There’s something about a basic cheeseburger that just tastes comfortable for anyone raised here for the last decades. This isn’t your overloaded, albeit tasty, version of massive burgers found in today’s restaurants. This is a plan for getting you as close to the basic McDonald’s cheeseburger you know and love.
McDonald’s is such an interesting icon of Americana, literally omnipresent in our landscape, and much to the chagrin of some countries, spread throughout the world as well. Reactions range from eating there day in and day out to naming them all that is wrong with world, and lots of everything in between.
About the journey
As a Santa Clara kid until my early teens, we could ride our bikes the couple miles to Highway 9 and the literal golden arches. The neon lit McDonald’s arches actually framed each side of the building. There were windows all around so you could look inside. But they didn’t have indoor seating yet, tables were built in under the deep eaves, and next to the windows. We got to watch the workers in their white uniforms and paper caps at their stations making the magic happen.
This was before McDonald’s even advertised that you could get a full meal and change back from your dollar. In the 1950s burgers were 15 cents, cheeseburgers 19 cents, shakes were 20 cents and fried were just a dime. But it wasn’t about the money exactly. It was independence and responsibility, as we took the coins we scraped together, traveled there, fed ourselves a meal, and made it home to talk about it.
Evolution of McDonald’s Burgers
They evolved, we evolved. The burger choices in the market continue to explode. From the ridiculous, that is only a burger because of the bun and the patty buried somewhere deep inside the teetering stack of other meats, veggies and cheese, all the way to the spartan burgers in the fast drive through choices. The gourmet burgers are great, home cooked over charcoal is even better, and once in a while when the hungries hit, a visit to history is fun to.
Of course, this basic cheese burger was pretty available on the dollar menu, not bad for five decades later. Even that has faded and now the value menu is a bit more. But their basic cheeseburger is pretty much the same as it ever was. Many will say there a bunch of chemicals in the food. They might be right, that isn’t our issue here. However, the idea that you can recreate the flavors yourself, and know exactly what is in the food you are going to enjoy, is why we are here. It is still a cheeseburger, and a tasty one at that. Health food it will never be. But once in a while…
Making the McDonald’s Cheeseburger (Copycat)
The thing about ground beef is that you need some fat to make a burger tasty and keep a softer texture. You take it down to only 10% and the patties have a tendency to dry out and the patties seem tough. 20% fat is good, usually labelled as and 80/20 product, 80% all meat, 20% fat. 73/27 is also a very common and inexpensive burger to buy that tastes great.
The basic burger patty at McD’s weighs in at a whopping 1.6 ounces according to most information. And that is the raw weight before cooking. Frankly, that is almost too small to be workable as you will see.
We went with a 2-ounce raw weight. Not everyone has a scale, so you can see the size of a ball that weight with the quarter for reference.
The next step is to flatten the burger. To get this amount of meat to cover a 3-1/2 to 4 inch bun, the standard size, you need to get them really thin.
Put the round balls between two sheets of plastic wrap and press them with a flat plate or the bottom of a pan. Using plastic makes it easy to work with the patties and to transfer them to the cooking surface.
If you want to make the patties and freeze them for later, separate each with parchment paper or such, and be sure to thaw thoroughly before cooking.
There are a lot of great bun choices in the market. For this project, you want simple and, frankly, that usually translates into the least expensive choice. Win-win. You can’t just serve them up cold. If you have a multi slice toaster with a bagel setting you can use that.
Stovetop surfaces are the easiest. Heat a flat pan or griddle over medium heat and place the cut side of the buns down and lightly toast the surface. For this we did not use any oil or butter, but not because we dislike that, it just isn’t necessary to get the results we want.
Dressing It Up
We are doing the cheeseburger so these are the ingredients you will need:
- American cheese slices
- Yellow mustard
- Ketchup, or Catsup if you prefer
- Thin dill pickle chips
- Finely minced onion
We are going to do one thing different than you will get at the drive through. Purely personal preference, we put the condiments on the bottom below the patty with the cheese on top.
They will also put the cheese on top, but the condiments are on top of that. We think they build easier this way.
McDonald’s Cheeseburger Copycat Recipe
- 8 Ounces ground beef
- 4 Buns
- 4 Slices American cheese
- Minced onion
- Dill pickle slices
- Salt and pepper
- Mince your onions
- Pre-heat the bun warming surfaces
- Portion and shape the burger into balls
- Place the buns to warm, pre-heat the burger cooking surface
- Place the balls of burger between plastic wrap
- Flatten the patties and season with salt and pepper if desired
- Start cooking your patties
- Move the buns to your counter
- Dress one side of the bun with ketchup, mustard, onions and pickles in that order.
- Flip the patties, unwrap the cheese slices
- When fully cooked, place the patties on the prepared buns
- Top each with a slice of cheese and the upper half of the bun
- Serve and enjoy!