Engineering the In-N-Out Burger

Kenji Lopez-Alt brings his food science skills to reverse engineer the In-N-Out’s famous double-double and animal style burgers.  No matter how many great things you hear about In-N-Out’s burgers or fries, for that matter, it truly is a benchmark in fast food eating.  Same price as McDonald’s or anywhere else, miles ahead in taste and quality.

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 consistency.

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.

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.

Here’s the recipe to make your own at home.

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