Out, you will experience what I call “The Crunch.” It comes from very well-done toasted bun faces that are practically cracker-crisp by the time they get pulled off the grill.
“The Crunch” is not a sensation that you will get from other chains where the hamburgers are wrapped tightly and stacked under a heat lamp. The trapped moisture in those burgers quickly steams away any pleasant crispiness from the bun. To prevent that, an In-N-Out burger is never fully enclosed in its wrapper.
“The Crunch” is easy to replicate by placing the faces of ungreased buns down onto a preheated pan over medium/low to medium heat. Check the buns periodically to see how they’re doing. You want them to be at least as dark as the photo above, and a little darker is even better.
Achieving “The Crunch” will take longer than the 4 minutes it takes to cook the burgers, so start with the buns a few minutes before cooking your beef patties.
And use the freshest, highest quality buns you can find.
Preheat another pan over medium/low to medium heat. Since every stove heats differently it’s difficult to specify exactly where your knob should be set for this step. You’ll have to figure that out for yourself after inspecting the first cooked patty.
If the beef has a nice dark brown crust on it when flipped after cooking for exactly 2 minutes, then your temperature is just right. Keep it there. If not, then adjust accordingly so that your patties are perfectly browned after 2 minutes.
Also, In-N-Out burgers are quite salty. Add a generous shaking of salt and just a pinch of coarse black pepper to both sides of each patty as they cook.
I’m stoked to have discovered this particular insider secret because it cleared up a misconception I’ve had about these burgers for over 25 years.
At first glance of promotional photographs of the Double-Double, it’s easy to assume that there are 2 slices of American cheese on top of each beef patty since the front-facing edge of the cheese is double-thick. That’s why I incorrectly called for 4 slices of cheese in my original hack of this recipe for my first book, Top Secret Recipes. That always felt wrong—4 slices are excessive and it’s not called a Double-Quadruple—but the visual of the folded cheese threw me and I made the wrong call.
This confusion was recently cleared up when I discovered that the chain teaches its workers to “make the burgers smile” by folding the cheese over itself a little bit at the front. Approximately one-quarter of the cheese is folded and then placed, folded-side-down, onto the beef patty. But rather than placing the cheese in the middle of the patty, it’s positioned so that the edge of the burger patty is exposed, making it “smile.” It’s like how you show your teeth when you smile, but in this case, the beef is the teeth.
When fully assembled this exposed edge of the beef patty makes the finished burger look more appealing, and the first few bites are extra cheesy.
When you add the folded cheese slices to your patties once you flip them (add salt and pepper first), be sure to leave about 1/2 inch of the patty uncovered.
And for God’s sake, don’t use the individually wrapped cheese food slices, like Kraft Singles. That is not real cheese and it will ruin your otherwise perfect burger.
Get real American cheese and erase Kraft Singles from your shopping list forever.
Once you place the cheese add a slice of onion on top of one patty and a well-toasted bun on top of the other.
While these patties cook for 2 minutes, you’ll need to build the bottom of your masterpiece.
It goes like this…
Spread about 1 1/2 tablespoons of spread on the crispy bottom bun
Add a slice from a perfectly ripe tomato that is about the same diameter as the bun.
Tear off some iceberg lettuce and squish it gently into the palm of your hand to compress it a bit. They do this at In-N-Out so that the lettuce doesn’t make the burger too tall to fit into the wrapper. Squishing a burger down after it’s assembled is a big no-no because it will compress the fluffy buns and squeeze the spread right out of the stack.
Now we’ll gather up the hot stuff that goes on top.
Use a spatula to stack the top patty with the bun onto the bottom patty with the onion.
Is your cool stack nearby? Hope so.
Slide the hot half of the burger onto the cool half and serve it right away. These burgers are best when eaten immediately.
For a final touch, I bought some sandwich paper at Smart & Final and wrapped the burger in it before serving. You can also do this with wax paper. Before you wrap the paper around the burger, fold over an inch or so at the top to give the paper a nice edge, just like the pros do.
Here’s the entire stack for a perfect In-N-Out Double-Double hack.
Follow the instructions exactly as described and you’ll make one of the best burgers to ever come out of your home kitchen.
