The unhealthiest item at the buffet is in the salad bar. 
Buffet workers ask reddit
Credit: krblokhin/Getty Images

Despite their ubiquity in America, all-you-can-eat buffets are shrouded in mystery. Who's making the food, and how often? How much can you actually eat before getting reprimanded? Are the employees secretly judging you for eating ten bread rolls?

Finally, we're getting some answers.

A new thread on AskReddit became a lively forum for current and former buffet employees to reveal some surprising industry secrets. We're sharing the most interesting, and disturbing, revelations here.

1. Where can you find the best food at the buffet?

"The more expensive stuff is usually placed towards the end of the buffet line in hopes that you'll fill your plate with the cheaper fillers."

2. Do employees care how much you eat?

"We honestly don't care how much you eat. We might just joke around, but seriously we don't care."

3. Is everything sanitary?

"I don't eat at buffets anymore because of the stupid and gross things I've seen people do while in charge of that salad bar."

4. Is there a way to tell how fresh the food is?

"Walk the buffet line and look at the pans. If you see dry, crusty rings or food specs, it’s been sitting for a while; request something fresher."

5. Can you get a discount for eating less?

"Please don’t ask for a discount because you had stomach surgery. It's a buffet, you eat as much as you want and if you can’t eat that much, maybe a buffet isn’t for you."

7. Do people ever steal food?

"Old people try to steal a shit ton of food, all the time. Show me an old person and I’ll show you someone who has seven cookies in a napkin in her purse 'for the ride home.'”

8. Is there anything you should avoid?

"Stay away from the fillers like rice, bread, polenta and anything else like that. It'll take up valuable room that could be better filled by the nicer things on offer."

9. How can you tell if meat is being reused from yesterday?

"Look for holes in the chicken pieces (if you remember yesterday's chicken where on a stick, now you know it's been reused in todays caserole!) Yes, they do this!"

10. When's the best time to go to a buffet?

"Be the first at the buffet, that way, you'll get freshly cooked food, and it hasn't turned into the petri dish of the city yet."

"Don't come to eat off the buffet within the last 30 minutes of the buffet's run-time. Odds are the food has been out for more than an hour and we're just trying to get rid of it."

11. Where can you find the freshest food?

"When we put out more food, we rotate it. The tray we're removing, we take the last couple, I dunno, biscuits out of it and put them on top of the fresh one. I've seen buffets that don't rotate the food but I think most do. So, don't just grab a chicken leg like normal people. Shove all the rest of the chicken out of the way until you find the bottom chicken and eat that."

12. What's the unhealthiest dish at the buffet?

"All the premade 'salads' of potato, noodles, and ham: all that stuff is terribly unhealthy. I mean literal cups of mayo and ranch go into their making. Also the light ranch is just regular ranch in a different container."

All answers have been edited for length and clarity.