Watch your back, Big Mac. Burger King is challenging the dominance of McDonald’s big burger with the rerelease of its Big King. The beefy beast is clearly inspired by McD’s, but it’s actually a notably better behemoth.
Big King appeared for a short time in both 2019 and 2020, but now it’s making a triumphant return. The current contender has two beef patties on a toasted sesame seed bun along with four little American cheese slices, lettuce, diced onions, pickles and “Stacker Sauce.”
Four inches in diameter, it feels much like a Big Mac in your hands. Viewed from the side, it looks something like one, too, except for one big difference: unlike the Big Mac, it has no third, middle layer of bun. Hoping for an epiphany, I attacked the brawling burgers in turn.
I found nothing to differentiate the beef from one to the other when I separated the patties from the enveloping mush of sauce and ooze. But face it: the meat isn’t the point with fast food. It’s mouthfeel and how all the elements taste in combination when you get your teeth and mouth around them.
That’s where Big King narrowly won my taste-off. Its buns were moist while the Big Mac’s felt like cardboard on the tongue. Big King’s lettuce was crisp enough to provide a modicum of crackle; not so the Big Mac’s.
The onions fought it out to a draw. But Stacker Sauce — mayonnaise-based but textured with ketchup, paprika and rosemary — handily whipped the Big Mac sauce, which tasted only of the mayo its white color suggested.
Big King’s pickle slices were zesty enough to serve at a party. Big Mac’s were lame and limp.
The Big King’s 980 calories (according to Burger King’s website) came at a cost of $5.99. The Big Mac’s 599 calories (according to McDonald’s website) were $4.99. But take the calories with grains of salt: they vary on the companies’ websites, signs in the stores and in online articles about the burgers.
Big King’s return marks the latest skirmish in the fast-food world, where brands need to keep their names in the news even if their latest products stink.
Popeyes scored high two years ago with a surprisingly good new chicken sandwich. But KFC’s recently launched Beyond Meat fake chicken nuggets were abominable. Subway “upgraded” its sandwiches last spring with pitiably poor California-style ingredients. Burger King tried its hand with a horrible hot dog and Chloe’s with an even worse carrot dog.
At least Burger King’s Big King Burger sticks with what the brand does best, though the chain’s good old-fashioned Cheese Whopper is still my preference.