Fast Food Review: New! Charbroiled Turkey Burger from Carl’s Jr.

Turkey or Beef?

For many Americans, it’s almost not even a question when it comes to burgers. Sure, roast turkey goes great with some cranberry sauce the week after Thanksgiving, but when it comes to burgers, anything but a good old fashioned grain-fed bovine slaughtered in the US of A (and/or Canada or South America) will not suffice. I don’t need to tell you that turkey just can’t match the fatty juicy-awesomeness of beef, nor do I have to tell you that many turkey burgers resemble meatloaf more than they do burgers – especially when it comes to a deliciously smoky charbroiled burger at Carl’s Jr.

I did a double-take when I first heard that Carl’s Jr. was rolling out Charbroiled Turkey Burgers to the fast food scene. Not to mince words here, but, uh, why? This, after all, is the chain which caters to a young adult population that neither doesn’t, nor necessarily should, embrace the idea of calorie counting. Once more, this is the chain which shows just how great a charbroiled beef patty can be, even in a fast food setting. So why make the move to introduce three new turkey burger concepts? Health, apparently, with each one of the three new Turkey Burgers (Charbroiled, Teriyaki, Guacamole) coming in at under 500 calories, and earning the Men’s Health sticker of approval.  But are they worth it for your taste buds? For your wallet? And, dare I say, for your waistline?  After having the Charbroiled Turkey Burger the other day, I’m convinced the answer is “no.”

That”s not to say that this is a bad burger or that I didn’t like it, but I guess we should start with the details. The Charbroiled Turkey Burger, which is offered at both Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, comes with a charbroiled turkey patty, mayonnaise, lettuce, red onion, tomato, and dill pickle chips. At Carl’s Jr. it also comes with “special sauce” – basically a mixture of ketchup and sweet relish. I bought my sandwich for $2.99 and was also offered a coupon for a free medium Coke Zero with the purchase. Extra points for the coupon, and double extra points for Coke Zero (the second single greatest soda behind Coke Zero Vanilla).

Now, onto the burger itself. It comes wrapped in a sweet little number and is wedged in a whole grain bun that’s pretty solid. It’s dense, but not overly wheaty, and has a nice sweet background and even some oats on top. Iceberg and veggies come under the patty, mayo and special sauce on top, with more mayo on the bottom. First thought is what the heck, that is a lot of lettuce, and if I had wanted a nutrient-less salad I wouldn’t paid for one. Second thought is what the heck again. Last I checked I wasn’t color blind, but my onions weren’t red. The tomato was also lacking. Thin sliced, pale, and singular, it does a disservice to trying to appear healthy.

Now, onto the meat. The patty had some crusty marks on one side but not the other, and some funky tenderizing “holes” on the bottom. Still, it was far from hockey puck-like. I grew up on turkey burgers and actually enjoy them for what they are (not beef), and in this regard I give Carl’s credit. The burger wasn’t oozing juices, but did retain moisture. Yet instead of the sweet, fatty juice we all know and love from a beef burger from Carl’s, this was more on the savory-salty side. Black pepper and garlic were definitely at play in the flavoring of the patty, which had a grill flavor, yet a very, very modest “charbroil” smoke flavor that I usually get in the Big Hamburger or Famous Star. And despite the blackened crust, there was no sear, and no caramelization of the external proteins to yield the sweet and smoky crust of a fully cooked Angus burger. The “Special Sauce” and bun add a foiling sweetness, but what you’re tasting will be very much like a grilled Jennie-O Turkey Burger.

This turkey burger is not really bad. It may be salty, but it has a certain degree of flavor as well, and isn’t as bland as I thought it would be, and isn’t as dry either. Yet it’s not what I come to Carl’s Jr. for, and at $2.99, it’s more than double the price Carl’s Jr.’s classic and timeless Big Hamburger. It also has more calories (490 to 470) because of the mayo, and even more fat. That’s great that the Turkey Burger “only” has 4.5 grams of saturated fat, yet if any publication can talk of the benefits of the saturated fat in beef – stearic acid -  it’s Men’s Health, which, oh-by-the-way, does so right hyah. I guess what I’m saying is I just don’t “get” the Turkey Burger in this context. Carl’s Jr. has never made a point of trying to persuade the dieting female and “mom” crowd, and even if they were, do you think they’d spring for a 490 calorie burger? Heck no. I like the Charbroiled Turkey Burger, but I don’t love it, and I just don’t see the marginal benefit of it over any of Carl’s Jr’s more restrained burger options. I give the chain a lot of credit for the concept, and love it’s use of coupons and even it’s relatively fair price, but with a great thing going in it’s beef hamburgers, you’d be better to stick to the familiar on your next trip to Happy Star.

