In-N-Out Burger Styles Ranked

Sing that catchy jingle along with us: "In-N-Out. In-N-Out! That's what a hamburger's all about!" This tagline speaks the absolute truth. In-N-Out is an iconic California-based fast food purveyor that has been serving up beefy patties since opening its first location in Baldwin Park in 1948, via Mashed. The food's steadfastly reliable quality over all these years has earned it a legion of devout fans.

Most importantly, you can't beat their extremely low prices. But what makes this burger chain stand out among the competition is that it's firmly committed to an "always fresh, never frozen" policy. As such, it has been adamant about keeping locations as close as possible to California. So, if you are craving In-N-Out, heed the advice of Horace Greeley and "go west, young man." But there is also some hope on the horizon for those who are east of the Mississippi River as In-N-Out has announced plans to expand to Tennessee (via NPR).

For In-N-Out rookies, upon first glance at the menu, their offerings appear to be rather bare bones. However, your order is actually highly ready for customization, and the staff is happy to accommodate any reasonable request. There is famously a not-so-secret "secret menu." We'll guide you on the best of the basics, the hidden treasures, and what to perhaps avoid.

12. The Flying Dutchman

If you want the perfect mouth-watering photo to post on social media to brag about your trip to the west coast, this "secret menu" item is absolutely not the option to pick from In-N-Out. The Flying Dutchman is lacking buns, and there's no lettuce, tomatoes, and no onions. It's just beef and cheese. If that sounds like your ideal "burger," then go for it. It's from In-N-Out, so it's guaranteed to be at least somewhat good. But visually speaking, don't expect a ton of "likes" for a photo of this menu item on your Instagram post.

This particular "burger" is also guaranteed to leave a giant mess on your face as well as your hands, given that it doesn't have that protective bun layer to mop up the juices. You will definitely require extra napkins, so consider gathering a giant handful as you wait for your order to be finished. For all the above reasons, we would suggest a different approach.

11. Going Without the Spread

The spread that's slathered onto In-N-Out buns is heavenly perfection. Why would you want to miss out on it? After all, who wants a dry burger? Of course, everyone has their own particular palate preferences and perhaps this sauce just isn't for you. Much like the famous french fries that In-N-Out offers, the spread can be a bit polarizing. You can find ketchup and mustard at any fast food joint, though, so we advise betting on the spread.

What's in it, though? What could possibly make a sauce so controversial? It's best described as a riff on Thousand Island dressing, which we would concede is not everyone's cup of tea. Though it tastes similar to Thousand Island dressing, In-N-Out rightly is not forthcoming about the exact ratio within their signature special sauce. It's rumored to be ketchup-based, blended with mayonnaise, and then sprinkled with a sweet and sour relish. There are probably a few other secret ingredients in the mix, too. If you're interested in trying to recreate an In-N-Out burger at home, we would recommend this Thousand Island dressing recipe that includes paprika, gherkin, and sweet onion relish.

10. Protein Style

If you're trying to cut down on the carbs, don't hesitate to make a trip to In-N-Out as the friendly staff there has your back. When carbs are not a part of your current diet, think outside the bun and ask them to make your order Protein Style. This option eliminates the bread altogether, which we think is a bit unfortunate because the fresh sponge-dough slices are cooked on the griddle and wonderfully warm and toasty. Still, you won't have to miss out on the delicious burger in the end. 

Unlike the pure meat and cheese that a Flying Dutchman delivers, Protein Style is wrapped in a thick, crispy sheath of iceberg lettuce. The shock of all that greenery may actually trick you into thinking what you're about to eat is healthy food. The way to order this particular item is to simply start off by specifying the particular burger that you want — hamburger, cheeseburger, or Double-Double. Then ask for it Protein Style, and soon enough you will be in bunless burger heaven.

