14 Things You Never Knew About the McDonald’s Big Mac

Updated: Jun. 08, 2023

Celebrate the Big Mac with these factoids that even McDonald’s enthusiasts might not know.

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Big Mac
Shutterstock / Jasni

It’s Over 50 years old

In August 1968, a new super-sandwich called the Big Mac became available to McDonald’s customers nationwide. It had debuted the year before in a Uniontown, Pennsylvania, McDonald’s location, and the franchise founder, Ray Kroc, was a fan. With his approval, the Big Mac went nationwide, and the rest is history. McDonald’s has been experimenting with its classic burger and the new Chicken Big Mac was a smash hit in the UK.

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The oldest operating McDonald's restaurant in the world in Downey, Los Angeles, California
Shutterstock / Allard One

It was created for steel workers

The mastermind behind the Big Mac was Jim Delligatti, the owner of the Uniontown restaurant that debuted it. In the 1960s, many of his regular customers were workers returning from a long day at the steel mills. They would arrive at McDonald’s ravenously hungry, and Delligatti quickly realized that the simple single-patty cheeseburger wasn’t filling them up. So he started experimenting, putting two patties on one burger and adding pickles and onions as well.

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sauce dip
Shutterstock /secret-sauce

“Special Sauce” didn’t get that nickname until 1974

In original Big Mac ads from 1968, the flavorful concoction was advertised as “secret sauce.” It wouldn’t be called by the alliterative name we know today until 1974, when the historically catchy “Two all-beef patties, special sauce…” jingle debuted. Despite the name change, however, the recipe remained a secret.

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Big Mac hamburger menu in McDonald's restaurant.

The Special Sauce has had a few different iterations

In the first few years of the Big Mac’s burger life, McDonald’s experimented with two different versions of the sauce. Eventually, they realized that both recipes were performing well and ended up combining elements of both of them to make an entirely new recipe. McDonald’s called this sauce “Big Mac Sauce ’72.’” It wasn’t until 1991 that that classic recipe underwent any changes. A new version of the recipe debuted in that year and remained until the early 21st century. But in 2004, Fred Turner, a former McDonald’s CEO and onetime friend of Ray Kroc himself, decided that he wanted the original recipe reinstated.

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Buns coated in sesame seeds
Shutterstock / Oleanda

Those buns have lots of seeds

According to Bryant Miesle, a McDonald’s correspondent for Golin PR Agency, “there are anywhere between 385-400 sesame seeds on each Big Mac bun.” This is what the McDonald’s menu looked like the year you were born.

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McDonald's Big Mac with two 100% pure beef patties and sauce sandwiched between sesame seed bun, with refreshing Coca-Cola Coke, big yellow McDonald's M sign, logo on cup
Shutterstock / Grzegorz Czapski

It owes its name to a company secretary

Would the Big Mac have sold as well as “the Aristocrat?” The answer, as McDonald’s executives learned, is no. Before the burger made its national debut, the franchise tested out a couple other names for it, including “The Aristocrat.” This name, however, failed to convey the idea that anyone and everyone could enjoy the burger. Not to mention, it wasn’t the easiest name to pronounce! It was Esther Glickstein, a then-21-year-old secretary for McDonald’s advertising department, who first suggested calling it the Big Mac. She admitted that the higher-ups initially laughed the name off when she first suggested it, but she got the last laugh when the name stuck.

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Whopper and soda
Grzegorz Czapski/Shutterstock

The Whopper has been around longer

More than ten years longer, to be exact. The Whopper debuted in Miami, Florida, in 1957, only two years after Ray Kroc signed on with the then-fledgling McDonald’s company. Though the Big Mac enjoyed greater overall popularity than the Whopper, McDonald’s would eventually debut a quarter-pound burger—you know it as the Big N’ Tasty—specifically to compete with the Whopper. Interestingly, that was the same year that Burger King introduced its first two-patty burger, the Big King. Here are items you should totally order off of McDonald’s secret menu.

