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What physically happens to a burger in a 21st century McDonalds?

A long time ago, McDonald's burgers were cooked and sold inside 20 minutes.

You don't even have to go into a McDonald's now to know there's been some changes made; you can even see it in their commercials.

Who's worked there lately? What goes on back there?

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  1. I worked the grill at McDonald's in the late 1970s. It's not clear to me what's changed since then as regards preparation of the basic menu. What do you observe now that seems new or different?

    3 Replies
    1. re: Bada Bing

      The burger is dead, as if it were flat-topped, and later nuked. The rolls are no longer handled in those steamy "caramelizing" cabinet things either.

      This isn't a minor change; your basic Quarter Pounder today is less juicy, less warm, and less stretchy than the old school stuff.

      If you were really a fanatic for pure McDonald power back then. you'd ask for a Quarter Pounder with no...onions, or mustard, or whatever. That was a "grill" and meant you waited 10 minutes, but got a hot one.

      1. re: knucklesandwich

        I'll be interested to see if anyone here knows current practices. In my time, things were not made to order unless there was a special request ("no mustard" etc). We made burgers in anticipation of demand and threw them in the garbage when they had sat unordered for 20 minutes. I'm supposing that the same would apply now if you ordered a special no onions, etc. Should take 10 minutes, or maybe 8...

        1. re: Bada Bing

          I always order burgers without ketchup or mustard. Back in the day, I remember standing aside waiting for my burger while others just got the regular burgers with whatever was already on it. I recall that Burger King tried to capitalize on this with the "Have it Your Way" campaign. The only reason I can think of why there is no longer much of a wait at McDonald's for a special order is that they either have a bunch of burgers sitting on the grill or a microwave is involved. I do know that BK nukes their burgers.

    2. It was the first fast food restaurant I ate at. You had to wait for your burger.The first week they were open you could get a hamburger for twelve cents.Then they bumped it up to fifteen.Much better then.

      1. http://mcd.manitowocfsusa.com/product...

        Cabinets like this one are/were used to hold burgers until needed. I last worked for McDs in the early 90s so things have probably changed a bit in the past 20 years.

        1. I apologize for pointing you to another thread (because I myself hate it when people do this -- it seems such an arrogant "know-it-all" thing to do), but you might like to look at: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/861289

          1 Reply
          1. Here's a video produced by mcdonalds Canada with information about the process and time limits for patties

            1 Reply
            1. re: westaust

              Interesting video. Back when I cooked there, it was old-school, with a one-sided griddle and no warming trays for patties alone. Of course, we would hold fully assembled burgers in a heated case for 20 minutes. But any special "grill" orders--no mustard, etc.--would be made fresh up.

            2. Here's a look "inside our kitchens" from McDonald's.com

              I learned how they cook their eggs! Interesting.


              1. I worked at McDonald's for one summer back in 2002. The frozen patties were cooked on a giant clamshell-type griddle that cooked both sides at once when closed. They were made in batches of 8-9 which went into a plastic warming drawer to await orders. I believe maximum allowed holding time was 4 minutes.

                All burgers were assembled to order, and buns were toasted to order too.

                1. A little off topic, I know, but I stopped at McDonald's and most other fast food a few years ago because of high carbs, high fat, and high sodium. I almost bought a couple 1/4 pounders with cheese last week when they had the penney sale on. Then I re-checked the nutrition charts and was reminded that a 1/4 with cheese has 1,100 mg of sodium. That's 1/2 a teaspoon! I always thought that McDonald's burgers were too salty, but that is ridiculous.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: John E.

                    If you're that vigilant about sodium then that figure shouldn't surprise you, a slice of American cheese alone is responsible for a quarter of that and a tablespoon of ketchup is over 150mg. So add the bun and 2 hamburger patties and you're easily at 1,100mg. That's not McDonald's doing, that's reflective of your food choices. A similar cheeseburger anywhere else would yield roughly the same sodium content. Cheese, bread and condiments contain sodium. Hamburger patties don't have to, but it;s a rare occurrence to find them without added salt.(even then 1/4 lb of hamburger with no added salt has over 75mg).

                    I just looked up the sodium content of an average hamburger bun, it's 250mg, so a bun, slice of cheese and 1 Tbs of ketchup is nearly 700mg.

                    1. re: ferret

                      "My" choices? I thought I made it clear that I do not eat McDonald's burgers. I know they add a ton of salt to their patties when they are being made. I bet half the sodium is from the meat alone.

                      1. re: John E.

                        Whoa, don't get so defensive. I was referring to your menu choice where you said you "almost bought a couple 1/4 pounders with cheese last week."

                        They can't possibly add a "ton of salt" because if you read my post a standard bun with a slice of American cheese and ketchup on it accounts for nearly 700mg of the salt. That would be true if you were eating a cheeseburger anywhere. So the extra 400mg comes from naturally occurring sodium in the beef, other condiments and added salt.

                        So it' not fair to say McDonalds is making their food unhealthy, they're just making food that's inherently unhealthy.

                        1. re: ferret

                          I believe they are adding a great deal of sodium to their beef. It's easy to taste it. I do realize that most fast food chains have similar sodium content.

                          edit...I just did an internet search for sodium content in average hamburger bun and came up with sites that reported 210 mg, 230 mg, and 260 mg, considerably less than 700mg.

                          Again, you referred to a menu choice that I did not make. (almost)

                          1. re: John E.

                            Dude, read what I wrote:

                            American cheese: 260mg
                            Bun: 260mg
                            Ketchup: 150mg

                            That adds up to nearly 700mg.

                            So you're nearly at 2/3 of the 1,100mg total before adding the meat or anything else.