Who You Calling An Animal?

God, I love burgers.  I love them every which way.  I love beef burgers, chicken burgers, bison burgers, halibut burgers, turkey burgers, even the occasional veggie burger as long as it’s topped with cheese and bacon.  I cannot for the life of me think of anything more satisfying than a big juicy burger on any given day, no matter what my temperamental actressy “bitch get out my way” mood may be.  I eat them when I feel like celebrating, or when I’m splayed out on the couch hungover, on summer days off the barbecue and on winter days when I need a pick-me-up.  They are my very favorite food indulgence.  Ice cream?  I’d take a cheeseburger with extra pickles over that any day.  Unless it was cheeseburger pickle ice cream.  (Yeah, I know, I have problems.)

I’ve got a rather extensive list of my favorite burgers throughout the world, but there is one mother of a burger that can’t be topped.  It’s simple but yet masterfully designed, messy but yet picture perfect pretty, and seriously revered by many of my fellow burger lovers frequenting the west coast.  It’s the “animal style” burger at In-N-Out, and if you haven’t had the pleasure of scarfing one, I feel terribly, so sadly sorry for you.

In-N-Out is a chain of fast food restaurants specializing in burgers only, although you can order a mean milkshake and a side of fries, too. But they’ve taken fast food to a whole new level.  Their burgers, unlike McDonald’s, don’t make you feel like your stomach is leaden with wet sand half an hour after eating them. They’re seasoned to total perfection.  The toppings are sometimes so fresh, I swear I’ve seen actual dew on the tomato slices.  The employees seem to care about what they’re serving you and always seem to do so with a happy little spring in their step.  Maybe because they get a lot of free burgers, I dunno.  But the coolest thing about In-N-Out is the secret menu.  Those behind the curtain know that the minimal burgers-and-fries only menu ain’t all that’s on offer.  Ask for a grilled cheese and they’ll give you everything but the beef, even the special sauce I crave so much, it’s most likely made of heroin.  Order your burger protein-style and they’ll wrap it up nice and neat in lettuce for you. But the best way to get your burger is animal style: smothered in grilled onions, melted cheese, extra pickles, and extra sauce.  It’s Jesus, in burger form.  I’ve prayed to it.  I’m not ashamed.

Problem with my beloved In-N-Out is that it’s only available in certain areas, Southern California being the primary carrier as well as a few popping up in Nevada and Texas.  So I set off on an attempt to replicate the recipe as best I could.  And damned if I didn’t get close to the Holy Grail.

Forget your diet, or your cholesterol count, or your plan to eat a salad as a meal tonight. (Also: SALAD ISN’T A MEAL.)  You need to eat this.  Starting now.



Ingredients: (makes 4 burgers)

2 lbs extra lean ground sirloin

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 large yellow onions, sliced

1/2 cup mayonnaise

3 tbsp ketchup

2 tbsp sweet pickle relish

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

sliced dill pickles, 2 slices per burger

sliced tomatoes, 2 slices per burger

4 large leaves of iceberg lettuce

4 white burger buns

French’s yellow mustard

4 slices of cheddar cheese

salt and pepper


Start your onions.  Heat a medium pot or pan over medium heat with 2 tbsp olive oil.  Add the onions, season with a little salt and pepper, and sauté until golden and soft, covered with a lid, for about 20 minutes.  Stir them every once in a while but keep the lid on so they caramelize. After 20 minutes, take the lid off, add 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar and a few splashes of water. Scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan and let them caramelize further for another ten minutes.

Once the onions are started, make your secret sauce. Mix the mayonnaise, ketchup, sweet pickle relish, and remaining 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar. Season with some salt and pepper and set aside.

Form your beef into 4 patties about half an inch thick.  Once your onions are in the home stretch, heat a big skillet over high heat.  Toast your buns cut side down in the dry skillet until golden.  Add the remaining olive oil to the pan.  Generously salt and pepper your patties and add them to the pan, seasoned side down.

Spread some secret sauce on the bun tops and bottoms.  Assemble the bun bottoms starting with the iceberg lettuce, then the tomato and pickle.

Season the uncooked side of the patties.  Squirt with a generous squiggle of yellow mustard, and then flip the patties over.  Cook for another 3 minutes, top with the cheddar cheese, and then cook until the cheese melts, about two more minutes.  Arrange the patties on the buns, top with the caramelized onions.  Behold the glory.  Eat the glory.  Get messy.  Get happy.  Thank me later.



53 Comments Add yours

  1. Bernie says:

    Mmmmmmm….animal style! I hope you get the fries that way, too!

