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9 Controversial Secrets About McDonald's Menu Items

You're never believe how much sugar goes into the sweet tea.

Everyone has secrets and fast-food chains like McDonald's are no exception.

Luckily for us, plenty of  former McDonald's employees are more than happy to spill the tea on Reddit. From why you should avoid the apple pie to how to make sure you get the freshest fries and burgers, here are 12 secrets about McDonald's menu items. And for more, check out We Tried Every Burger at McDonald's & This Is the Best!

McDonald's Biggest Success This Year Was Also Its Biggest Failure

The Sweet Tea has a massive amount of sugar.

mcdonalds sweet tea

If McDonald's sweet tea tastes like pure sugar, that's probably because it is mainly the sweet stuff. Former employees have said that the ratio is a pound of sugar to a gallon, but it really isn't all that shocking when put again a typical soda. A small Sweet Tea is 100 calories and has 24 grams of sugar. For comparison, a small coke has 150 calories and 39 grams of sugar.

The sweet tea is arguably healthier than a soda as it's made with just Orange Pekoe and Pekoe Cut black tea and a type of sugar called medium-invert, which according to Mashed, is sweeter than typical sugar. Just stick to a small size.

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There's no trick to getting fresh fries.

mcdonalds fries
Alexander Shcherbak/ TASS/ Getty Images

Many McDonald's customers love the fries. But it's been said that ordering the menu item can be a hit or miss, as sometimes, they taste as though they've been sitting out for too long.

A McDonald's employee said you can specifically ask for a fresh batch of fries. The myth that asking for fries without salt will get you a fresh batch is no longer true. "There is no need to say you want your fries with no salt. Just tell them you want fresh fries. You want new nuggets? Thats fine also. They will cook them that way for you. Just be prepared to wait out the time it takes for it to cook."

There's also an easy way to get the freshest burger.

mcdonalds burger

And that way is to simply ask for it. Rumors abound about asking for no salt or pepper or asking for a burger without ketchup to get a fresh one, but that won't actually work, said an employee. "What usually happens is they have all the patties and ingredients that need to be cooked and warm in a tray which is in a heater system, no burgers are pre-made, they're assembled as the orders are taken in the kitchen area, however, we're not allowed to keep any food in the heater for too long."

 We Tried 7 Fast-Food Fries & These Are the Best!

McDonald's upcharges customers for certain ingredients.

mcdonalds big mac
Yu Chun Christopher Wong/S3studio/Getty Images

"You will be up-charged for certain ingredients," a former McDonald's employee shared.

As an example, they said that when a customer orders the "Poor Man's Big Mac" (a McDouble with Mac Sauce and shredded lettuce), they'll be charged 30 cents for the Mac Sauce and between 20 and 30 cents for the lettuce.

"However, if your burger has something on it you do not want, you can remove it and add something else similar FOR FREE," the employee noted. "Normally you'd have to pay 30 [cents] for ranch dressing like you would with Mac sauce, but since [a] burger comes with dressing on it I don't actually want, I can save money that way."

 20 Biggest McDonald's Menu Disasters You Forgot About

If the employee doesn't ask about the mobile app you could get a free dessert.

mcdonalds double quarter pounder

A new thing this year is that some stores will give you a free dessert if the employee doesn't ask about the mobile app. While some have never heard of this rule, a few agree some stores are doing this, " We have to give out 2 cookies, and lucky for us, we just have to ask them if they'll be using the app anytime during the order, not just the beginning." Sounds like this could be a franchise thing and not applicable to every McDonald's, but it doesn't hurt to ask!

 7 Classic McDonald's Desserts That Deserve a Comeback

You might want to be wary of the Apple Pie.

mcdonald apple pie

When asked what we should never order at McDonald's, a cashier and cook named the apple pie as the worst offender. "[W]hen they expire we just slap a new expiration date to it," they explained.

However, the expiration dates are not true expiration dates, pointed out another commenter, but just a "best-by" date.

 15 Discontinued Fast-Food Desserts That Deserve a Comeback

No, the ice cream machine isn't always being cleaned.

mcdonalds snickerdoodle mcflurry
Courtesy of McDonald's

Many customers had questions about the milkshake machine, noting that when they order milkshakes or McFlurrys, they're often told the machine is being cleaned. So what's the real story?

A McDonald's cook clarified that the milkshake machine is cleaned once a week and the process takes about two to three hours. They said it's way more likely that you can't get your milkshake because the machine frequently goes into "freezer lock."

"[T]he ice cream machine can be a giant pain. If someone is not keeping an eye on the ice cream level and it gets too low, it goes into freezer lock," they explained. Typically, only a few managers know how to get the machine out of this freezer lock and, even if they're there, it takes hours to get the machine back up and running.

"Saying it's 'being cleaned' might just be a good excuse if that happens," the cook said.

 We Tasted 5 Fast-Food Chocolate Milkshakes & This Is the Best

Order from a busy McDonald's


No one wants to spend a ton of time waiting in line, but a former employee advised customers to "Never EVER eat at a McDonald's that isn't busy."

They went on to explain that during the lunch or dinner rush, you're most likely get fresh food.

"If you have to WAIT for nuggets (etc) to be cooked, it's a good thing," they said. "It means they didn't have enough laying in the bin to serve you and have to cook you more."

 Discontinued Menu Items You Forgot McDonald's Used to Serve

Cooks don't (always) wear gloves in the kitchen.

mcdonalds workers

This definitely sounds unsanitary, but McDonald's employees explained the reasoning.

Rather than using gloves, the employee explained that there's a hand-wash system in place instead. "I can't speak for everyone but I always wash my hands every 15 minutes. Wearing gloves mean nothing if you aren't constantly changing it. In fact it's a waste to use so much in the first place."

While some employees wear gloves, especially when handling raw meat, it is not required.

A previous version of this article was originally published in Dec. 2021. It has been updated with new information.

Caitlin Flynn
Caitlin Flynn is an award-winning writer and reporter who experienced early age corporate burnout in 2015 and traded New York City for the misty air and superior coffee of Seattle. Read more about Caitlin