Order a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder in Miami or Orlando on Tuesday, and you’re going to taste something different.
That’s because the Golden Arches announced that starting now, the beef patties in all Quarter Pounders and signature sandwiches will be cooked fresh to order instead of frozen at 3,500 McDonald’s restaurants in eight markets. In addition to the two Florida cities, they will be available at stores in Atlanta; Memphis and Nashville, Tenn.; Raleigh, N.C.; and Salt Lake City.
By May, McDonald’s will be serving those made-to-order, all-beef burgers in about 14,000 stores, which make up most of their restaurants in the United States. The beef patties in their smaller hamburgers and Big Macs, however, will still be shipped frozen.
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The prices will remain the same. But the look and taste of the new burgers is something longtime customers may notice right away.
“They look a little more homemade,” said Melissa Montes, the owner-operator of six McDonald’s in Hialeah and Miami, including her family’s flagship store in Little Havana. “You see the juices. You see the sear. . . . We’re cooking them right when you order them.”
Several local McDonald’s, including Montes’ on Calle Ocho, have been mixing in these fresh-cooked burgers with the traditional ones since December.
But how do they taste? Are the new burgers New Coke? Or is this move a return to classic burger making?
The day before the launch, I tasted the new-and-improved Quarter Pounder at the Little Havana McDonald’s.
Step behind the counter at the busy Calle Ocho McDonald’s, and there’s a swirl of activity in the kitchen, where each burger is put on the grill, pulled from a refrigerated drawer with each order.
The marbled, rosy meat, seasoned only with salt and pepper, hits the flat top grill with the sound of summer rainstorm. Because they’re not frozen, the burgers come up to temperature quicker, and they develop a charred crust in the 64 seconds they spend on the heat.
Tucked between a pair of warm buns sesame buns, between layers of melted cheese, the Quarter Pounders looks the same when you open the box.
Then you bite into it.
The char on the burger makes it taste fresh of the grill. That gives it a different flavor than the frozen-patty Quarter Pounder. The biggest surprise is a slightly pink center, something you never saw on the previous gray frozen burger, although these are cooked to a food-safe 175 degrees. What they are is juicier.
These Quarter Pounders look and feel more like a Five Guys or Wendy’s burger. (Wendy’s didn’t miss the opportunity to take a jab at McDonald’s when the announcement was made last March, noting that Wendy’s burgers were never frozen).
McDonald’s says its customers have been asking for this change for years — and they’ve responded. The new Quarter Pounder is definitely different (and, to my palate, clearly better).
“We did have customers saying, ‘What did you guys do different? This tastes juicier,’ ” Montes said.
McDonald’s loyalists will be the ultimate judges.