  2. Kevin Leroux says:

    I love that you love a good burger.
    Now I am hungry while sitting here at work and it’s your fault!

  3. Simone says:

    That. Looks. Amazing.

    I love burgers too. I’m always on the search for the best one, haha. If you’re ever in Toronto, you should check out The Burger’s Priest.

  4. Al says:

    That looks soooo good. Unfortunately, cooking and I have this agreement whereby we have drawn a line down the middle of the Universe, and we each stay on our respective sides.

    So, opinions on the best burgers in the ‘Couv?

  5. Marti says:

    Yumdidiliumcious! Sounds like a calorie nightmare and I know all too well ’bout calorie nightmares. How d’ya stay so slim then eating all this rich, delicious, nutritious (?) food? Guess each mouth watering burger requires an hour or two in the gym! My problem is I eat but don’t work out, I’m of the school of thought that fat will just fade, still working on that concept.

  6. Simone says:

    Oh my. Saving this for further reference.

    There’s nothing like a burger to improve whatever mood you’re in.

  7. Seb says:

    If you like those styles of burgers, then the next time you find yourself in Ottawa Canada (because seriously, why wouldn’t we find you there…) look up a burger chain called The Works. Sounds pretty close to what you describe at In N Out. They call themselves a “Gourmet Burger Restaurant”.

    They’re not wrong. I’ll prove it to you. My treat.


  8. Famin says:

    This post was worth it for the secret sauce recipe alone. Man, I miss In n Out. In DC, we do have the original Five Guys and Spike Mendelsohn’s Good Stuff Eatery (foodie burgers). But I sure do miss In n Out.

  9. Magie says:

    God that looks so GOOD! I am one of the few unfortunate people who has never had an In-N-Out burger, so I am gonna love making my own! THANKS JEWEL!

  10. Simone says:

    That. Looks. Amazing.

    I love burgers too- I’m always searching for the best one, haha!

    If you’re ever in Toronto, you should check out The Burger’s Priest.

  11. Milo says:

    I just fell deeply, madly in love with you.

  12. David Brand says:

    I feel as if we are soul mates. Okay, burger mates anyway. My favorite was In-N-Out at 6:00 in the morning after a night of college raising of the Hell. Though if you are in the SoCal area you might want to check out either Cassell’s on 6th near Vermont or Tommy’s (the real one). At least a change of pace from the incredible In-N-Out.

  13. Matt says:

    Greetings Jewel…

    I’ve said it before, and I”ll say it again.. a Master after my own heart!!! I’m sitting here, looking for a towel, because my keyboard is loaded in drool from just reading your recipe.. My next trip to the store will be for ingredients.. -grin- I’ve had a few in-n-out burgers.. but it has been a VERY long time.. (like 15 years i think.. ) They are awesome burgers and I’m going to have to make a feeble attempt at trying to make one.. But with your instructions.. I”m quite sure I can do it.. Now if I could only get Kayley’s inter engine fermentation recipe life would be perfect. <: -)



  14. Damian says:

    They’re all over Arizona, especially the suburbs of Phoenix, too! The drive thrus always have a 10 minute line. It’s insanely popular!

  15. Daniel says:

    Wow. Jewel you rock. Talented and awesome.

  16. Janine says:

    Please bring one of these for me with you to London this weekend? I know it wont be fresh by Saturday, but I dont actually think I’ll care lol. We don’t have really good burgers over here, although GBK (Gourmet Burger Kitchen) isn’t bad, especially their Buffalo Burgers.

  17. Jess says:

    Someone else who understands that it is okay to be passionate about cheeseburgers! I’ve missed In-N-Out since I’ve moved from the west coast. I can’t wait to try out your recipe!

  18. Neil says:

    In-N-Out aren’t in the North East of the UK (dammit).

    You’re burger has me feeling really hungry already.

  19. Travis says:

    Bless you for sharing. It’s been over 5 years since my last In-N-out burger, this may save me

  20. Mari says:

    Oh Jewel, I may just have to bring you a burger cookbook called Burger Vino from our local meat market when you visit Dragon*Con….

  21. Caitlin says:

    My husband and I moved to the east coast so that he could go to law school out here.
    Swear to all that is holy, there is a giant In-N-Out hole in my heart. And stomache. And life.
    I dream about it.
    I’ll get him back for this someday.
    And when people say “what is that?” when I say “In-N-Out” or when they say “Whataburger has the best burgers”, I pass right out.

  22. Mr Terry Hornsby says:

    Was in Paris a month ago and the first place we ate was MacDonalds (a treat for our 4 yr old as we had promised). The other three nights were spent in far better bistros, than goodness.

