Jun 25, 2009

Angus Wars

As a concerned citizen and awesome blogging force, I feel that when there is a matter of great importance and divisiveness, I must weigh in. That is why I have in the past, delivered my hard-hitting views on such firestorms as Michael Vick and Mel Gibson and Mike Hucakbee and other things that start with the letter M. Well today I realized that there is a full-scaled battle on our hands, and I need to put in my two cents. Of course, I am talking about the fast food battle for Angus Burger supremacy.

In case you have noticed, over the last few years, the Angus brand of beef has become synonymous with "excellent mediocrity" in our country. It began as a chain of restaurants with a confusing name, that when mispronounced (accidentally or on purpose) would bring a quick rebuke from parental figures. At least that is where I first heard of it. Apparently, there is a type of cattle called an Angus. It is claimed that this breed has a higher quality of meat than the regular old run of the mill cow. This claim is backed up by much marketing and trumpeting by the American Angus Association - an impartial observer if I ever saw one. I mean, if the American Angus Association can't be trusted when it comes to the quality of the Angus cow, who can?

Well, the Angus ranchers all got together and started pushing for restaurants to use this special brand of cattle as a kind of "upscale" meat - a truly special burger. The first major chain to jump up was Burger King. They introduced their Angus burger in 2004. (Dates verified by the source of all valid knowledge - wikipedia.) This is pretty normal, if you think about it. From what I can recall, any time that there has been a whirling dervish amongst the fast food places, it began with Burger King. They are the one who always tries everything first. I'm not kidding. They come up with a totally wild scheme, and before you know it the others come following along. You would think the number one fast food joint would be the trendsetter, but it is actually the #2 guy. You know those "BK Shots" they just came out with (mini burgers)? Hardee's/Carl Jr.'s already has their version now. We've seen it happen with spicy chicken sandwiches already. Trust me on this.

So, BK comes out with their Angus burger. This was followed by Hardee's/Carl Jr.'s and Krystal (yes, Krystal). I believe that Jack in the Box and Checkers/Rally's has had their own version also. And now McDonald's has lined up as well with their Angus offerings. Wendy's is the only hold out. But they are weird and march to their own drummer. They serve square burgers, for God's sake! Like they matter. The battle lines have been drawn. And the Angus War is on.

Does it matter? Are these burgers truly worth the expense, the inevitable hurt feelings when brother is pitted against brother for their favorite? What we need is someone to step up and volunteer to make an impartial decision over which burger is the best. The most impartial and fair group I know in this matter is, obviously, the American Angus Association. But they won't answer my emails - probably due to the fear of what the harsh light of this evaluation will reveal. So, we need someone who has little regard for their health or their pride to volunteer to make this call for us. We need someone so stupid, so susceptible to marketing schemes that they actually would have tried ALL of these burgers. I am the man for this job.

The first out of the gate is Burger King. Their Angus burger has been out so long it has already had three different names. The basic premise here is the same as with all the chains - a higher quality and bigger burger. It is 1/3 pound instead of the measly 1/4 pound of the Whopper. What does this tell us? Only fat people want better quality meat! You can order your Angus BK burger three ways. You have a deluxe version with lettuce, tomato, various liquid condiments, cheese. Then there is the Bacon and Three Cheese version. And there is the Mushroom and Swiss version. (There are also some other variations that have been abandoned already.) Their burger is big, and messy. I have tried the Bacon/3 Cheese. It is good - has a lot of flavors going on. The bun is some kind of split top thing - decent I think. The huge quantity of cheese dwarfs the lettuce and tomato - quickly turning the leafy veggie into green wet paper. Mmmm. The meat does not taste the same, for sure, as BK's usual offerings. It has a little different taste. Hard to put your finger on, but I think the word that most describes it is "filler." I swear it tastes like there is oatmeal or gym mats mixed in with the meat. Something non-animal for sure. It has the characteristic BK carcinogen taste. And, as always, you enjoy a BK burger for hours afterwards every time you burp. I would give it 3 horns out of 5.

I know, the thought of this tiny burger establishment parading out a big butt burger is weird. There are so many questions. Why, in the name of God, would you venture away from tiny food? Why did you abandon the fusion of meat and grease and bun? Why did you name it after Mr. T. in the A Team? The only question I care about is "Is it any good?" The difference between a normal Krystal burger and the B.A. Burger is startling. Whereas the Krystal burger tastes like a grease soaked sponge in between a dinner roll, the B.A. tastes like a real meat burger. I think that this inflates the apparent quality of the B.A. It does not taste as filler-dependent as BK. It only comes adorned with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and condiments. It doesn't strike me as higher quality per se, just higher quality than Krystal's usual offering. But face it, a horse patty would also qualify for that judgement. 3 1/2 horns out of 5.