Pros: Innovative menu concept. Respectable moisture level for a turkey burger. Decent grill flavoring and black pepper taste. Special Sauce adds good sweetness, while bun is top of the line. Free Coke Zero. Free Coke Zero with refills.

Cons: Different flavor profile from beef. Doesn't do justice to charbroil method of cooking. Crust isn't the same as a beef burger. I'm guessing this was frozen based on the construction and uniformity of the patty. No fatty-juicy-sweet goodness of Big Hamburger. Veggies fail to deliver in every way possible. Not the best choice for your wallet. More calories than a Big Hamburger. Too much Coke Zero has me bouncing off walls late at night.

Taste: 6.50/10
Value: 6.00/10
Grubbing on-the-go: 7.00/10
Price: $2.99

Overall GrubGrade: 6.25 (Average)

Nutrition Facts:
Charbroiled Turkey Burger from Carl's Jr.
Calories – 490
Total Fat – 23 grams
Saturated Fat – 4.5 grams
Cholesterol – 80 milligrams
Sodium – 1010 milligrams
Carbs – 45 grams
Dietary Fiber – 3 gram
Sugars – 10 grams
Protein – 29 grams

21 comments on “Fast Food Review: New! Charbroiled Turkey Burger from Carl’s Jr.

  1. TBT says:

    I had this yesterday, and I got the Guac variety. So…first, I hate red onions – thus not an issue for me. However I disagree on some key points of your review. I do “get it”. It is the first joint to offer something other than a fried chicken or a nasty boiled-like chicken patty as a healthy substitute to beef. I liked my turkey burger!

    However, it was pricey (over $3 for me). Also, the lettuce was ok, but the tomato was lacking, as you pointed out. I really enjoyed the charbroiled taste. I have had to ween myself off fast food to try to be healthy, and this is a nice choice to go to when I get the urge to drive-thru for my food.

    It is not a salad, but it is also not half as bad as what I’d usually order from this place. Calories from fat is about 120, versus about 470 from some of the burger options I used to go for. BIG difference in that department.

    Anyway, keep up the good work. We can’t agree on everything!

    • Adam says:

      That’s the thing though. Eat This, Not That never got mad at Carl’s for the Star without Cheese or the Big Hamburger. These are cheap, very good, and no worse for you than a turkey burger. I agree Carl’s has some horrible burgers health wise, but I think a “smart” (and I don’t mean to insinuate you are not) consumer versed in nutrition will tell that these are not that great if you play your cards right with beef.

    • Chris In KY says:

      Just had it. I work at a radio station, and starting today, I give one away on a trivia question. So, the patty seems kinda fake to me. I’ve made turkey-burgers @ home many times. It kinda falls apart. Which, I believe is the reason for Hardee’s patty coming off as frozen/pre-fab. The review is spot-on in terms of patty, but I’d like to add my thought there may be some veggie protein at work here. The texture was not what I expected, but reminded me of those patties they used to sling @ elementary school in the 70s. Doesn’t taste bad, but kinda has that manufactured feel. I liked it OK, probably would have been disappointed if I’d paid for it. Actually I was disappointed, since the sweet tea and curly fries I paid for both kinda sucked.

  2. graham says:

    Not tempted. When I go to Carl’s I always get the chicken sandwich with the roasted pepper on it, that thing is MRROORRRR good.

  3. Billy says:

    I appreciate the attempt by Hardees, but I’m not big on turkey burgers. I do, however, love veggie burgers, and the fact that only Burger King even attempts to offer one ticks me off!

  4. Chefprotoss or dan says:

    So is the famous star the same as the little thickburger? You used to be able to get the famous star at hardees like ten years ago for 99 cents. I have always wondered that but considering how long ago I had a famous star, I can’t tell.

