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)
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)
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.