9. The Grilled Cheese

If you're a vegetarian and find yourself pulled into an In-N-Out by your carnivorous family and friends, don't be intimidated. Though the restaurant is beloved for its beefy burgers, an important and key component to much of the menu is cheese. After all, what's a burger without cheese or those delectable "Animal Style" fries without a slice on top? 

If grilled cheese sounds like an uninspired pick, maybe focus on the vegetables. Request grilled onions — a popular choice with meat-eaters as well. And if you like some heat, call upon their yellow hot peppers as a filler. Think of the item is a blank canvas for whatever your heart desires. 

For the vegans out there, you can order an all veggie sandwich, though you will wan to be sure to request no mayo-based sauce and opt for ketchup or mustard instead. Beyond that, there are the french fries, which are cooked in sunflower oil. If you've had them before and are not particularly a fan, perhaps try specifying how you want them cooked. You can request them to be lighter done or more well done. We'd also advocate for a sprinkling of black pepper on top to help you become a fan of the fries.

8. The 2x1

Maybe you've heard of the numbering system that In-N-Out uses for special orders, but aren't quite clear on what it all means. You don't need to really be flummoxed by whether what you want is a 2x1, or a 1x2.

In In-N-Out lingo, the first numeral refers to the amount of beef patties, and the second numeral refers to slices of cheese. So, a 2x1 is basically just a cheeseburger with double the meat, making it just a notch down from the Double-Double, but still quite the belly-filler.

Why go with extra beef? As opposed to the freeze-packed fare that other burger chains reheat for your lunch, In-N-Out is committed to not using freezers at any point in their process. They have three facilities to prepare their patties — one in Southern California, one in Northern California, and one in Dallas. And they only use chuck meat that's 100% USDA approved (via In-N-Out). It's fast food's best equivalent to "farm to table" restaurants, so don't be afraid about doubling up on the meat.

7. The 1x2

The 1x2 is an extra cheesy option, but as opposed to a simple grilled cheese order, it's one that doesn't eliminate a well-grilled patty of chuck. It doesn't go quite as far as the Double-Double as it simply adds another slice of cheese. But if you're more a fan of cheese than beef, then look no further than the 1x2.

We know that American cheese is not everyone's favorite. It immediately strikes eaters as a heavily processed food, with its combo of neon orange and yellow, along with a waxy sheen. And though it won't live up to the high standards of European competition, like Brie and aged gouda, in a delectable In-N-Out burger, American cheese's benefits may convert even the snobbiest of cheese fans.

The fact is the talented chefs in the kitchens of In-N-Out mastered the art of the melt and have passed on the methods over several generations. The cheese ends up perfectly warmed and creates a delectably gooey bite. For the cheese lovers out there, we advocate the 1x2 as your go-to order.

6. The 4x4

If you have ever wanted to emulate the antics on the Travel Channel's "Man v. Food," the 4x4 is what you probably want to order from In-N-Out. Assuming you can finish the whole indulgent burger without assistance, you are guaranteed to either utterly wow — or gross out — your dining companions. Maybe a little of both.

To be clear, we are talking about four beef patties and four slices of cheese. Prepare to summon your inner python, unhinge your jaws, and take a big-league sized chomp. This one is going to require a little bit of effort to get down. 

Given the hefty size of your order, be prepared for a bit of a longer wait. We advise to skip the drive-through and venture into the dining room if this is part of your next order. In our experience, going that route is a time saver, and as a bonus, you'll enjoy some dinner theater. In-N-Out franchise locations famously expose the process that goes into making your meal and are designed with an open layout between the counter and the kitchen.

5. 3x3

Sometimes a Double-Double isn't enough, and a 4x4 might be a bit too intimidating. In that situation, a 3x3 is your best pick. Count 'em up. Beef, cheese, beef, cheese, beef, and cheese all carefully layered together between that fresh and crispy bun, along with all of the vegetable accouterments you happen to desire.