    Also, this whole turkey thing led me to do a little research on hardees nutrition facts. They seem to use a lean blend of beef. It looks like the majority of the fat comes from the cheese, condiments and what really stumps me, the buns. I am wondering how much fat was reduced just by changing the bun.

    Also adam, don’t doubt for a second that all the patties beef or not are frozen. Nice review though.

  5. Chefprotoss or dan says:

    Huh, I just went to carls website and their turkey burgers have way more fat. Just thought inquiring minds would like to know.

    • Adam says:

      Well, they are more or less actually “grilled.” So they don’t retain as much fat as a griddled patty.

      • Chefprotoss or dan says:

        Sorry lol, I ment to say that carls jr’s turkey burger has way more fat than hardees. 17 grams(hardees) vs 23(carls) for the original.

    • TBT says:

      Not for the same serving size. Not even close. Check again. It is just scientifically impossible. Turkey meat has hardly any fat beef is loaded with it – unless you get the extra lean stuff (yuck!).

      It’s kinda stupid act like eating this is going to get you in shape. Nothing from a fast food store or gas station has good nutritional value. I just think it’s nice to have a choice. And I also think business wise, this is smart, because people are getting pounded with the notion that they need to eat better – so hey – go to Carls! They have turkey! Lol.

  6. GrubGradeFan says:

    Not trying to be a hater, but I think Carls Jr. is one of the worst fast food places around.

    Am I being too picky be saying that even the lettuce on this burger looks awful. The tomato too. Freshness has never seemed to be part of Carl’s business model.

    I’ll give it up for the criss-cut fries, but other than that, I’m curious to know what everybody finds appealing about Carl’s Jr.?

    • Adam says:

      Beef. Beef. Beef.

      I am a stickler for produce as well, which is why I usually get the Big Hamburger, which has no produce except pickles.

  7. Courtney says:

    That’s to bad, I was kinda looking forward to trying this one day. I really do enjoy a good turkey burger. I make them at home all the time and they are so juicy and delicious that they sometimes get the bun all soggy before I can finish it, yum. But your right about all the added mayo and “special sauce”, I’d rather have them added a good slice of cheese instead. I wonder if any of the other flavors of this burger are good?

  8. Anne says:

    I understand the Onions, but before you start tearing down the tomatoes, there have been some bad tomato frosts recently, (http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/consumer&id=7960686) and so most restaurants, both the fancy and the fast, have had a hard time delivering a quality tomato these last few months.

  9. [...] turkey patty in the Carl’s Jr. Turkey Burger has “zero flavor” and “wasn’t oozing juices, but did retain moisture.” Sounds like someone’s been using my technique for cooking turkey. (via An Immovable [...]

  10. I ate this at my local Hardee’s a few days ago and I pretty much felt the same. Mine also lacked red onions, and I don’t think that Hardee’s offers the special sauce. In fact, I was disappointed at the varieties available at Hardee’s. They could have spruced it up a bit more. Maybe a Hawaiian version with pineapple and turkey bacon?
    I added cheese, which helped, although not with the overall fat content. It tasted dry and bland to me and mine also had WAY too much lettuce.

  11. [...] GrubGrade.com did a review of the Hardees turkey burger and had some good things to say!  So next time you go for a burger, make it a turkey burger! LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  12. Tom says:

    I tried one yesterday and I thought it was horrible. All you people saying it was good must have been raised on dog food. It was so bad in fact that I had to force it down against my will, just because I paid for it. You know, kind of like taking Nyquil. If I wanted something that was healthy and good, I would just go to Subway.

    • DAVID M says:

      Tom,
      Good to hear your not a judgmental food snob. For fast food, something that is healthier is a welcome addition. The turkey burgers are far from dog food, maybe not for you, but they are decent enough. I would buy it again, maybe you should just avoid fast food and eat gourmet food?

  13. [...] Other Carl’s Jr. Turkey Burger reviews: An Immovable Feast Grub Grade [...]

  14. [...] 16, 2011 By: Adam Category: Food NewsI don’t know about this one. Earlier this year I was one of the first to check out the Carl’s Jr. Turkey Burger experiment, but despite the chain’s promise of creating something both delicious and nutritious, I was [...]