On the heels of a recent Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) with a McDonald’s employee, an AskReddit conversation thread popped up yesterday that we couldn’t tear ourselves away from.
“Fast food workers of Reddit, what is the one menu option at your employment that you would recommend people never eat? (Because of cooking safety, cleanliness, unhealthy, etc),” asked user 4ScienceandReason. This thread, which generated over 6,000 comments in 24 hours, brought some amazingly gross things to light — some expected and some unexpected — as well as some good-to-know tricks for the fast-food customer.
Some things you should probably stay away from:
Chicken Nuggets: Some of the grossest stories on this thread talked about the dubious material nuggets are generally made of. As noted by 4ScienceandReason,pictures and videos like these have already scared a lot of us off of chicken nuggets forever. Just in case that wasn’t enough, this comment by Dfunkatron might seal the deal for you, “When I worked at McDonald’s, I accidentally left a whole bag of about 100 chicken nuggets out on a counter for way too long. They melted. Into a pool of liquid. I never understood why. But they were completely indiscernible as being the nuggets i once knew.”
Wendy’s Chili: While not as traditionally disgusting as some other fast food traditions, we found Cozmo23’s description of the chili recipe at Wendy’s to be pretty stomach-churning — “The meat comes from hamburger patties that sat on the grill too long to serve to customers. They take them and put them in a bin and then throw them in the fridge. When the chili is made they take it out, boil it, chop it up and dump them in the chili.”
Vegetarians Beware: While a lot of comments admitted to using the same grill/spatula/knife on vegetarian and meat items alike, this comment from user attack_goblin made us gasp a little extra: “I used to work at a restaurant where we deep-fried the Gardenburger patties in the same oil we deep-fried the bacon.”
Grilled Chicken: If there was any common theme in this thread, it was this: just probably don’t order grilled chicken in any fast food establishment ever. OneMcDonald’s employee confessed to slathering grilled chicken breasts with liquid margarine to keep it from sticking. An ex-Subway employee described the defrosting process they used, which involved soaking the chicken in hot water for hours, then squeezing the “chicken water” out at the end of the day.
Five Guys Appears to Be Safe: For now, no one has refuted user Cameron432’s claim that they freeze nothing and make most everything fresh. Also, stick to the regular-sized fries, “One thing I will say is that ordering a large fry is always a bad idea. The difference between a large fry and a regular fry is surprisingly small (especially when it’s busy).”
One comforting aspect of this discussion was the friendly disagreement. The most disgusting facts were usually counter-balanced by at least one other employee of each chain remarking that they’d always done it differently and that it really does depend on the management of each particular location. So if you have traditionally good luck in life, you can still order chicken nuggets, we suppose.
The simple answer is probably, “don’t ever eat fast food.” Sadly, for many people that’s just not a realistic option (for reasons financially or other). So help us out! Those of you behind the scenes, what should we stay away from and what is something you’d have no problem eating all the time?
Edit: Really appreciate all of the participation on this, anecdotal or not. What seems clear, and perhaps I should have mentioned it in the title, is that location and management makes (almost) all the difference. Really enjoy hearing the universally handled menu options, such as the way McDonald’s cooks their grilled chicken options.
Edit 2: 6000 Comments in 24 hours! Love this discussion and your stories. ❤
Edit 3: Special thanks to Puurboi for this image concerning financial reasons.
Edit 4: So many “Sandwich Artists” of Subway on Reddit!. In Jared we trust
Edit 5: Smile, You’re all on Huffington Post and Perez Hilton’s fitness page
While management clearly plays a huge role in food safety and handling, we’re seeing some relatively universal concerns from different sources. I’d love to have an evolving list of surprising or especially alarming fast foods/menu items:
- Fast food ice. This seems to be recurring as it is difficult to keep the machines clean and mold free. There have been studies and articles regarding this issue. Added We tend not to think about soft drink machines, how often they’re cleaned and the amount of calories in the drinks themselves.
- Chicken Nuggets are a hot topic and seem to be a “concern food.” Videos and articles like this certainly don’t help but as always, they’re going to be handled differently depending on the restaurant.
- Unconventional pizza toppings or menu items seem to be a popular concern among the employed. I can attest to this personally in regard to topping meats and certain specialty items.
- Sweetened teas. No matter where they come from, the consensus seems to be that “they’re called ‘Sweetened’ for a reason.” Watch out for amounts of sugar comparable to any soft drink.
- Grilled chicken options (such as McDonald’s sandwiches). The lesson here is that just because it’s grilled, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. While it may be the healthiest meat served at the restaurant… “to keep it from sticking to the grill, we use three squirts of liquid margarine on the bottom of it. To keep it juicy, once we’ve lain the frozen blocks of chicken, three more squirts of liquid margarine are applied to the tops.”
- The quality of a Subway restaurant says a lot. This seems like a great insight for those of us who don’t think about or haven’t worked at a Subway before. If the servers are careless, the food seems to be odd colors, or there’s scraps of food all over the floor, etc.. think about the other Subway down the block (they’re everywhere, !#$@ing Jared!) Added Apparently the chicken and tuna are disgusting at many locations.
- Visiting restaurants before closing time. A no-brainer to some, less than obvious to others. Think about the style of restaurant. Old and unused menu items are probably not what you’re looking to pay for. Many pizza places make “Slice-pies” or overly large pizzas specifically for the purpose of selling individual slices. These slices are slowly heated and sit until sold throughout the day. While safe, they are cardboard at the end of the night. I don’t even want to think about day-long nachos or salad items.
- Arby’s meats, roast beef. This is getting a ton of comments, both from behind the counter and from customers. It seems as though this one has been ranked as a “hit or miss” item. Even if the restaurants are handling the meat correctly, it seems to make a fair amount of people ill compared to other menu items.
- Condiments/Complimentary items. I feel a slight rise in paranoia when it comes to communal condiments like ketchup bottles and Salt/Pepper containers. Uncleaned but re-filled containers has been such a recurring point here that my level of paranoia has raised to “terrorist orange.” Included in this point are things like complementary breadsticks. Some of you have talked about re-serving the “seemingly untouched or whole” breadsticks at Italian restaurants from previous customer’s plates. In other cases, they’re not re-plated but broken down to be used in different food items. Yummy.