I am one of those people who believe that Hardee's is always under-appreciated. In my honest, expert, obese opinion, Hardee's is one of the best tasting fast food places. However, this taste is offset by their absolutely mind-boggling lack of customer service. Whether it is an employee at a Jacksonville locale throwing a cup of hot oil at a customer or a Seffner cook handing four strips of bacon with his bare hands over the back counter to the cashier to hand to a customer, Hardee's has a rap sheet a mile long. But is their burger good? Yes, it is. Hardee's has mastered the art of selling the higher level burgers. In fact, it is possible that all of their burgers are now considered "upscale." The Angus burger is loaded with the usual high end fixings. And it is huge. This brings up one of the common Angus burger trends. One of the big differences between the Angus offerings and their boring counterparts is that the Angus patties seem to have less difference between "precooked weight" and "What you get weight." Even though the ounce difference between a quarter pounder and third pound Angus is only 1.5 ounces, it feels like more. That quarter pounder loses a lot of weight due to the loss of ounces due to shrinkage. The Angus seems less susceptible to this. So there is more to eat. Of course, this also brings up the other common quality. These Angus burgers are always dry. The smaller amount of grease and fat and paste in the Angus burger means that the finished product is not as moist. Hardee's burgers all have that problem - very dry. And they have a lot of that gym mat filler taste. Score 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Mickey D was the last to hop on the Angus train. But there they are with the same three offerings as BK, basically. Well, except their bacon and cheese version only has two slices of cheese and not three kinds. The bun is a fancier sesame seed option. McD has never been good at innovation - that is its blessing and curse. Remember the Arch Deluxe and those high end sandwiches? (Which, by the way, the Arch Deluxe was AWESOME. Allen Turner and I ate dozens of those - half for free using coupons.) These buns remind me of those. No, literally, I think they used the leftover buns. It was so stale. How could a new burger have stale buns? The burger itself was good. It had a different flavor than the usual McD offerings. Again, less horse makes for a new taste. But it fell victim to the typical dry, filler taste that the other Angus products are crippled with. The bacon was pathetic - it looked like four small pieces, which ended up being two medium pieces folded in half. It didn't look or taste special. By the end, I was wishing it had lost some of its weight so I had less to eat. 2 1/2 out of 5 horns.

So, the battle ends with no clear winner. None of the Angus burgers were worth the higher cost that comes with them. They all were dry and tasted like they were fortified with batting or porridge. Maybe this is the "superior quality" that the American Angus Association is raving about. To me, it isn't working. Last night I made burgers at home. They were pre-made 90/10 patties from Sam's Club's fresh meat section. Each one of them was about 1/3 of a pound. The four burgers cost me about 3 bucks total for the meat. I seasoned them with pepper and salt. And I pan fried them in a covered pan. They were awesome. They were juicy and tasty. They didn't taste like carpet. I used Publix buns and cheese and pre-cooked bacon. Basically, they were the most basic thing I could do. And they blew the high end Angus burgers out of the water. What does that tell you? It tells me that this whole Angus marketing thing is a bunch of baloney. But, it is Angus certified, high quality baloney.


Anonymous said...

When I read the part about the "batting or porridge", I laughed so hard that I snorted. :0)

Anonymous said...

Excellent review - Thanks for taking on the challenge (so the rest of us don't have to). I, too, have also noticed the OBVIOUS "filler" taste/texture of all fast-food "angus" burgers. What in the heck is up with that?! Of course they all say that their burgers are 100% beef, but has the FDA ever checked this out? Could we even trust the FDA that far? If the burgers are actually all meat, then I can only assume that the grody batting texture comes from some kind of newfangled meat paste fluffing technology designed to make the Angus burgers appear much larger than their predecessors. It wouldn't surprise me, though, if there is some kind of filler in the mix somewhere. My money is on a little from column A, a little from column B...

Anonymous said...

Baloney... is spelt Bologna. And you're right they all suck although I think the better quality burgers in general come from Carls Jr./Hardee's. And I'm from the NorthEast.