Brace yourself McDonald’s fans — the Golden Arches has just tweaked the recipe for its famous burgers. Seriously, the classic burgers that seemed frozen in amber are changing. And it’s a change you can taste.
We love innovation in fast food, it’s what keeps things interesting, but messing with a staple is dangerous business. Fans freaked out when Taco Bell ditched its Mexican Pizza. I’m still complaining about KFC changing the potato wedges. Hell, Chance the Rapper started a whole campaign when Wendy’s tried to take away Spicy Nuggets. So the prospect of a giant chain known for its burgers (and fries and chicken nuggets) changing a recipe that so many people have experienced and clearly enjoyed their entire lives… that’s a big big swing.
So what’s new? A lot. But much of it probably won’t offend anyone:
- Softer buns.
- Meltier Cheese.
- A new grill setting, resulting in a more noticeable sear.
- A juicier, more umami-packed flavor, created by adding the onions to the patties while they’re still grilling.
- More Big Mac sauce (at least for the Big Mac).
So far so good, right?!
The new changes will be implemented across the McDonald’s Big Mac, McDouble, Double Cheeseburger, and Hamburger and are set to roll out nationwide by 2024. The new recipe is already being implemented across the West Coast and you can experience the new changes at McDonald’s restaurants in Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Sacramento, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Denver, Boise, Tucson, and the surrounding cities.
So do these subtle shifts create a better final product? Are they even noticeable? We found out by trying a new Big Mac, Double Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger, and McDouble.
McDonald’s New Burgers, Reviewed
These subtle changes make all the difference, the buns aren’t just softer, they taste better, they’re buttery, and much more toasted — offering a nutty, almost-caramel-forward flavor that adds a touch of sweetness to the overall experience. The old buns had a dusty over-floured texture to them and came across as dry. By contrast, the new buns offer a nice depth of flavor. They are, undoubtedly, a huge improvement over McDonald’s old buns.
The cheese is much meltier — another noticeable improvement. It’s not melted to the point that it’s gooey and stretchy, but the old cheese tended to have this just-barely-warmed texture to it that made it come across as… sorta plasticky. Now there is some heat on it and it brings the salty flavor forward. Melted American cheese is always better than non-melted cheese, so there is nothing that anyone would have objections to here.
The biggest and most important improvement is adding those onions to the patty mid-grill. That proximity to heat may not be enough to fully grill the onions, but it does allow them to caramelize a bit on top of the patty, which then soaks into the patty itself, resulting in a flavor that is much more savory, and a bit sweet — adding a whole new dimension to this burger that not only compliments the other changes, but results in an overall better end product. The beef itself might not be different, but it tastes a lot better thanks to the way the onions interact with the meat. You do lose that sharp zip of McDonald’s white onions, but what you lose in crispness, you gain in complex flavor. That’s a trade-off we’re willing to take.
I only wish there were more onions!
The one burger I’m less impressed with is the Big Mac. It’s still a Big Mac… it just has more sauce. That makes the experience a bit tangier and messier, which some people are going to like and some aren’t. It was enough sauce to make my hands dirty as I cut the burger to photograph the cross-cut, which in turn caused me to forget to photograph it because I was too busy cleaning my hands.
Admittedly, I probably didn’t need to try four different McDonald’s burgers (two of which were double cheeseburgers) to experience the new changes, but what I did need, was an additional set of burgers without any sauce. Sauce is the easiest way to enhance flavors, and I wanted to taste if these changes actually made as big of a difference as I initially thought. I’m happy to say that even without the ketchup and mustard on the burgers and the extra Big Mac sauce on the Big Mac, these burgers were still incredibly flavorful (the Big Mac needs sauce, it has too much bread otherwise).
I can see myself skipping the sauce entirely to dip the single hamburger in some BBQ or customizing it some other way. The idea that McDonald’s burgers are now a playground for menu hackers to remix makes it all the more exciting.
The Bottom Line:
I’m never this enthusiastic about a big fast food recipe change (if it’s not broke, don’t fix it) but McDonald’s took a thing that was already working for the brand and made it better in a whole bunch of small-but-very-noticeable ways. That’s a rarity in fast food worth celebrating. At the end of the day, these changes are subtle enough that it isn’t going to ruin your favorite burger if you have some serious McDonald’s nostalgia but so substantial that you will notice a much better burger when you first bite into one.
Are we going to have to blind-taste test this stuff against the competition again? You bet.