Dear readers, I am here to tell you that you have been tricked. Bamboozled. Flim-flammed. By McDonald’s, of all places. The most universally trusted fast food restaurant in the world.
Okay, that’s probably not true. Neither is the idea that you’ve been tricked, per se. The truth is, McDonald’s has, rather quietly, removed the Angus Third Pounders from their menu and replaced them with three new Quarter Pounders.
The old Angus Third Pounders were Bacon and Cheese, Deluxe, Mushroom and Swiss, and, later on, the Chipotle BBQ Bacon and Cheddar Bacon Onion.
A lazy amount of Internet research seems to indicate that the Angus Third Pounders weren’t doing that well, possibly due to their high price – $3.99 – in relation to the rest of their menu and the current trend towards value menus.
This idea is directly contradicted by the fact that the new Quarter Pounders are the exact same price, so I’m just going with “nobody seemed to like the Angus Third Pounders so we’re trying something else”.
The new Quarter Pounders are Bacon and Cheese, Deluxe and Bacon Habanero Ranch. Guess which one I chose to review?
…Oh, right, you don’t have to guess. It’s in the review title. Gosh darn spoilers.
The Bacon and Cheese and Deluxe varieties are just as boring as you can imagine they are, containing ingredients like…bacon, and…cheese. I’m not even sure what I’m supposed to be impressed with in the Deluxe – it’s got mayo, and lettuce, and tomatoes, and zzzzzzzzzzzz.
So I find myself with the Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder, which, in stark contrast to the other two, actually sounds interesting. “A quarter pound* of 100% beef topped by smooth white cheddar,** thick-cut Applewood smoked bacon, tomato and leaf lettuce, and a spicy-cool habanero ranch sauce, all on a toasted, bakery-style bun.”
If you’re curious about the asterisks, the first lets you know that’s the weight before cooking and the second informs you that the cheese is pasteurized process. There, I’ve done my boring due diligence.
At this point I was about to launch into the part where I actually eat the fucking burger, but I stumbled upon something on McDonald’s website that I just could not, in good conscience, ignore.
In recent times I’ve made a point of not poaching pictures, because I’m pretty sure there’s copyright issues involved. But a picture is worth a thousand words, which I’ll probably end up writing anyways, and I just couldn’t help myself on this one. So up it goes until I get a cease and desist email from Ronald.
Look at it. Love it for its ridiculousness. HABANEROS SLAPPING YOUR TONGUE! ZING! Bacon shaming!
The tongue-slapping is my obvious favorite, but I’m also very fond of, “I see you looking at me?” With some different punctuation, it could be construed as an amusing threat from the aggressive habanero pepper. But phrased as a question, it a.) makes no goddamn sense and b.) makes the habanero sound insecure.
I’m lovin’ it. (Please kill me.)
Okay. Burger time.
First off, I took pictures and ate my Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder before I did all that researchy stuff, which led to me being surprised by the lack of habanero peppers on my burger. I thought it was bacon, habanero and ranch, not bacon and habanero ranch.
I was a little disappointed, but that’s okay. As far as I can remember, this is the first time a major fast food chain has gone habanero, in any form.
In case you didn’t know, habaneros are pretty serious business. To give you a point of comparison, jalapeño peppers rate between 3,500–8,000 units on the Scoville scale, while habaneros are between 100,000–350,000 units. Even if you don’t know what the Scoville scale is, and you should, you can see the impressive disparity in those numbers.
What I’m trying to say here is that habaneros are hot.
Let’s get the boring parts out of the way. My lettuce sucked. It was sad and limp and looked to be on the precipice of being tossed in the garbage. My tomato was also lame and added nothing to the burger. I could have easily done without it. But, these are the vagaries of fast food.
My “bakery-style bun” was a goddamn McDonald’s hamburger bun. I had no idea it was toasted. It was neither good nor bad; it was just a necessary delivery vehicle for the contents inside.
My asterisk asterisk pasteurized process white cheddar was not melted. That seems like a pretty basic oversight. It didn’t really matter though, because it really didn’t add much to the Quarter Pounder. Perhaps if it had been melted, it would have added a nice, creamy touch. The world will never know.
Getting to the good stuff, the thick-cut Applewood smoked bacon was indeed smoky, crunchy and flavorful, words I’d never expect to write about McDonald’s bacon but am happy to do. That crunchiness added a lot of texture to the burger, picking up the slack of my sad-ass lettuce.
Now to the star of the show – the habanero ranch. They weren’t stingy with it, for which I was thankful. I could see little peppery flecks in it and it was appropriately bright, which made it look threatening, like a poisonous neon-colored frog in a rainforest.
You know how fast food chains are constantly claiming that such-and-such menu offering is so spicy it will burn your taste buds off and send you screaming to the emergency room? Yeah, that never actually happens. In fact, you’re lucky if you get anything spicy at all.
This is not the case with the Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder! The habanero ranch was creamy and spicy, turning this burger from mediocre to something I honestly enjoyed.
Did it have the burn power of an actual habanero pepper? Well, no. It made the burger nice and spicy but not so much that I was rushing for a glass of milk.
You could call it sad that it takes an incredibly spicy pepper just to make a burger “noticeably spicy”, but this is the world we live in, so I was happy just to get some heat out of the Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder.
There were some lowlights – lackluster toppings, unmelted cheese – but these are location/time-related problems. The surprisingly crunchy and flavorful bacon combined with the tasty, plentiful and spicy habanero ranch dressing really turned this burger around. Was my tongue, indeed, slapped? I’d say yes, but I’d rate it as more of a “snap out of your hysteria” slap and less of a “you just called me the c-word” slap.
I am, indeed, looking at you, Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder. And you’re lookin’ pretty good. But you need to work on accessorizing.
McDonald’s Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder
- Score: 4 out of 5 tongue-slaps from insecure habaneros
- Price: $3.99
- Size: 1 burger
- Purchased at: McDonald’s #23767
- Nutritional Quirks: “Contains less than 1% habanero pepper” – well, that’s a bummer. On the plus side, the “dried cayenne red pepper sauce” that is listed more prominently seems to be doing a good job. I guess “Bacon Dried Cayenne Red Pepper Sauce Ranch Quarter Pounder” doesn’t have quite the same ring.