Tag Archives: McDonalds

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Building a better better Big Mac

Serious Eats may have shown us how to build a better Big Mac at home. But what would happen if a string of fancy pants restaurants had the opportunity to turn the iconic burger into something, well, a little bit fancy (a la Fancy Fast Food).

The Challenge

“We asked four chefs to turn a Big Mac combo (burger, fries and a Coke, plus lots of condiments) into a five-star dish. To our surprise, they agreed. The only rule: other than oil and water, no extra ingredients allowed. The result is four meals that won’t be seen on a specials board anytime soon.”

The Results


Local Kitchen’s McLumi Platter

“It took chef/co-owner Fabio Bondi three tries to get this dish right. He made mortadella (an Italian cold cut) out of emulsified patties, lettuce, onions and sweet-and-sour sauce. But when he poached the sausage, it exploded. The same thing happened when he put it in a hot pan. In the end, he prepared it in the restaurant’s backyard smoker. The buns were toasted and made into crostini (the sesame seeds were mixed with ketchup to resemble mostarda, a fruit and mustard condiment). The nodini (bread knots) were made from fries.”


Aravind’s Open-Faced Samosas

“Father-and-son team Raj and Aravind Kozhikott wanted their creation to reflect their restaurant’s Indian cuisine. To make the samosa filling, they diced the meat, mixed it with the onion and used barbecue sauce as a binding agent before wrapping it in two rolled-out-and-fried burger buns. The fries were bundled up using strips of a cut-up fry box. The cheese from the burger was scraped off the patty and used as a sauce.”

There are a couple more here at The Grid, and some behind the scenes info about the project here.

Build a better Big Mac

I love Serious Eats. Especially the work of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, who has single-handedly brought the secrets of McDonalds into the hands of the masses. Here he turns his attention to the Big Mac.

Here’s the recipe.

Here’s the story. He even figured out the perfect number of sesame seeds.

And cracks the recipe for the Big Mac’s special sauce.

Essentially, it’s a mix of mayonnaise, relish, and mustard with sugar, onion, turmeric colorings, and a bit of hydrolyzed vegetable protein thrown in. It’s this last bit that might throw you for a bit of a loop.

Hydrolyzed vegetable protein is made by breaking down proteins into their constituent amino acids, resulting in a product with a distinctly savory flavor. Indeed, it’s very similar to bottled yeast extracts (which are made by autolyzing yeast) such as Marmite, Vegemite, or Maggi seasoning. Any of those will do.

Yum.

The McDouble: Peak burger?

I don’t think I’ve ever had a burger as good as the McDouble. Not even a pounder. Except maybe the Cactus Jacks Build your Own Burger in Townsville. But that’s eight times the price.  And I don’t think we’ll ever see a burger that’s quite so good again. Certainly not priced under $2. It’s an unbeatable mix of value and taste. Some burgers taste better but don’t represent value for money. The only burgers cheaper than the McDouble – the cheeseburger (which is, actually, the same price I think) and the Junior Burger (is that what they’re called still?) pale in comparison. No burger in the past, present, or future, looks like being able to match it. This is my fearless prediction. I’m looking forward to the results if people try to prove me wrong.


Image Credit: Gaarawarrgabs
There’s something about the combination of fat, flavour, and texture in these burgers that makes them the item I sit craving between lunch and dinner each afternoon. Luckily I so rarely act on these cravings. Some would say my definition of rarely is broken at this point.

The tomato sauce and onion combo in the “seasoning” department is genius. The McDonald’s food scientists have outdone themselves in understanding umami, or something ephemeral, and yet delicious, in the cheese to meat patty ratio, and the size is perfect for guilt free burger snacking. Even if there’s some cognitive dissonance involved. We’re talking 19.8 gm of fat  and 384 calories (according to the McDonalds product page). I challenge you to find a better calories/$ ratio anywhere in the world – short of eating pure butter.

Delicious.

Gourmet “fast food”

It’s not exactly “Fancy Fast Food” – because it’s not taking the food and repurposing it into something a little bit fancy. But this DIY McRib looks pretty tasty.

“After a quick trip to McD’s, I broke the sandwich down. A very standard-issue six-inch white-flour roll with a dusting of cornmeal on top, lightly toasted. A scattering of raw white onion slivers, which add flavor and crunch. Exactly two dill pickle slices — not three, not five, just two. A slathering of sweet, tangy, tomato-based barbecue sauce with hints of smoke, almost St. Louis style. And the heart of the sandwich, a boneless, flavorless pork patty preformed to look sort of rib-ish, with ridges implying a rack of baby backs. (I have to admit that, to its credit, the meat was terrifically moist, which is probably due to the amount of fat in there.)

Starting with that fatty cut of pork, I decided to reinterpret the McRib using pork belly, which, over the course of a three-hour braise, turns from a three-pound cut into something like the preformed pork patty’s blindingly spectacular cousin. While it cooked, I made a quick pickle and a simple barbecue sauce from scratch, and sliced some red onions — sweeter than the white — to add even more crunch. I stuck with store-bought rolls, but you could easily up the homemade factor and make your own basic white sandwich roll or go really indulgent with a brioche. Sure, it might take a little more time than simply popping down to your local McDonald’s for a McRib, but you’ll never have to worry about whether it’s been taken off the menu.”

There’s a step-by-step guide, and recipe, here.

Burgers and their ads: photographed (like you needed proof)

You knew it, and I knew it. We’ve known it for years. Burgers from fast food places don’t look like their ads, in fact the same could be said for all fast food from all fast food places, and in fact, for all food, from all food places… but in order to document what we already knew this guy took photos of the burgers side by side with the photos used in the ads.

The real pay off was that the guy responsible figured out that the ad burgers couldn’t even fit in their real boxes.

Happy Meals? Happy times… a study of burgers over time

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt does cool stuff with food. And he’s just done it again. He set out to debunk a popular myth about McDonalds – the idea that their burgers not decomposing is somehow a damning indictment on their food. How? Well, he cooked some home made burgers and recorded similar results.

Here’s where he describes his experiment, and here are the findings.

His conclusion:

“… the burger doesn’t rot because it’s small size and relatively large surface area help it to lose moisture very fast. Without moisture, there’s no mold or bacterial growth. Of course, that the meat is pretty much sterile to begin with due to the high cooking temperature helps things along as well. It’s not really surprising. Humans have known about this phenomenon for thousands of years. After all, how do you think beef jerky is made?

Now don’t get me wrong—I don’t have a dog in this fight either way. I really couldn’t care less whether or not the McDonald’s burger rotted or didn’t. I don’t often eat their burgers, and will continue to not often eat their burgers. My problem is not with McDonald’s. My problem is with bad science.”

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The Burger Experts

This is a fantastic ad.

But you know who are the burger experts. Fergburger, Queenstown, New Zealand.

Since my year of no fast food ended on the first of July I have had the chance to try several of the Grand/Mighty Angus burgers, and I’ve got to say, they are pretty fantastic.

But not as good as the McRib. Which I tried in Singapore. The McRib is a menu enigma. There’s even a web page devoted to its appearance around the globe.

Reverse engineering the perfect hot chip

It’s only three weeks until I can once again enjoy the bountiful wonders of McDonalds and its fast food counterparts. My new financial year resolution for 2009/10 was to give up fast food and soft drink. It’s a shame I didn’t hear about this sooner… this food blogger will go down in history as the man who reverse engineered McDonald’s fries so that you can enjoy them at home… add this to your own homemade KFC with 11 reverse engineered herbs and spices, and you’ve got the perfect meal to enjoy with the World Cup in the early hours of the morning.

In a ground breaking piece of research he managed to get hold of a batch of frozen fries (through some vicarious deception) to put them through the rigours of scientific investigation.

He started with the following parameters for the perfect batch of fries, lets call them “the golden rules”:

  1. The exterior must be very crisp, but not tough.
  2. The interior must be intact, fluffy, and have a strong potato flavor.
  3. The fry must be an even, light golden blond
  4. The fry must stay crisp and tasty for at least as long as it takes to eat a full serving.

Here’s how he secured the frozen fries. He had a friend on Facebook create a scavenger hunt with frozen fries as a required element. Genius.

He measured them:

They’re precisely a quarter of an inch thick.

He fried them in regular peanut oil (and saw that they were good)…

So concluded that the mystery was in the method of potato preparation. He goes into the science quite extensively, examining the changes in potato structure at every turn (McDonald’s fries are blanched, pre-fried, and frozen again). Then he stumbled on to a brilliant addition to the McDonalds method, perfect for home chefs… putting vinegar in the water used to blanch the potatos.

He claims the proof of the potato is in the eating, but here’s the recipe

Mac time

I love clever billboards. This one from McDonalds is one of the cleverest I’ve seen for a while. Their outdoor advertising department is doing a good job…

Broadening your culinary horizons

I haven’t had fast food from a major chain for more than three months. I stopped on July 1. It’s a pretty big effort because I love fast food. Especially KFC.

I was just reading an article about “secret menu items” that I’d kept in the blogging queue for a couple of months. I just hadn’t got around to posting it yet.

But the point of this post is to share with you my infinite fast food wisdom… some of you may know this already, but other people I’ve spoken to don’t…

You can literally create whatever you want at Maccas from the available menu items – and they’ll make it for you.

Some of my favourites included the Chicken Patty Big Mac, the Flake Shake with chocolate sundae sauce, double bacon cheeseburgers (before they were put back on the menu), and the legendary “pounder”… used in Christian bucks parties around the country.

If you really want to broaden your fast food horizons though – check out the Fancy Fast Food website I posted about a while back.