Reality Check: Quarter Pounder Habanero Ranch from McDonald's
Editor's note: Today we've got a guest post from fellow burger blogger Rodney Blackwell of Burger Junkies (and organizer of the Sacramento Burger Battle). Since he lives in the test area for McDonald's new Quarter Pounders, he took on the task of trying one for AHT. Thanks, Rodney!
You know those guys on YouTube that take the boring news and add some auto-tune to the words, put some music behind it and make an enjoyable dance remix that's way better than the original? I think that's what McDonald's was trying to do with their three new Quarter Pounder With Cheese varieties they recently announced. I get the premise. Take the classic Quarter Pounder with Cheese and modernize it a bit to capture a new generation of fast food foodies.
The Quarter Pounder Habanero Ranch first caught my eye with McDonald's "Remix" commercial and next with this tweet where AHT's Erin Jackson called me out to try it since I'm located in their test area. The last straw was when McDonald's offered the new burger for just $1. The stars were officially aligned for this to happen.
The Quarter Pounder Habanero Ranch burger has the standard Quarter Pounder beef patty, but instead of the stacks of salty, American cheese that was pretty much the inception to my cheeseburger obsession, they substituted one slice of white cheddar cheese. McDonald's tops that with a couple of slices of hickory smoked bacon, leaf lettuce, tomato, and a habanero ranch sauce.
The first harbinger of hamburger horror was the fact that they literally handed me my meal (with a smile) before the cashier even had a chance to give me the change for the order. I get that it's a fast food restaurant, but burgers should never be ready that fast.
Overall, the burger actually looked pretty similar to their commercial photographs. The lettuce (although slightly wilted), tomato, and bacon poked out an appropriate distance from their "bakery style bun" kaiser roll of a bun. Unfortunately, the beef patty tanned a little too long under the heat lamp and didn't have the plump, juicy look as their stylized photo.
The first bite revealed my earlier hypothesis: Burgers should never be ready that fast. Sitting under the heat lamp completely drained all flavor (even the usual salt kick) from the meat patty and robbed it of virtually all of its juices. It reminded me of the chorus of the "Swimming Pools (Drank)" song from Kendrick Lamar: Burger. Dry. Lettuce. Dry. Bun. Dry. Bacon. Dry.
Other than the obligatory bacon, the only redeeming quality on this sandwich was the habanero ranch sauce. I like spicy, and generally the level of spice that restaurants put out for the "mainstream diner" doesn't nearly have enough kick. While this sauce won't burn your face off, it has a respectable amount of habanero heat delivered within their creamy ranch sauce.
Don't get me wrong. I have very fond memories of the original Quarter Pounder with Cheese. If you timed it just right, and they cooked one fresh, there's something slightly magical about their simple combination of American cheese, chopped onions, ketchup, and mustard. As my burger tastes have elevated over the years, I never figured myself for a burger snob, but in this case, the original didn't need improvement. I've never eaten a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and thought, "Wow, I wish they could add some lettuce and tomato." My dream QPC upgrade would be the classic with couple of crispy slices of bacon and an unhealthy slathering of that habenero ranch sauce.
About the author:Rodney Blackwell is the burger blogger/amateur burger photographer at Burger Junkies and the organizer of the Sacramento Burger Battle. When he's not eating burgers and taking names, you can find him talking T-shirts at T-Shirt Forums, the online community he founded in 2005.