McDonald's Is Changing Its Burgers—See If You Can Spot The Difference

The world's biggest burger joint is tweaking its winning formula.

McDonald's made a much hyped announcement this week: It will be changing the way it makes its burgers. While the Quarter Pounder got a significant upgrade in 2018 with the brand's switch to fresh beef patties, the other burgers on the menu with standard beef patties weren't touched. Now, though, McDonald's is confident that its new process tweaks to the burger lineup will elevate the entire experience of eating McDonald's food. Let's walk through the changes and see if they amount to a better burger.

McDonald’s 2023 burger recipe changes, explained

"McDonald's has been #burgergoals since we flipped our first patty back in 1955," the company's announcement begins. "And while it may seem hard to beat the perfectly seasoned 100% pure beef, tangy pickles, and just-right ratio of ketchup and mustard that made us famous... we're about to make our classic burgers even better."

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Here's a brief overview of the "small but tasty improvements" coming to McDonald's burgers:

  • Those tiny minced onions will see some grill time: Currently, the onions on McDonald's burgers are served uncooked (often dehydrated and rehydrated before serving), but going forward they'll be added to the patties while they're on the grill, which should lend them some additional flavor and color. Those onions are so tiny that it's hard to predict whether the difference will be noticeable, but when it comes to cooking, extra layers of flavor are never a bad thing.
  • The cheese will be melty: I'm sure you've all experienced a McDonald's cheeseburger with a square of unmelted cheese on it, which isn't much fun to eat. In the current process, the cheese slices are added to the burger cold, as seen in this video, and if the carryover heat from the patty isn't hot enough, the cheese doesn't melt. On the new burgers, the slices will be applied to the patty in a different way, resulting in "perfectly melted cheese"; I'm guessing this means straight off the grill or in the holding tray.
  • The Big Mac will get saucier: If you've ever had a Big Mac with a paltry amount of Mac sauce on it, you'll be happy to know that the default amount on each burger is increasing, bringing "more tangy sweetness" to the experience. Being the signature component of a Big Mac, the special sauce is often the best part, so a saucier burger is good news—but maybe a little messier?
  • The buns will be upgraded: The press release says the burgers will now feature "softer, pillowy buns that are freshly toasted to a golden brown." I'm so used to burger buns being relegated to an afterthought, but McDonald's is confident this improvement will help make each burger a touch better.
  • In the side-by-side photo above, it's clear that McDonald's wants to highlight its newly cooked onions, and the cheese on the 2023 burger looks slightly more melted. The upgraded bun looks roughly the same, but maybe a little more glossy. As McDonald's own press release notes, the changes are quite subtle.

Why is McDonald’s changing its burgers?

While this seems like small potatoes, it's important to note that for the fast food industry as a whole, the devil's in the details, and putting certain elements of the food prep process on autopilot can tank the public's perception of a given brand. Lots of chains are currently evaluating how they do things and pinpointing areas for improvement.

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Subway, for example, has moved over to freshly sliced meat in its stores rather than stocking pre-sliced cold cuts, which will not only save the chain money but make the sandwiches taste fresher. This is all part of Subway's Eat Fresh Refresh campaign, which is focused on improving overall customer experience.

Then there's Burger King, which has been improving upon its flagship, product, the Whopper, to revitalize the brand as a whole. By removing the Whopper from the value menu and speeding up its assembly, BK is committing to the burger as the "centerpiece of our game plan," in the words of the CEO. The tweaked Whopper (and its killer ad campaign) has proven successful and even spurred growth for the brand.

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With competition so stiff these days, large corporations seem to understand that store-level execution of the fundamentals will make or break the business. Frankly, I think it's about time—too often we resign ourselves to fast food's lower quality as a trade-off for its convenience. But there are a lot of improvements that can be made without investing tons of money or overextending workers, and they're well worth the effort.

Where to get McDonald’s new and improved burgers in 2023

McDonald's "new" burgers aren't rolling out to every location just yet, but customers can expect to see them nationwide by the end of 2024. International markets like Australia, Canada, and Belgium have all seen the changeover already.

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Here in the United States, some cities already have the new burgers, too, including Los Angeles, Portland, Sacramento, Seattle, San Francisco, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Denver, Boise, and Tucson. If any of you in those locales have noticed the difference, let us know in the comments. 

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