This Is Why the Tartar Sauce on a Filet-O-Fish Is Always Off-Center

Updated: May 23, 2024

Is your fish sandwich from McDonald's a flop? There's a reason why the Filet-O-Fish always seems to fall apart.

There are the Big Mac lovers. The McNugget lovers. And then, there are the Filet-O-Fish lovers, the McDonald’s customers that can’t seem to get enough of that breaded fish sandwich with tangy tartar sauce.

If that’s you, Filet-O-Fish lover, then you likely are already aware of how the sandwich seems to always be a little off-center every time you open the box. The tartar sauce or the cheese isn’t centered, and the fish always seems to be sliding out of the bun. Why?

Turns out, there are a variety of factors to explain why your fish sandwich never seems to be centered. From the way the tartar sauce is added to how it’s assembled, and even the ingredients used, McDonald’s employees explain why your sandwich is never perfectly straight.

Why is Filet-O-Fish tartar sauce off-center?

Tartar Sauce on a Filet-o-Fish in McDonalds boxTMB STUDIO

It has to do with how the sandwich assembled and how fast the cooks are going in the back to prep your meal. Here are the secrets from McDonald’s employees that explain what’s happening.

The tartar sauce gun is wonky

McDonald’s employees on Reddit admit that the gun used to squirt the tartar sauce onto the bun for the Filet-O-Fish can be, well, a little wonky.

“I swear the tartar never comes out of the tartar gun perfectly from the center, I always put the thing directly over the bun and it shoots to the … top of the bun and gets in the box,” writes Reddit user u/TwoWeak9365.

“The tartar sauce launches to the side half the time when you put it on,” writes another employee.

Filet-O-Fish goes in a box, not a wrapper

Unlike most of the burgers or chicken sandwiches on the McDonald’s menu, which are sealed in a wrapper to keep things together, the Filet-O-Fish is put in a box. Not only that, but the sandwich is actually assembled in the box. Hence why the sandwich is typically off center when you open up your lunch.

According to former McDonald’s chef Mike Haracz, the sandwich is assembled as follows: the two halves of the steamed bun are placed in the box. The bottom half gets the slice of cheese, the top half gets the tartar sauce. Then the sandwich is slid to the next employee where the breaded fish is placed on top of the tartar sauce. The box is then closed and bagged up for the customer.

The size of the box also matters; it’s too big for the sandwich. “When we assemble it we flip the bottom onto the top when we close the box. Since the box is too big for the bun/sandwich, stuff just slides around,” Reddit user u/WaluigiGoesWaa writes. “Really we just need a smaller box.”

Having to actually place the sandwich together would require an extra step. For a fast-food establishment that serves an average of 69 million customers a day across the world, that step seems time-consuming and unnecessary.

Haracz also points out that other sandwiches in boxes are assembled this way, hence why your Big Mac might be a little off-center, too.

The bun is steamed

top view of fries and a Filet-o-Fish in McDonalds boxTMB STUDIO

If this is such a problem, why not put the sandwich in a wrapper? The reason for using the box for the Filet-O-Fish has to do with the choice of bun.

“We can’t wrap it like a cheeseburger cause of the steamed bun,” u/WaluigiGoesWaa continues.

With the combination of the steamed bun and the ingredients being added so quickly, it makes sense that some of those ingredients would slide right off. It’s a hot sandwich!

Make your own Filet-O-Fish at home

If you’re in the mood for a fish sandwich but aren’t took keen on getting a Filet-O-Fish that is, well, a little off-center…why not make your own? These Fish Po’Boys make it easy to have a breaded fish sandwich at home, with a creamy homemade sauce that you’ll want to eat by the spoon. (Feel free to add a slice of cheese, just like the Filet-O-Fish!) Want something more complex? This Breaded Fish Sandwich has you breading and grilling the fish yourself, topped on a bun with extra shredded lettuce and carrots.

Up Next: See how the Filet-O-Fish compares to other fast-food fish sandwiches.