Go Inside The Secret Test Kitchen Where McDonald's Invents New Menu Items

mcdonalds test kitchen

Photo: Kim Bhasin / Business Insider

We visited McDonald’s global headquarters in Oak Brook, Il., and the company gave us a peek inside its test kitchen.Tucked within the walls of the Campus Office Building, the Culinary centre seems to be in a peculiar place. It’s surrounded by endless cubicles and corporate-folk.

But inside the kitchen, there’s serious work being done.

“It’s not just chefs playing in the kitchen,” said Chef Jessica Foust, a nutrition and culinary manager at the test kitchen.

Every menu item takes years of planning to develop and organise. Different countries, screening, volume — it’s quite the effort, she said.

So, what’s it look like in there? See for yourself. 

Disclosure: McDonald’s provided travel and accommodations for the trip.

Tucked away at the McDonald's C.O.B. — or Campus Office Building — is the test kitchen, where the fast food chain comes up with all sorts of products.

Here's what Big Mac Blvd. looks like. Kitchens on the left, cubicles on the right.

Here we are — the test kitchen is called the Culinary centre.

It's a bit strange, actually — a McDonald's kitchen encased in glass that's more fitting for a conference room.

But there's some appropriate reading.

We met up with Chef Jessica Foust, a nutrition and culinary manager at the test kitchen.

Judging by the setup, the kitchen was prepped to handle the McWraps and Fish McBites. The box o' fish is the McDonald's latest limited-time offering, hitting locations just in time for Lent.

It has all the gadgets that a regular McDonald's kitchen would have.

Like these handheld pumps.

And the usual cups and shakers.

There's even a little guide on how to get buns toasted perfectly.

So we ran through the whole process of making a McWrap — a product that McDonald's is counting on going forward.

The whole assembly line was set up — simple enough.

The finished product (well, after we'd taken a bite) — just like you'd see in restaurants.

We also got to try those Fish McBites, which weren't in stores yet.

The breading's different from a Filet-O-Fish and it's a totally different experience.

A lot of people shy away from fast food fish, but it wasn't too bad. We wouldn't go out of our way to order it, though McDonald's Filet-O-Fish lovers might.

What's Foust's favourite item that never made it into restaurants? A blueberry yogurt ice cream shake, she told us.

That's not the only kitchen at the McDonald's HQ. There are plenty more running down the side of Big Mac Blvd.

On the way to another one, we ran into Chef Dan Coudreaut, the executive chef at McDonald's.

Other chefs were at work too. This one was getting some bacon ready for some unknown project.

It was a bit of a mess in there, like a scientist's lab, with chefs busy at work with their food.

There's also the Sensory Evaluation centre, which McDonald's uses to test the new stuff they're experimenting with in order to get the feedback to improve the products.

It's a key part of product development. In the Difference Test, you evaluate everything from appearance and colour to viscosity and flavour.

The items come through a magic door. We tasted a set of mango pineapple smoothies and each of them were slightly different.

Now see the rest of McDonald's corporate mothership...

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