  23. James says:

    Ha Ha Ha Love In-N-Out Burgers!!!
    Went on a modified Protein diet two years ago in prep to start P90X. Was drinking a Protein Shake for Breakfast, one about 10:00a.m. and then would have a In-N-Out burger (Wrapped in Lettuce-Protein style) for lunch, another Shake between 2:00 – 4:00 and then finish it all up with a nice 1 1/2 lb T-Bone or Porterhouse on the Grill around 6:00 – 7:00 p.m..

    Lost 64lbs in 6 months and Blood Panels were the best I’ve had since I was 22.

    Love those ‘Protein Burgers at In-N-Out … never got tired of them, and even with the tomatoes and secret sauce, I’d only get approximately 3 gm of Carbs per meal, so way Good!

  24. Josh says:

    Seriously Jewel, how are you not 900 pounds by now? 😛

  25. Jim says:

    Is it any wonder that every man on this planet is in love with you? I’m making these this weekend.

  26. John says:

    I have the privilege of living near an In-N-Out burger. Shes not joking, simply the best place for a great burger.

  27. Rachael says:

    I live down the street from an In & Out and only had my first taste of one last year. I approve 🙂 I wonder if they’d make it animal-protein style for me…?

  28. Joon says:

    I love the protein-style. I read that one of In-N-Out’s secret was putting some mustard on buns before grilling.

  29. Jon says:

    Hrm…. I actually take a bit of an exception to the phrase “SALAD ISN’T A MEAL”. In the past, yes, I would have agreed wholeheartedly concerning this statement…

    Until I had a properly made cobb salad. That sucker is a meal, in my book.

  30. These are excellent on a burger: http://www.foodiewithfamily.com/2010/05/23/candied-jalapenos/

    They’re also excellent on turkey sandwiches, pulled pork sandwiches and pretty much anything else.


  31. Josh W. says:

    We recently had a gastropub open up here in Laramie, and it seriously has some of the best burgers I have yet tasted. Fresh cut fries as well. Apparently they get their hamburger from a local butcher who in turn buys that specific beef from a rancher about 20 miles from the restaurant. They also have a specialty app in the form of a deep fried avocado with a smashing horseradish sauce on the side.

    Anyway, their burgers, if I haven’t mentioned, are really amazing. The Crowbar is certainly a place to stop for the curious. Well worth the time.

  32. dave says:

    Nice recipe.

    I’m torn… I really & honestly think that ethically we should not eat animals. I know we’ve evolved as omnivorous but…

    However, hypocritically I enjoy a well cooked eye-fillet steak or a tuna steak or a roasted pork knuckle [mit sauerkraut] or even occasionally a burger.

    But! Being an Aussie what’s missing from your wonderful recipe is the fried egg and the obligatory sliced beetroot 🙂

    And I can’t understand the Yank proclivity in adding sliced cheese – that’s definitely an optional extra IMO.

    Dong ma?

  33. Mike T says:

    Good grief, I’m not sure you could be any more excellent! Keep it up and everything will stay shiny.

    If you’re ever in Reykjavik look up Johannes Proppes (currently in Kex Hostel) and ask him to do you a burger, they’re face meltingly awesome. If you want something a little different, his langoustine cappuccino is to die for.

  34. Rebecca says:

    Ah, In-N-Out. My only regret of “food I didn’t eat” on my last SoCal trip.
    I’m not even a beef fan (*gasp*) but your recipes make me wish I were. Thanks for my next “It’s too rainy to grill” recipe, Jewel!

    (P.S. Hello from a lurker!)

  35. Stu says:

    Had one of these today. In N Out has several locations in Arizona, as well as California, Nevada, and Texas. The spring in the employees’ steps comes from the fact that In N Out pays their employees quite a bit better than your typical fast food restaurant.

    I like your recipe, though if you want to nail it perfectly, use good American cheese instead of cheddar (though I consider cheddar a nice upgrade).

    Rachael, protein style is one of the options off the not-so-secret secret menu. Basically, they’ll take the burger of your choice (including Animal style), skip the bun, and wrap it in iceberg lettuce.

    I’m going to give this one a try, if nothing else to see if balsamic vinegar gives the “secret sauce” that extra push over the edge of the cliff. 🙂

  36. Rose M. Rose says:

    That looks so delicious. I need to go to California just to go to In&Out, I have heard so much about it.

