Battle! Kids Hamburger from Carl’s Jr. vs. Hamburger from McDonald’s

Battle! is GrubGrade.com’s semi-regular feature pitting two comparable food items against each other. Whether it be fast food or snacks, Adam breaks down which item holds the trump card, and which should get your hard-earned dollar.  Today were taking a look at two value menu items that promise to pack the classical American hamburger taste in a pint size package.

Carl’s Jr. Kids Hamburger


Construction: I was struck by this burgers size right from the get go. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still small – but for a fast food style “kids” burger it has some heft. As you can see, the patty itself is larger than the bun, and the edges reveal a nice char and crust. The bun looked like it had been handled too much, while the underneath patty revealed a small application of ketchup, mustard, and two pickles. The patty had indentations from some kind of grill, and various levels of caramelized meat from heat contact (although really only apparent on the outside.)

Taste: Despite it’s size, the burger is full bodied in flavor. The meat is smokey and sweet, with the exterior char on the edges providing especially good flavor. There was an element of moisture that, while not juicy, gave the burger substance and a meaty bite, and a respectable amount of preserved fat coating the meat to make the burger savory. The ketchup, mustard, and pickles did not seem very prominent, and didn’t get as much coverage due to the size of the patty. The bun, while battered, wasn’t stale, and provided enough neutrality to let the meat shine on its own.

Value: At 96 cents this is a good value. I would say great value except for the fact that you can literally get a burger double in size (The Big Hamburger) for $1.29. Yet as a kids meal choice, it’s tough to find a more substantial hamburger, while the taste is as charbroiled and meaty as you will find this side of a Jr. Whopper.

GrubGrade: 8.00/10 (Very Good)

McDonald’s Hamburger

Construction: I knew it was going to be small, but even I was surprised to see just how pathetic the McDonald’s hamburger looks out of the wrapper. The bun completely covers the meat, and I was immediately seized my a temptation to borrow a line from Derek Zoolander: “what is this, a burger for ants?!?” Beneath the bun was a very small hamburger patty dressed with a dab of ketchup, mustard, diced onions, and one pickle. The condiments were neatly assembled. Nothing adores the underside of the bun. The meat itself is a coarse grind with no browning and no crust. Industrialized is a word that comes to mind.

Taste: First, the meat. There is not a lot of it, and if sampled alone, it has a salty flavor that is tough to describe. “Griddled” might be the word. It’s not sweet or grassy like the Carl’s Jr. hamburger meat, and it did not have as much moisture. It’s got a weird kind of seasoning taste, and there are actually little black and white seasoning specks in between the overly tenderized meat. Of course, anyone who has had the ubiquitous McDonald’s burger knows that the flavor is derived from the execution and balance of condiments. The chopped onions really go a long way, and the sour pickle and the acidic mustard do something to really life the pathetic looking burger. Of course, the bun to meat ration borders on ridiculous, and the taste does become exceptionally bready on the edges, where the meat coverage is weakest.

Value: At 89 cents this is a fair value but not a good value. I only say that because the Jr. Hamburger from Carl’s Jr. towers over this one in size, and has an exceptional charbroiled taste that even the nostalgic “x-factor” of a childhood memory can’t match. Iconic, yes, and even balanced in taste. Ultimately though, the bun to meat ratio is a downfall, as is the plain taste of the meat on it’s own.

GrubGrade: 6.25/10 (Average)

Winner

Carl’s Jr. by a comfortable margin. I’d suggest paying the $1.29 for the Carl’s Big Hamburger, but if you want to keep it right around a buck exactly, the Kids Hamburger is a great option.

17 comments on “Battle! Kids Hamburger from Carl’s Jr. vs. Hamburger from McDonald’s

  1. James says:

    The McDouble from McDonalds is a much better burger. At $1 for two patties plus a slice of cheese it’s a pretty good value, and you can usually get Big Mac sauce for free from most franchisees.

    • Adam says:

      Yes, but sometimes I just want a burger, no cheese. Especially for Carl’s where you can actually taste the meat.

  2. Bubbs says:

    <>

    Am I the only goofball that had to actually take a second look at the picture after reading that sentence to see if the bun was “battered” (as in coated and fried), before realizing that I had a synaptic misfire?

  3. Bubbs says:

    Woops, I was referring to this sentence:
    “The bun, while battered, wasn’t stale, and provided enough neutrality to let the meat shine on its own.”

  4. Chefprotoss or dan says:

    Lol, nope I thought the same thing. Took me a second to get it.

  5. Chuck says:

    But who had the better toy?

  6. Rosely says:

    I wouldn’t even call this a battle. Even those little microwavable white castle burgers are better than mcd’s hamburger.

  7. Helldog says:

    Sorry, but McDonald’s hamburgers minus pickles are great. Not great burgers, but great examples of what they are: McDonald’s hamburgers minus pickles. Pay your $0.89×3 and you have a very pleasant meal. BTW, the minus pickles ensures they are hot.

  8. Rodzilla says:

    I must say I’m jealous of all your fast food options. I don’t think there is a Carls/Hardees anywhere near me.

    McDs burgers may indeed suck, but they get some serious nostalgia points from me.

    • Eric says:

      Me too. Living in New Jersey, other than some scattered Checkers and White Castles, basically all we have is the big three: McDonald’s/Burger King/Wendy’s.

      • Adam says:

        Carl’s is really top notch. I love a really well made and sourced fast food style hamburger (like In-N-Out) but usually when it comes to burgers, I like chargilled. The meat just comes out smoky-sweet and not salty-processed.

  9. somesteve says:

    lol love the Derek Zoolander reference!

  10. Tracy says:

    We don’t have a Carl’s here but on the rare occassions I eat at McD’s I get a McDouble without cheese. It’s not too terrible and better than some of their other options. (Oatmeal is my go to there now). I also rather avoid the cheese, no flavor really just a waste of calories. I’ve learned if you order a double hamburger it’s 1.39 but if you order the McDouble without cheese, a double hamburger, it’s only a buck. Go figure!

  11. whitney says:

    Thanks for the Zoolander reference!

  12. Ub says:

    Ordering without pickles doesn’t mean it’s going to be hotter. Mcd has been making all food to order for years now so every sandwich is made to order now. Amazing how so many people speak on here but have absolutely no clue what they are talking about.

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