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The Story Of How McDonald's Big Mac Sauce Came To Be

McDonald's Big Mac in hands
McDonald's Big Mac in hands - G_A_M/Shutterstock

McDonald's may catch a lot of flack in popular culture (especially around the globe, where it was a punching bag in France before getting it together), but there's a reason it's so iconic. For most of us, the food is strangely compelling; we can acknowledge it's not good in the sense of being of a superior quality, but it's tasty and comforting. And there's definitely no McDonald's menu item more compelling than the Big Mac, with its familiar jingle that probably just popped into your head: "two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun."

It's the special sauce that merits extra attention here though. There's nothing quite like it on any other fast-food menu; no fast-food sauce quite captures the devotion of its intended audience in the same way. But what is it and where did it come from? How did it evolve? The answer takes us back to the 1960s and an unlikely place: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Read more: 21 McDonald's Hacks You Should Know Before Ordering

Whatever It Is, The Big Mac Sauce Has Had A Couple Of Iterations

Big Mac and fries
Big Mac and fries - Joe Raedle/Getty Images

It's helpful to start with the basics: What is the Big Mac special sauce? The common misconception is that it's just Thousand Island or Russian dressing. It's close to those for sure, but they're not quite the same. Big Mac sauce definitely contains more pickle relish than either of those concoctions, and there's another flavor element that makes it slightly tangier. The truth is, we don't know what the missing ingredient is; McDonald's has kept that secret under wraps for half a century now.

We do, however, know its origins. The original Big Mac sauce was created in 1968 at a McDonald's in Pittsburgh by a franchise owner named Jim Delligatti, to serve with the Big Mac itself. The sauce first came in two different flavors, but they were ultimately combined by McDonald's head honcho Ray Kroc in 1972 in order to ensure consistency. In fact, the sauce's original internal company name was "Big Mac Sauce '72." Though we now know it as "special sauce," it's actually the 1974 commercial that put that idea in our minds; up to that point, the company publicly called it the "secret sauce." Whatever the name, for the next 20 years, it was a big hit.

Eventually, The Company Brought The Original Special Sauce Back

Big Mac box with reflection
Big Mac box with reflection - S3studio/Getty Images

In 1991, the company decided to switch things up with a new special sauce recipe. We don't know the specific changes, but much like the Chicken McNugget meat swap that many customers are still ruing to this day, a lot of people weren't big fans of the change. One of them, it turned out, was Fred Turner, the former McDonald's CEO who also originally suggested the idea of the McNugget. In 2004, Turner decided he'd had enough of the change and reinstated the original special sauce recipe. It was a good thing because pretty much everyone now agrees the once and future form of the special sauce is its apotheosis.

Whether you call it special sauce, secret sauce, Big Mac sauce, or something else, it's hard to argue it's anything but the secret ingredient that really makes the Big Mac sing. It's impossible to imagine the sandwich without it, which is why it holds such a special place in popular consciousness.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.