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This Reddit thread reveals what you should never order at fast-food restaurants

A woman ponders a cheeseburger with extreme skepticism. She might be on to something.
A woman ponders a cheeseburger with extreme skepticism. She might be on to something.
Phil Edwards is a senior producer for the Vox video team.

What are things you should never, ever order at a fast-food restaurant?

A recent Ask Reddit thread posed this question to people who work at various chains. Readers shared insights into everything from how restaurants reheat food to what goes on in the kitchen when no one's looking. There's no way to verify these readers' identities or to know whether these points apply to all chains, so take it all with a grain of salt (or a full fryer-friendly scoop).

One reader argued that you should always order when it's slow — a rushed staff gets lax on cleanliness:

After 8pm we would get busy with shakes and cleanliness got thrown out the window. You're getting a little bit of everyone's shake mixed in with yours.

... Basically for every fast food place: if its busy don't order. If there's a sale going on don't order. Cleanliness is forgotten when managers are screaming at you to hurry up.

Another pointed out that once the lobby closes late at night, cleanliness goes downhill. So be careful before you hit the drive-thru:

While most menu items and ingredients are probably exactly the quality you would expect, its the handling of the food you need to worry about. Once the lobby is closed and only the drive through is open, sanitation levels drop.

Some readers complained that drive-thrus are focused on speed rather than quality — so your food is less likely to be fresh:

The only thing [management] cares about is drive thru times. Come in to the store, ask for it (or anything) made fresh and 99% of the time they'll do it.

Another tip: when possible, order what's popular. Food that isn't popular is likely to have been left out longer and grown stale:

Don't order grilled chicken or veggie burgers. No one orders them, so they sit for hours (literally) and they become horrible dried out garbage. Also avoid the crispy chicken and fish because they tend to sit around for a while too.

The same goes for any food that has to be heated up:

Also a huge one is to not order anything right when they open. All that shitty unused food that had been sitting there until 3am (or whenever) gets wrapped up in bags, tossed in the fridge, and reheated in the morning.

One common tip (though not universal) was to avoid the veggie burgers:

Veggie burgers at any fast food place. They take forever as they have to get chipped out of the freezer, microwaved and then thrown on the same grill they use for the regular meat.

The full thread includes more tips and gossip from Redditors claiming to be former Starbucks baristas (they don't like the secret menu as much as you do).

Using these tips, there's a chance you'll make the most out of your fast food experience. But you'll probably have to work for it.