Fresh ingredients, the perfect spread, moist beef patties, and a welcoming crunch on the first bite—that’s what a great hamburger’s all about.
— Todd Wilbur, The Food Hacker
What other famous foods can be made at home? I’ve created recipes for over 1,100 iconic foods at TopSecretRecipes.com. See if I cloned your favorites here.
In-N-Out Burger Double-Double Hack
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 tablespoons finely minced white onion
- 1 1/2 tablespoons finely minced dill pickle relish
- 3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound ground chuck, preferably 25% to 30% fat
- 4 small plain hamburger buns
- 8 slices real American cheese
- 4 white onion slices, not separated
- 4 large tomato slices
- 4 small handfuls of torn iceberg lettuce
- Coarse grind black pepper
- Make the spread by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl. Set this aside until needed.
- Make eight patties by rolling 2-ounce portions of beef into balls and forming them into 4-inch circles on wax paper.
- Preheat two large sauté pans over medium/low to medium heat. Start at medium/low and then turn up the heat if needed after 5 minutes of pre-heating.
- To prepare each burger, separate a hamburger bun and place the face of the top and bottom bun on one of the hot pans to toast. The buns are done when the faces are significantly darkened and crispy.
- Cook the beef by placing two patties in the other hot pan. Add a generous sprinkling of salt and a pinch of coarse ground pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, then flip each patty over and salt and pepper each one again. The beef should be nicely seared.
- Immediately after flipping the beef add a slice of American cheese on top of each patty. Before adding the cheese, fold about one-quarter of it over and place it onto a patty with the folded side underneath, but offset so that about 1/2-inch of the beef patty is showing where the cheese is folded. This gives you the "smile." Place the toasted top bun on top of one of the burgers and the sliced onion on the other. Cook the patties for another 2 minutes.
- While the patties cook, prepare the bottom of the hamburger by adding about 1 1/2 tablespoons of spread onto the face of the toasted bottom bun. Stack the tomato slice on next. Pick up a small handful of lettuce and press it into the palm of your hand to compact it so that the hamburger isn't too tall, then add it on top of the tomato.
- When the patties are done, use a spatula to stack the top patty (with the bun) onto the onion on the second patty. Use your spatula to move this whole stack off the pan and onto the bottom of the sandwich. Wrap the burger with wax paper or sandwich paper, if you like, and serve.
CHEESE, CHEESE, CHEESE…. Great recipe BTW – Love the detail. The cheese appears to be the biggest mystery here and everywhere on-line when it comes to the double double. I’ve been trying for years to find a close match in retail and have scoured the internet. You said don’t use Kraft singles but you don’t say what brand of cheese we should use. What brand did you use in this recipe and what brand do you think is out there in retail that might be the closest match? I heard that in-n-out it has it custom made for them. Do we know who makes /packs it for them? From the taste & texture, i get the feeling that there’s some blend of real cheddar and a processed cheese product. remaining very puzzled here… please help anyone
Nice job here! Some comments:
Sauce: Recipe was pretty much spot on. Careful what kind of onion you use as some can be more potent than others. Mincing to small pieces. I also doubled the recipe and added 1 tbls clausen sweet to 2 tbls clausen dill–worked great.
Burger: My only recommendation would be to make the ball, put it between two parchment papers and smash it down flat with a burger smasher or grill press. Cook over cast iron of a flat top.
I followed you recipe to the best of my ability and believe I enjoyed an in&out burger.
If anyone has one of those teflon pancake burners go ahead and set that up to the temperature you desire. The buns need the space and uniformity more than the burgers.
You might use two pans at different temperatures to make the until char and then a lower temp pan for the assembly portion over a fine screen .
I use a gram scale for a 60 gram ball which is close to 2 oz. It’s a finer scale. I prepared 10 patties for the case the thin burger falls apart due to the fact nodules.
Since I misplaced my grinder cutting blade, I had to hand cut into hamburger style . I similar to mincing onions by hand. To get through the 2 lbs I had, I cut a handful at a time and made piles on a board. Then cycles citing each pile into smaller chucks. Once I was recutting the final pile, I was content with the texture a sample patty formed.
