Tasty tests for the best burgers

McDonald’s burgers are certainly cheap and fast, but you still might wonder why billions have been consumed when you see the results of Consumer Reports’ recent survey of 28,000 online subscribers who rated burgers at 18 fast-food restaurants.
Among the standouts were In-N-Out Burger and Five Guys Burgers and Fries. The biggest loser: McDonald’s. Burger King and Wendy’s fared better than McDonald’s but far worse than the highest-rated chains.
In-N-Out Burger, which touts its fresh ground chuck, has 247 restaurants in California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. Five Guys had 640 restaurants in 42 states. And McDonald’s? 14,000 restaurants.
CR sent a reporter (not a trained taster, but someone who has eaten his share of burgers) to make an informal comparison of the fare at Five Guys and McDonald’s. Here’s what he found:
— Five Guys. The regular hamburger, two 3.3-ounce griddle patties, was served well done on a lightly browned sesame-seed bun. You can order any of 15 free toppings (the usual, plus options such as grilled mushrooms and jalapeno peppers). Bacon and cheese cost extra. The patties had a bit of searing along the edges, a chewy texture (the chopped meat was fairly coarse), and a beefy flavor. They reminded CR’s reporter of minute steak. The meat was juicy but left an oily taste in his mouth. The bun was soft and spongy.
— McDonald’s. The basic burger was one 3.5-ounce patty with pickle slices, bits of chopped raw onion, and a dab of ketchup and mustard, served on a lightly browned bun. The meat tasted mild and more greasy than beefy. It was easier to bite through than the Five Guys patty and was uniformly round and brownish-gray. The major flavor came from the toppings. The bun was airy and bland.
Bottom line. The Five Guys burger was bigger and beefier but costs about $5, compared with $1 for McDonald’s. (Five Guys sells a one-patty Little Hamburger for about $3.50.) And the meat is made to order, not in advance, so there was a five to 10 minute wait.
Test your milk IQ
Earlier this year, the Department of Agriculture clarified the amount of time cows that produce organic milk must spend grazing on grass. By July 2011, they must have year-round access to the outdoors, access to pasture during the grazing season, and a specified minimum intake from pasture grown without synthetic herbicides and pesticides. They also must not have been treated with hormones or antibiotics.
Here are other terms to know when you’re in the dairy aisle:
Whole milk. It has slightly less than 4 percent fat. One cup has 150 calories, about half from fat, plus vitamin D and about 300 milligrams of calcium. Whole, reduced-fat, and skim milk all provide similar amounts of protein, calcium and vitamin D.
— 2 percent milk. A cup has 120 calories, about a third from fat.
— 1 percent milk. A cup has 100 calories, about a fifth from fat.
— Nonfat or skim. A cup has 80 calories, none from fat.
— Pasteurized. Milk has been heated to at least 161 degrees for at least 15 seconds or 145 degrees for 30 minutes.
— Ultrapasteurized, aka UHT. Milk has been heated to at least 280 degrees for at least 2 seconds. Ultrapasteurized milk will often have a more “cooked” flavor than pasteurized, according to Cornell University’s Department of Food Science, but lasts longer before turning sour.
— Raw, aka unpasteurized. Because raw milk can harbor harmful bacteria, the Food and Drug Administration recommends against drinking it.
— rbGH. Recombinant bovine growth hormone is an artificial, genetically engineered drug designed to increase milk production (by an estimated 10 percent). Its use was approved by the FDA in 1993. Most industrialized nations and all 25 members of the European Union have not approved its use because it can sicken cows. (And Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, has said that rbGH shouldn’t be allowed in the U.S.)

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