Be warned that this deliciously savory supersized order is likely going to leave a bit of a mess, particularly if you're opting for it to come with sauce. As a result, this order might be best enjoyed in the dining room where you can chow down with less fear of staining your clothes. If you must order from the drive through and just can't wait to dig in, the helpful paper lap mats that In-N-Out generously provides ensures that your car isn't splattered in all that special sauce. The lap mats also include colorful artwork and franchise facts and figures that boast of their efforts to give you the best of the best when it comes to a burger.

4. The Hamburger

The humble hamburger is the ideal pick for a few categories of folks. Let's start off with the lactose intolerant. If you forgot to take your Lactaid, or simply forgot to bring it with you, then this is the proper call. If this is the case, then obviously you're going to want to resist the temptation of ordering a burger with loads of cheese.

Dairy-based dietary concerns aside, a simple burger order is the appropriate option for lighter appetites. As with all of the other options on the menu, it's easily customizable. Just because it's a modest choice doesn't mean you can't find ways to jazz it up, like with caramelized onions, yellow peppers, or extra sauce. Much like the rest of the menu, the options are near limitless.

This is also the perfect introduction to In-N-Out burgers for small children and their tinier bellies. Just don't forget to order milkshakes for the tykes. They come in chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavors. You're welcome to mix and match the flavors, or even go the Neapolitan route and have all three.

3. The Cheeseburger

We highly recommend that you don't order 31 cheeseburgers from McDonald's (via Newsweek) like an especially hungry and mischievous toddler somehow managed to do via his mother's phone. If you're within striking distance of an In-N-Out location, that's the burger slinger you really want. And maybe consider sticking to just one per person.

Say you're an In-N-Out newbie and are feeling a bit overwhelmed by whether to experiment with the "secret menu" or stick with the traditional options on the menu board. We advise that you have faith in the basic tried-and-true cheeseburger. It's a straightforward and classic option that encompasses all of the chain's famous burger ingredients. The full onion wedge can be aggressively thick, so be aware that you can opt for a lighter touch of onions, or even go with grilled onions.

While the Double-Double may be the most popular item on In-N-Out's menu, the cheeseburger has to be a close second because it matches the flavors. As a bonus, you'll save a few coins by going with the junior-sized option.

2. Animal Style

Animal Style is indisputably the most famous item on the "secret menu." The exact origins of the name are fuzzy and surrounded in rumors. But, the franchise is on record to dating it back to 1961 and claims it came about due to customer demand (via In-N-Out).

The flavor profile is distinctly different from your basic burger order at the chain. First and foremost, the beef patties are grilled in mustard to give them a certain tanginess. It also features grilled onions — which you can always request instead of raw onions with any order regardless of whether it's Animal Style. They also toss on extra sauce and add in pickle chips. All in all, Animal Style simply offers a lot more razzle dazzle.

You can also ask for Animal Style french fries, which are topped with cheese, grilled onions, and the famous special sauce. Despite the fact that In-N-Out's fries are made from fresh potatoes, many folks reject them as they're too accustomed to the frozen, processed fries served up by the competition. Though even the haters out there tend to come around on these spuds when they're served the Animal Style way.

1. The Double-Double

This is the go-to menu item. The big mac daddy. The burger king. The super star. What a burger. It's what you're craving when you have not had access to an In-N-Out in quite some time. It's all that's on your mind when you're on a flight to LAX and you just know there's that iconic location right by the airport that will cure your hunger pangs.

The Double-Double is certainly customizable to your liking, but, at a minimum, requires two beef patties and two slices of cheese. If you choose to order it as is, be aware that it provides 670 calories and 41 grams of fat (via In-N-Out). Compared to the more petite items on the listed menu such as the hamburger and the cheeseburger, the Double-Double arrives in a distinctly crimson red wrapper, which is appropriate since studies have shown that seeing red increases your appetite. So if you aren't sure you can tackle a burger of its mighty heft, let your eyes be the key to a bigger stomach.