One caution during grinding is to keep the meat cool because the fat can warm and run a little. Just precut the roast into small sizes and perform a single pass grind at a moderate rate.
The pallet becomes calibrated to a certain salt level for each person. For that reason, I set a standard weight in grams to use per pound of beef. Adding salt to taste risks to being too salty for some. For me, I find that the American Cheese has enough salt. The use of the word ” plenty of salt ” risks an overly salty burger which we experienced on the first try.
Add a pinch of salt while making the grind so that it may absorb into the meat rather than remain on the outside of the burger like a salt lick.
Cheese thickness and weight and temperature of the meat are necessary to avoid the complete melting of the soft cheese.
The sauce is spot on. It may get better after several hours of rest in the fridge.
I used a special egg based bun with the distinct uniform brown color and great shape that are placed in a protective cardboard fold. Brioche b
Hi Todd, just curious if you suggest any particular brand of mayo/ketchup/mustard. I live in Australia now and am going to try with Heinz. Thanks
I use Heinz ketchup, Hellmann’s/Best Foods mayo, and French’s mustard. These are all major brands in the US.
Just made my first double double following your recipe hack. AMAZING!!! I’m from Cali, born and raised and relocated to Australia a few years ago. The thing I miss most is ofcourse, in n out. I followed your recipe to a T, besides adding a tiny bit of the liquid juice from a jar of dill pickle that I minced and added to the spread to really bring that dill tang. Absolutely fantastic. Thank you for bringing this hack to the world! Keep doing what you do!!
Do you Have a recipe for the special hamburger buns you use for this recipe?
Thanks for your recipe for the finest hamburger sandwich in the entire universe.
I just found your site about ten minutes ago. You see, on June 30, 2020, I ended a 30-year quest to duplicate, with utmost precision, the original In ‘N’ Out recipe. That in itself was cause for jubilation, but when I read your recipe, the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up. You found nearly all the same subtle differences I did (plus a few new ones) that make I&O the only worthwhile burger in all heaven and earth.
We do have a couple of small differences. I can’t stand mayonnaise (or anything made with it) on burgers or anything else, so I left that off, as well as the ‘secret’ menu, which is little more than a heap of stuff all thrown together like a bowl of table scraps for a dog. What I like about I&O is it’s simplicity: toasted bun, meat, fresh onion, lettuce, tomato, cheese and, yes, lots of salt. Period!
By sheer chance, the pattis I found are pre-made, fresh ground chuck, 80-20% – same as you recommend. They also come with a lot of grease. I’ve never had a greasy (or juicy, if you prefer) burger at I&O, so I press out the grease as much as possible during the cooking process.
I&O has several unique features that also make it a favorite of mine. One is their business model. Their starting pay is above minimum wage. They guarantee their managers $100,000 their first year. They refuse to franchise, a deadly move that has killed off great products, from Haagan-Dazs ice cream to Famous Amos cookies. Their incredible reputation has overtaken the need for an advertising budget, and this results in lower prices than their greedy, greasy, grimy, sticky-fingered competitors. They are the one and only junk-food whose products exactly match their pictures. I could go on, but you get the picture!
Take care, Jason
Hello, I’m from Chile. The times I travel to Lax, my favorite food is In N Out. Obviously, these restaurants are not in my country, so making a similar hamburger was a challenge. it was great. The hamburger and the spread were very good for me. Thank you very much for the recipes
Very interesting! What temperature would you recommend in fahrenheit or celius for cooking the patties? I’m at around 250 celius.
It’s a bit sacrilegious but I would assume that they have compromised on the patty size to save money. Do you think their size is optimal or ideally the patties should be slightly bigger?
Tom C Jeffers
Connie and I have practiced the Double-Double and about have it down to perfection. Have only done for 4 people (including us) so far. We bought an extra griddle for the stove and she does the buns and the cold side and I do the hot side. Buns are first to reach that crispy edge. Then I get the tops and she sets up the bottoms with the sauce, lettuce and tomato. I get the patties going and add the folded over cheese and onion. I place the tops onto the bottoms. We immediately wrap them and place in a burger sleeve. We found some burger sleeves on Amazon and cut them down to fit and the waxed paper is that really thin kind that comes out of the box in individual sheets.
