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Hamburger Showdown: McDonald's vs. Wendy's vs. Burger King

Searching for America's best-tasting fast-food burger

Fast foods - nearly everyone eats them. Hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, shakes, tacos, pizzas. But who makes the best?

A panel of Monitor volunteers today begins to answer that question. They start with the perennial favorite of fast-food eaters, the hamburger.

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Our showdown pitted the three biggest American hamburger chains, McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's. Six hungry members of the Monitor panel trudged to outlets during the noon rush-hour.

At all three restaurants, sizzling burgers flew off the fires as fast as the cooks could produce them. The nearly unanimous verdict: The tastiest was Burger King's Whopper, a quarter-pound of broiled beef topped with tomato, onion, and bits of lettuce.

The judging worked like this: Panel members each gave a rating of 100 to their favorites. Ratings for the runners up were tallied as a percentage of the winner. For example, a hamburger only half as good would get a rating of 50. On average, the Whopper's panel rating was 97.5, compared with 78.2 for McDonald's Quarter Pounder, and 77.5 for Wendy's Single. Why did the Whopper win? Flavor, panel members said. Plus tender meat, a good bun, and "pretty good" toppings.

Just about everyone agreed that Wendy's toppings were better. The lettuce was crisper, the tomatoes redder. But the meat was judged "tough" by some panel members, and not as flavorful. On the other hand, McDonald's meat had a fine flavor, but without tomatoes and other toppings, it fell far short of the "Whopper."

'Whopper' ingredients: Sesame bun, 4 oz. beef, 2 slices tomato, 3/4 oz. mayonnaise, 1/2 oz. ketchup, 3/4 oz. lettuce, 1/2 oz. sliced onion, 4 pickle slices.

Next: Chocolate shakes.

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