  37. Phil Parker says:

    that does look pretty amazing…now…the ONLY thing that could POSSIBLY improve on it would be a deep fried, fried egg…. with the crispy outside and the runny egg yolky goodness… if ONLY somebody had mastered this and sent you the recipe…possibly with a few pics attached as east to follow instructions… *and if you have no idea what I’m talking about, check your email 😉

  38. Chuck Coshow says:

    Jewel, you have every right to be pleased about your recipe. But you might want to check this one out, too:


    Serious Eats is an amazing website; hardcore food porn. There’s a link from the recipe to how the chef came up with it; J. Kenji Alt-Lopez went to MIT, he’s a mad scientist/chef/food nerd, and his research is like sexy food poetry.

  39. Kenth Pedersen says:

    You just let me know when the craving gets the better of you, and I’ll Same-Day an Animal Style to you.

  40. I loved In-N-Out Burgers. I had them when I lived in San Ramon, CA for a bit. I’m more into the super health food now or at least I try to be. Hard to pass on a good burger. There are a few popping up in Texas now but not sure if there’s any in San Antonio, yet.

  41. Sanjay says:

    Get OUT of my dreams AND INto my stomach! :oO

  42. ChrisN says:

    I told you this looked amazing at LFCC, but now having tried your recipe I can confirm….it tastes amazing too! Scraping the brown bits up for the onions works a treat. Seriously everyone reading has to try this.

    Hope you had a good time in London and found some great food to go with all the fan wine….and that you enjoyed the Tiramisu recipe I sent you obviously 😀

  43. Nick Caspers says:

    Looks awesome. I can’t wait to try this with yak burgers. Strangely enough the great state of Minnesota is home to a few large herds of the Himalayan creatures. As for taste, think bison but leaner and a slightly sweeter. No In&Outs here, but we do have a handful of the east coast 5 Guys setting up shop.

  44. Andrea says:

    Oh. My. God. I think I just fell in love. I’m crazy addicted to In-n-out. It’s a serious problem. Now I can make it at home? I can’t wait to try the secret sauce and directions to cook the onions and try to make animal fries at home! Best blog post EVER

  45. Degen says:

    I live in a country that does not have this fast food chain. I am feeling left out.

  46. Robert L Frost says:

    God bless you Jewel Staite. Canadians cooking awesome Cali food. It lightens my heart so. Finding this blog is the best thing that’s happend to me this week. Here I’ve been for nine months in Afghanistan filling my time with stockpiling recipes to try when I get back to California when suddenly I realize that the cute Taekwando gold medalist looks like that actress from firefly. A few moments later, wikipedia amazes me by telling me that Jewel Staite has a food blog. This was such a refreshing change from typical self absorbed celebrity pages and also a potential treasure trove for new recipes and inspirations that I had to check it out, and what is the first thing I see? An ode to one of our west coast greats. I don’t want to admit it, but you just became my hero. I feel like such a creeper checking on this daily though. Eh. Oh well.

  47. Hannah says:

    Just made these for family dinner. HUGE SUCCESS! Thank you for this delicious recipe and for being generally awesome!

  48. MegaZone says:

    I lived in California 95-98 and I developed a love for In-And-Out Burger during that time. But then I moved back to Massachusetts and had to do without. But recently Five Guys started showing up in MA, and it is the closest thing we have to the goodness of In-and-Out.

  49. I have to try this some time!

  50. Sarah says:

    I know this is an old post, but I just have been daydreaming of this burger since I had it, and I felt morally obligated to tip you off.

    First thing is, Philadelphia has one of (if not THE) best food scenes in the US. In the last five years, the city has succumbed to a hostile takeover of gastronerds and adventurous BYOs. I have so many recommendations there (Chifa! Lolita! Barbuzzo! Amada! Ahhhhh!).

    And while there are several amazing burger joints (the burgers at Village Whiskey are a little legendary), I am going to direct you to the hipstery Piazza development in Northern Liberties, to a slightly hyped place called PYT (which stands for Pick Your Toppings).

    Ignore the trendiness of it and just go for the good stuff: the alcoholic Adult Milkshakes (in the fall there’s a spiced pumpkin milkshake with caramel and rum), and the burgers. Specifically, Jewel, you need the Korean Burger.

    It’s a 1/2lb shortrib burger that has been marinated in Korean BBQ marinade. It comes topped with tangy kimchi and sriracha mayo, on a toasted bun from one of the best bakeries in Philly. Get it medium rare. With a side of tater tots.

    You will tell stories about this burger. It is that good. I promise.

  51. CyndeeAnne says:

    When and if you are ever in phoenix, AZ you must try a little chainstor called Smashburger. Their burgers are so good you want to stop eating and just rub them on your body.


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