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Man is eating at McDonald's restaurant.

One man has eaten 30,000 of them since the 1970s

No matter how much of a McDonald’s enthusiast you think you are, this guy’s got you beat! Wisconsin native Donald A. Gorske, 64, currently holds the world record for the most Big Macs ever eaten—he’s eaten at least one nearly every single day since 1972, simply because “it’s the best food in the world.” He earned the world record back in 2016 with his 28,788th Big Mac. In May 2018, he ate his 30,000th, and he doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon. Is it just us, or does the fact that his name is Donald make the whole thing even more poetic?

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Fresh delicious double burger with cheese, tomato, onion, french fries and lettuce on wooden table and brown background
Nikolay Litov/Shutterstock

It’s McDonald’s second-bestselling item of all time

According to Miesle, McDonald’s sold over a billion Big Macs in 2017 alone. The only Mickey D’s item that’s more popular? French fries! Check out the full list of McDonald’s most popular items ever.

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Aarau, Switzerland - 7 July, 2016: building along a street in the historic part of the town. The town of Aarau is the capital of the Swiss canton of Aargau.
Shutterstock / Denis Linine

Switzerland has the world’s most expensive Big Mac

If you find yourself craving McDonald’s while in Switzerland, you should probably know that a Big Mac will set you back $6.89 there. Norway, Sweden, and Finland also have pricier Big Macs than the United States, where you can get one for around $5. Europe is actually also home to the world’s cheapest Big Mac; the sandwich costs only about $1.60 in Ukraine. Malaysia, Russia, and South Africa also offer Big Macs for around $2.50 or less. Here are the coolest McDonald’s locations around the world.

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Big Mac on a fancy shelf
Shutterstock / Grzegorz Czapski

There’s an entire museum dedicated to it

In North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Big Mac enthusiasts can visit the world’s only Big Mac Museum. Jim Delligatti, the Big Mac’s original creator, and his son Mike developed the museum in 2007. It features attractions like a 14-foot Big Mac statue, historical memorabilia (including a Big Mac bun-toaster from the 1970s), and, of course, a McDonald’s restaurant.

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania skyline along the Allegheny river from North Shore Riverfront Park
Shutterstock / Paul Brady Photography

Pittsburgh renamed itself after the Big Mac

Temporarily, yes, but they still did it! In September 1992, in honor of the sandwich’s 25th anniversary, Pittsburgh became “Big Mac, U.S.A.” for a single day. It was a tribute to the city’s proximity to Uniontown, the Big Mac’s birthplace. Here are some more surprising facts about McDonald’s.

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Kazakhstan McDonalds
Shutterstock / ROMSVETNIK

Kazakhstan was the most recent country to start selling it

“More than 100 countries serve the Big Mac, including Kazakhstan, which most recently added it to menus in 2016,” Miesle told Reader’s Digest. The Central Asian nation’s first Mickey D’s opened on March 8, 2016, in the capital city of Astana to a large, eager crowd. As of August 2018, Kazakhstan is the 120th country to open a McDonald’s, but only the first in the region of Central Asia. Find out which countries have banned McDonald’s.

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A pointer to the McDonald's in St Petersburg Russia
Shutterstock / forden

You can get plenty of variations around the world

McDonald’s locations in India, where the cow is a sacred animal, offer the Chicken Maharaja Mac, which swaps the hamburgers for chicken patties. In Israel, a kosher version of the Big Mac is available in some cities; it’s free of cheese and also uses kosher meat. Even some U.S. states have their own special Mac variants. For instance, the Denali Mac is something of a “secret menu item” that’s only available in Alaska. Seeking to prove that “everything’s bigger” there, this burger uses two quarter-pound patties instead of the traditional 1.6-ounce ones, and throws in some extra special sauce for good measure. Don’t miss these secrets McDonald’s employees won’t tell you.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest