Sunday, February 26, 2017

Bad Chain Restaurants XI - Cloning the Big Mac

Is there any burger joint more American than McDonald's? Is there any restaurant more American than McDonald's? No way, I say. McDonald's is the very definition of Americana in my mind. And is there any American who hasn't eaten at least once at McDonald's? Perhaps, but I have no doubt they're a small minority.

A few days ago, I received a phone call from The Profussor, a.k.a., Daniel Berman, proprietor of FUSSYlittleBLOG. It was related to a Yelp event I was hosting, but after dealing with that business, he asked me if I'd be interested in relieving him of a partially used bottle of McDonald's Big Mac Special Sauce. An official, limited edition, numbered bottle of Big Mac Special Sauce.

Heck yes, I would!


Bottle 153 of 10,000
I have mixed feelings about McDonald's. I'm not a fan of their need to super-process everything they sell. Much of it is more science experiment than food, but I am by no means anti-McDonald's. I love the fries. It's an occasional snack for our family if we're out and about and craving something hot. We'll head into the nearest Micky D's, order two large fries, and go to town on those bad boys, happily dipping those crispy fries in lots of ketchup. In my opinion, McDonald's fries are to this day the standard by which all other fast food fries are to be judged. I'm also a huge fan of the hash browns. McDonald's has a way with potatoes, and the hash browns are no exception. Tender chopped potatoes surrounded by a crispy, crunchy, salty, sheath. Yum.

The Big Mac is another McDonald's triumph and is arguably the most famous burger on the planet. It's sold in over 100 countries and McDonald's claims to sell seven Big Macs a second. That's no small feat.

The Big Mac breaks a couple of burger rules for me, the most important being the small amount of beef relative to the rest of the sandwich. But I like the Big Mac and will eat one on rare occasions. In spite of the lack of beef, McDonald's sells a lot of them, and that's because they are tasty. And there's no doubt the key to the Big Mac's deliciousness is the special sauce.

There're a lot of recipes on the internet that attempt to duplicate a Big Mac. But ultimately, they all come down to the special sauce. Duplicating it is critical to making a Big Mac at home.

Well, I have no such issue, because I'm holding the real McCoy in my burger stained hands!

There was no debate in my mind what I'd do with Daniel's gift. I'd set out make my version of a Big Mac. My goal was not to improve upon it but to make a burger at home that was as close as possible to the real deal.

Sing it with me: "Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun." If you're over the age of 40, you no doubt remember that jingle. And since I have the special sauce, the rest is a no-brainer to duplicate. First, I scoured the internet for photos of the Big Mac, so as to make sure I assembled it correctly, then I gathered the ingredients together, cooked the beef and created this:


For comparison, here's a marketing photo of a genuine Big Mac:


For whatever reason, the top bun in my burger appears to dwarf the middle and bottom buns, but trust me, they're all the same size. You can see I used white American cheese, instead of orange (which is entirely inconsequential), but other than that, my Big Mac is a solid facsimile of a McDonald's Big Mac.

From the bottom up, it's assembled as such:

Bottom bun
Special sauce
Onions
Lettuce
Cheese
Burger patty
Middle bun
Special sauce
Lettuce
Pickles
Burger patty
And finally, the sesame seeded top bun.

How did it taste?

Salty, very salty. And vinegary, and tangy.

I generously salted the beef patties, which I always do when making burgers, but I think that was a mistake. The Mickey D's special sauce is very salty on its own, and I probably should've cooked the burgers sans salt. Also, my pickle slices are thick, and they added a lot of vinegary tanginess, which also isn't needed because the special sauce is very tangy (and also has chopped pickles in it). Next time I'd use thinly sliced, milder flavored pickles.

Otherwise, it was delicious, and while it wouldn't fool you into thinking you were eating a Big Mac, it did taste close enough to the original that I'm satisfied with the experiment.

Now, I have to figure out what to do with the 1/3 bottle of special sauce I have left.


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