big mac

Guest blog by Russell Bowes


As soon as I heard about The McWorkout, I thought “Dam, that’s a great idea!” As an avid foodie, self-confessed gastronome and food blogger I should probably be above a trip to the golden arches, but sometimes, when you’re feeling lazy, down or in need of a treat, there’s nothing better than a Mc-Pick-Me-Up.

Eating nothing but McD’s for a month, that could be pretty fun, right?

Then I started thinking about Big Macs, fries and apple pies and remembered why I don’t go too often: no matter how much McDonald’s I eat, I’m always hungry again in an hour’s time. The food just doesn’t fill me up. Upon reflection, a whole month of eating burgers doesn’t seem so appealing, but the experiment – to get fit whilst eating Quarter Pounders and McFlurries – now that’s interesting.

ronald mcdonald treadmillLest you think I’m a crazy who grabbed Kai’s laptop whilst he was in the loo at McDonald’s or a deranged fast food employee, I should state that I spend my mornings writing about food and travel and my afternoons in the gym. What interested me most was the idea behind the challenge: to show that no matter what the obstacle (too much junk food; poor diet; no cash) you can get fit if you’re determined.

I have a little experience in this field myself. Many years ago, when I was a younger man and my hairline wasn’t running away from my face (for god’s sake I’m only 31 now!), I was a wee bit heftier, and by “a wee bit” read a good five stone heavier.

At the time, I thought it would be almost impossible to shift that much weight; heck I had bigger boobs than most of my female friends and when I stepped on a treadmill I could have used a sports bra to keep those bad boys in place!

The secret to shedding five stone?

Aside from all the usual stuff about running more and eating right, I found that I had to take each day and each meal as it came: I got there by getting the small things right, and then repeating that model over and over. I never went on a ‘diet’ or cut anything out completely; I simply made good choices on a daily basis.

But enough about me and my backstory – let’s get to the real reason I’m here today: to see if I can create a classic McDonald’s meal at home, with the aim of making it healthier to boot.

For this culinary challenge, I’ve picked what I think most of us picture when we envisage McDonald’s: a juicy Big Mac with crispy lettuce and that “special sauce”. Recreating that at home, well, how hard can it be?

What’s up, Mac?

I figured the best place to start was by checking what’s actually in the Big Mac. A quick Google tells me that they aren’t as bad as I had thought; the Quarter Pounder would have been a bigger dragon to slay. The McDonald’s website helpfully contains a nutritional calculator, because checking the fat and calorie content of our fast food is the first thing we do before heading to the drive-thru. FYI, a Big Mac packs the following:

le big macCalories: 490, which isn’t too bad all things considered.

Fat: 24g including 10g saturated fat (that’s the one the NHS says we need to cut down on).

Salt: 2.1g, which is almost 50% of your RDA in one hit.

On the plus side, from a muscle-building point of view it packs 28 grams of protein to help ‘beef’ you up. Can I replicate the Big Mac at home and bring it in under those numbers?


It sounds easy enough but then I went online and began shopping for ingredients. According to the fountain of all knowledge, Wikipedia, the two beef patties in a Mac are 45.4 grams each. Sourcing the leanest mince I could find in the local supermarket would mean the patties would come in at 11 grams of fat – almost half my quota for the burger. Yikes. I figured I’d have to go with this and atone by making a super clean special sauce.

Of course the Big Mac sauce isn’t such a secret these days. In fact McDonald’s Canada posted a YouTube video a few years ago in which the head chef (yes, they do call themselves chefs) revealed the exact ingredients. I’ll be playing roulette with the ratios however.

Here goes then for my attempt at making a Big Mac at home. I’ve noted the brands I used in case you want to check the final tally for nutritional info; all figures are based on the values indicated on the product labels.

Big Mac for one

why so seriousPrep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes



  • 100g extra lean steak mince
  • 2 Dairylea light cheese slices
  • 1 ½ sesame seed buns (you need two ‘bottoms’ and one ‘top’. Ahem)
  • Handful of shredded lettuce
  • 2 small pickles, sliced lengthways


  • 2 tsp Hellmann’s lighter than light mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Morrisons French dressing
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp Branston sweet onion relish
  • 1 finely sliced shallot (reserve a teaspoonful for the finished burger)
  • Pinch of paprika


Preheat your grill to 220c. When I made this I used larger quantities but had half left over, so the amounts stated above will be correct for one burger. Starting with the sauce, whisk the mayo, French dressing, sweet onion relish and vinegar in a bowl, then add the paprika and onion (making sure you set aside that tsp for later).

big mac homemade sauce

Cut your buns in half and discard one of the ‘tops’, then shred the lettuce and slice the pickle. Take your minced beef and work it with your hands into two small, thin burger patties and place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.

big mac homemade patty

Pop the burgers under the warm grill for two minutes. When you take them out to flip them after two minutes, pop the bread on the tray as well to get toasty. Again, pop them under for two minutes. When they’re cooked, remove from the oven and get ready to assemble your Mac.


Start with a bottom, spreading it with the sauce and half the reserved onion. Top with half the lettuce and a burger patty then a slice of cheese. Repeat with the next ‘bottom bun’ on top of the cheese, so bun and sauce/onion/lettuce and a cheese-topped burger. Finish it off with the pickle and top bun.

And there you have it: a homemade, no-added salt Big Mac! How does it taste? Pretty good, but I guess you’ll have to try it to find out for yourself.

homemade big mac 12

My Homemade Big Mac nutritional information


McDonald’s Big Mac: 490
My Big Mac: 511 (the bread is a real killer)
Win for McDonald’s


McDonald’s Big Mac: 24 grams
My Big Mac: 22.5 grams (this doesn’t account for fat lost from the meat as it cooks)
Win for me


McDonald’s Big Mac: 28 grams
My Big Mac: 38 grams
Win for me


McDonald’s Big Mac: 8 grams
My Big Mac: 10.5 grams
Win for McDonald’s

Overall score: a two-all draw.

So was it worth making a Big Mac at home? Most definitely. You get a bit less fat, a heap more protein and the peace of mind that comes from knowing the provenance of every ingredient on your plate. Now if only there was a way to replicate the taste of a McDonald’s shake but without all those carbs…

homemade big mac 11


You can keep up with Russell Bowes’ culinary adventures on WordPress and Twitter, while The McWorkout can be followed here.