We are displaced Californians living in NY so have no access to In-N-Out. Closest we come back here is Shake Shack but gotta go into the city for that. This Saturday we are having some friends over for DD’s. She is also a displaced Californian who also has those fond memories.
Just for interest.
Thanks for this, but can you tweak the recipe to clone the “Animal Style” variation? These guys attempted it, curious to see how you’d do it: https://aht.seriouseats.com/2010/07/the-burger-lab-how-to-make-an-in-n-out-double-double-animal-style.html
Yes!!! I don’t have In-n-Out where I’m from, this is great!
If you read the whole Hack, you would realize that there really is “real” american cheese. Sure, it is a cheese product but is made with quite a bit of real cheddar. It is best to get it in the deli and have it sliced. The whole point is that this is the best thing to be on and In-N-Out! Can you imagine putting an aged cheddar on a double double.? Ridiculous! As the hack says, this is the time to forget you ever heard of Kraft or Walmart singles. Sliced in the deli. That’s it!
What's the frequency, Kenneth?
Seems kinda funny to talk about “real” American cheese, since “American cheese” isn’t cheese in the first place.
Hi Todd, I live overseas and can’t get my hands on dill pickle relish. I had some hot dog relish (dill) shipped to me and was wondering if you could sub that for relish and also leave out the mustard since hot dog relish has mustard already in it. Thoughts?
Do like I do and give it a try. That’s the best way to find out! Let me know how it goes.
Tried it tonite and was absolutely awesome! Need to make a couple of tweaks: We had griddle too hot. Need to figure out the surface temp for “med”, or “med lo” actually is. We have one of those heat sensing guns and will check it out.
Also no instructions for grilled onions: They should be chopped fairly fine and well grilled ahead of time. One tbsp per pattie or to taste
This is from 2 native Californians who chose to move to NY 10 years ago and the only 2 things we really miss is In-N-Out and Costco. We are 2 hours from the nearest Costco..
somewhere stuck in LA
You won’t miss Costco anymore, long lines in the free food line, blocking aisles to get to the products, long check out lines, checkers with bad attitude, screaming kids running all over the place and prices are not that good anymore. I gave up my membership. The only thing I will be missing is In-N-Out burgers and Malibu.
Big Bad John CHA
This looks good, but I’m stumped by the dill relish. Some In-N-Out clones call for dill relish, some call for sweet. Since I can’t get my hands on an In-N-Out burger, I called customer service to ask which they use. The representative said the ingredient information indicated sweet relish.
It’s definitely dill relish. If you strain it out of the sauce and taste it you can easily tell it’s not sweet.
When your operation spans many Western states and numbers over 340 individual restaurants, all owned by the original Snyder family, whatever food supplies you need, you get. In other words, the relish is a custom made just for In and Out product.
Sweet relish has alum to crisp it up. Sour dill relish does not and real kosher dill pickle relish is fermented to create the lactic tang. I’m gonna bet the In and Out relish is a lower sugar, cooked vinegar product with added alim for crispness, made by one of the big producers to In and Out specs. Todd’s hack will get you there as expected.
Todd, It’s time to hack the Smashburger and nail the smash technique. BTW, If you grind your own burger or even pat your own patties, ya got to keep the meat really cold (soft frozen cold) so the fat doesn’t melt or shmear until it hits the hot pan.
What is “real” American cheese??
#Amazing! Keep up the great work! This is SPOT ON!
Don’t have an In and Out where we live but when we travel
to the west, we make sure we get our “FIX” Even buying the burgers to eat on the
plane while we fly home… Can you imagine the people smelling our lunch!!!
Now I can try to get that taste in my home…My mouth is watering!!! Thanks Todd!!!
steve in FL
Oh? So that was YOU!
LOL, j/k.. carry on..
I’m going to take this recipe to the next level by making all the ingredients.
Nope. Too much onion. 2 tablespoons of minced onion is too much.
Try it. My sieve test revealed more onion than relish in the spread.
Glad you finally figured out to use dill relish. I’ve been making this for the last 10 years. Yes I sat there tasting till I finally got it right.
I use Lawry’s seasoned salt on the burger.