McDonalds is known for everything from its hamburgers to chicken nuggets, French fries, and golden arches. But perhaps one of its most universally known menu items is the Big Mac.
This burger, which has been around since the late 1960s, is one of the McD’s classics, and remains a flagship product. Its ingredients include two 1.6 oz. beef patties sandwiched in a three-part sesame seed bun with toppings that include “special sauce,” shredded iceberg lettuce, American cheese, pickles, and onions.
The recipe has remained the same over the decades, though last year, McDonalds confirmed that it would remove all artificial preservatives, flavors, and coloring.
As you chomp down on one of these staple menu items, here are 10 interesting facts you might not have known about the Big Mac.
McDonald’s might not be able to confirm just exactly how many Big Macs have been sold worldwide since the iconic sandwich launched, but the restaurant does know that they serve close to 550 million of the double-pattied wonders every year in the U.S. alone.
That’s more than 1.5 million Big Macs that are sold, and presumably eaten, by Americans every day of the year. There’s even a website, Every Second, where you can mesmerizingly watch a counter move up as Big Macs and other signature McDonalds items are sold by the second.
Yes, the Big Mac has become so influential that it has even become an important economic indicator. Developed by The Economist in 1986, the Big Mac Index theory goes that you can determine exchange rates between countries based on the converted price of a Big Mac in each one. If the conversion of the price of the sandwich doesn’t match the actual conversion rate, this means a currency might be over- or undervalued. Or so the theory goes.
It started out as nothing more than a fun theory, but has, over time, become a pretty interesting tool in economic thinking.
When the Big Mac was introduced back in 1967 in Uniontown, PA, it sold for a mere $0.45. Adjusted for inflation, that would translate to about $3.44 today, which is just under what a Big Mac actually costs in 2019.
Nonetheless, a sandwich as big, meaty, and juicy as a Big Mac with all of the fixings for under 50 cents? It’s amazing to think. But this was its price before the sandwich was known as the Big Mac, and before its official debut as part of the menu nationwide in 1968.
While the Big Mac is a signature sandwich that always contains the special sauce, there are variations of the menu item around the world. In Japan, for example, there’s the Giga Big Mac that has, as the name implies, three times the amount of meat. In Israel, there’s a Kosher Big Mac that eliminates the cheese. The Maharaja Mac in India, meanwhile, subs in chicken patties for beef for religious reasons. In South Africa, they make it slightly healthier by adding a slice of tomato.
The name Big Mac has become synonymous with McDonald’s. But the signature burger wasn’t always called this. It had a few potential names before this two-word, six-letter nomenclature stuck. First, it was called the Aristocrat, which sounded far too rich for McDonald’s blood. The idea was to reference the size of the sandwich, but it never caught on, and didn’t quite roll off the tongue.
Then, it was test-named the Blue Ribbon Burger, but this didn’t resonate with customers either. Eventually, the name Big Mac emerged following inspiration from a burger at a competing restaurant called the Big Boy.
You might still think that the special sauce that transforms a boring burger into the Big Mac is still a secret but it isn’t. While the secret was indeed kept for 45 years, which is quite impressive, the cat was finally let out of the bag in 2012.
Despite rumors that the special sauce was simply Thousand Island dressing, it isn’t. It’s a combination of mayonnaise, sweet relish, yellow mustard, vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. So yes, you can combine these ingredients in the right quantities and make your own Big Mac special sauce at home.
Donald A. Gorske dubs himself the biggest Big Mac fan there is, and he proved this with a place in the Guinness World Records in 2006. The Wisconsin man has eaten a reported more than 30,000 Big Macs throughout his lifetime, starting in 1972.
He even went on to write a book about his journey called 22,477 Big Macs, and was featured in the 2004 documentary Super Size Me. According to the now 65-year-old, Big Macs make up 90-95% of his total solid food intake.
The Big Mac wasn’t a corporate creation; it is credited as being invented by Jim Delligatti in 1965, an early franchisee operating several locations in Pittsburgh. He eventually went on to operate 48 McDonald’s restaurants in Uniontown, PA.
After only a year of testing the sandwich at his restaurant, the Big Mac was picked up for every American location. By 1969, the Big Mac accounted for 19% of all total sales for the restaurant. Delligatti sadly passed away in 2016 at the age of 98.
If you want to know everything there is to know about the Big Mac, you can visit the Big Mac Museum in Irwin, PA, which tells the entire story of the burger, from inception to today. It opened in 2007 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the flagship menu item.
Founded in 2007 by Mike Delligatti, the son of the man who invented the Big Mac, Jim Delligatti, it showcases a timeline of the history of the burger, has lots of historic artifacts, and even a 14-foot tall sculpture, the largest of the Big Mac in the world.
OK, so you probably know that the Big Mac is not exactly the healthiest choice for dinner. But do you know exactly how unhealthy it is?
In its standard form, the Big Mac has 520 calories, 28 grams of fat, and 950 mg of sodium. To put this in perspective, an average 35-year-old male who weighs about 180 lbs. should eat about 2,500 calories to maintain his weight, so a Big Mac alone would account for a fifth of his entire daily intake.
Meanwhile, the American Heart Association suggests that adults consume no more than 1,500 mg of salt per day. So eat one Big Mac, and you might need to go on a sodium fast for the rest of the day! But let's face it, once in a while, it's totally worth it!