Food Hacker, Todd Wilbur shares some of his “Top Secrets”

Have you ever visited a favorite restaurant and wondered how you could make a recipe to rival that yummy dish? Todd Wilbur has been “creating original clone recipes of America’s favorite foods since 1987,” and he’s got everything you need to mix up some “Top Secret” recipes right in your own kitchen!

Top Secret Recipes version of Gatorade® Orange Sports Drink

Active prep: 5 min.

Difficulty: Easy

Yield: 64 ounces

Researchers at University of Florida’s College of Medicine developed Gatorade in 1965 when the head coach of the Florida Gators football team requested a specially-designed drink that could replace lost fluids during hot weather games. With players pounding the new sports drink, the Gators went on to take their first Orange Bowl victory in 1967 against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. When the head coach of the Yellow Jackets was asked why his team lost, he said, “We didn’t have Gatorade. That made the difference.” Later that year, Gatorade became the official drink of the NFL.

The secret to making Gatorade at home is not just about getting the flavor right, but also about locating a simple source of the drink’s important supplemental ingredients, potassium and dextrose. Potassium (along with salt) replaces electrolytes that are lost when you sweat to ensure proper functioning of your brain and organs. I discovered that a good source of potassium is Morton’s salt substitute which is made with potassium chloride. Most supermarkets should have it stocked near the salt. Dextrose, on the other hand, is a natural sugar that absorbs quickly into your body to restore glycogen in muscles lost during physical activity. Bodybuilders and athletes use it during and after games and workouts to speed up recovery and stimulate muscle growth. Luckily, I was able to find the perfect product that added just the right amount of dextrose to 64-ounces of water and also came in a perfect orange flavor: Willy Wonka Pixy Stix. Find the 1-ounce size in the giant plastic straw, and grab two. I found them online for 50 cents each.

Dump everything here into a 64-ounce pitcher of water, stir to dissolve, and in just a few minutes you’ll have the same taste and energy benefits of one of the two original flavors of Gatorade, but at about half the price.

2 quarts (8 cups) water

6 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 1-ounce (1/3 cup total) orange-flavored Willy Wonka Pixy Stix powder

1/2 teaspoon citric acid (sour salt)

1/4 teaspoon orange-flavored unsweetened Kool-Aid powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon Morton’s salt substitute (potassium chloride)


Combine everything in a 2-quart pitcher and stir until all the solid ingredients have dissolved. Serve cold.

Tidbit: The orange-flavored version of Gatorade was one of only two flavors available for almost 20 years. The other was lemon-lime. The University of Florida receives 20 percent of Gatorade sales every year which totals around 12 million dollars annually.


Top Secret Recipes version of McDonald’s® Big Mac®

Improved clone

Active prep: 20 min.

Inactive prep: 1 hr.

Difficulty: Medium

Yield: 4 sandwiches

In a cooking demonstration posted to YouTube in the summer of 2012, McDonald’s Canada executive chef Dan Coudreaut shows us exactly how a Big Mac is made. Well, not exactly. He does make it clear that the recipe he is demonstrating in his home kitchen isn’t made with the exact same stuff McDonald’s uses. He says the ingredients in the Big Mac are “similar” to the type of items you “could buy at your local grocery store.” And Dan doesn’t give us any measurements. Oh what a tease you are, Dan. So, while this video does provide many clues as to how I could improve my 25-year old clone recipe for a Big Mac, there was still plenty of work to do. One thing I had to figure out was how to easily form the patties into the perfect size each time without having to track down a specialty baking ring. As I was looking at other objects that could do the trick I noticed that a large tuna can is the perfect size to shape the patty — and even better, we don’t need to open the can to use it! We can just press the ground beef onto the top of the can to form perfect circles. The burgers McDonald’s uses for Big Macs are called 10-to-1 patties, which means that there are 10 patties in a pound, or 1.6 ounces each. For the purpose of this recipe I’ve rounded the weight up to a measurement that is more likely to register on all kitchen scales (1.75 ounces).


2/3 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup sweet pickle relish

2 teaspoons yellow mustard

¾ teaspoon white wine vinegar

½ teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon onion powder


14 ounces ground beef (20% fat)



4 sesame seed hamburger buns, plus 4 additional heels (bottom bun)

8 teaspoons finely minced white onion

2 cups coarsely chopped iceberg lettuce

4 slices American cheese

8 to 12 dill pickle hamburger slices


You will also need:

12-ounce can of tuna (or other can with 4-inch diameter)


1. Mix together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl, then cover and chill the sauce until it’s needed.

2. Use a kitchen scale to measure out 1 ¾-ounce portions of the ground beef and form it into balls (or estimate making balls that are slightly bigger than golf balls). Press each ball of ground beef down flat onto the top of a 12-ounce tuna can with approximately a 4-inch diameter. Invert the can to remove each patty and place it onto a wax paper-lined sheet pan. Cover the patties and place them into your freezer for one hour.

3. Pre-heat a griddle or large skillet to medium/low heat.

4. Slice a thin layer off of the bottom of each of the extra bun heels. These will be your center buns, or clubs.

5. Lightly brown the faces of all of the buns (both sides of the club) on the hot griddle or pan.

6. When the buns are browned, cook the beef patties on the hot griddle or pan for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Lightly sprinkle salt and pepper on each patty as they cook.

7. While the beef is cooking prepare each sandwich by spreading a couple teaspoons of sauce on the face of the bottom bun and on one side of the club bun.

8. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of onion on top of the sauce on each bun, followed by about ¼ cup of chopped lettuce.

9. Lay a slice of American cheese on the lettuce on the bottom bun, and 2 to 3 pickles on the lettuce on the club bun.

10. Arrange a beef patty on the cheese, and another one on the pickles, then place the club bun onto the bottom bun and top off the sandwich with the crown. Microwave on high for 15 seconds to warm and soften the buns as if the burger had been packed in a box.

For more of Todd’s Top Secret Recipes, visit us on the web at

Kitchen Tools List


64 ounce GLASS Pitcher

2 Glasses for drinking

large stirring spoon


McDonald’s Big Mac

Wax paper

Chef’s knife

Large non-stick frying pan

Cutting board

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