Perhaps aiming to strike at McDonalds while they're weakened by the news of the Dollar Menu retirement (which we commemorated by stacking everything on it into one massive sandwich), Burger King's Big King is back after a 10-year hiatus. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, BK just gave Mickey D's a whopper (!!) of a compliment, because they've essentially hamburgled Ronald McDonald's signature concept right down to the special sauce. But just how similar are the two sandwiches? We ate both in a side-by-side comparison that was immediately followed by a thorough tooth-brushing. Read on for all the mouth-soiling details.
Big Mac: Opening up one of these things is like Christmas morning, or Christmas dinner in a very economically and nutritionally-challenged household. The latch mechanism on the corrugated paper box is a simple yet supremely satisfying piece of packagineering and heightens anticipation. The branding is almost prescient with the slogan: "There can be only one."
Big King: The Big King was dressed the same as any lowly pauper. Or Whopper. Maybe it's because this promotion is only a few days old, but there was no signature packaging to distinguish it from any of their other burgers and unwrapping it didn't feel like a very special experience.
Winner: Big Mac The box made me way more excited and is a huge part of the Mac's overall aesthetic. If Burger King really wants to compete, they've gotta realize that the Yankees always win because nobody can keep their eyes off the pinstripes.
Big Mac: Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions -- on a sesame seed bun.
Big King: Two savory fire-grilled beef patties, topped with melted American cheese, fresh-cut iceberg lettuce, crisp onions, crunchy pickles, and featuring a sweet Thousand Island-style dressing, all on a warm, toasted, sesame seed bun.
Winner: Big Mac
I want ingredients I can sing, not read. And while the King's English includes more description, I prefer my burger slathered in special sauce rather than special types of words like adjectives.
Big Mac: Great posture. Stands tall and proud, like it just came out of a really nice box.
Big King: Nearly a centimeter shorter than the Big Mac. It's kind of slouching, like it just got caught copying someone's answers on a (taste) test.
Winner: Big Mac
Bigger is better, and the Mac is definitely bigger.
Big Mac: Perhaps the secret to the longevity of a Big Mac is that it tastes nothing like a burger. In the same way that Coca-Cola purposefully dodges singularly identifiable flavors in order to trick the mind into wanting more (read the science here), the first-bite taste of the Big Mac isn't beef or cheese, but rather a sweet/sour shock and awe explosion of pickles and special sauce.
Big King: This tastes much more like a burger. You get the sense they haven't cleaned off the grill in awhile and it's almost like you're eating the concentrated byproduct of hundreds of slightly burned pieces of beef. The lettuce has more crunch and the sauce is less overwhelming.
Winner: Big King
Savory trumps sweet.
Big Mac: This thing is as soft as fresh snow. And tastes like snow that's rested for awhile and maybe has a leaf or two in it, but it's still pretty good. The middle bun is really the signature asset of the sandwich, and it somehow manages to stay soft and fluffy despite the weight of the patty. After a few chews, the special sauce turns the bun into a creamy mush that's an ideal complement to overall theme of sweet over savory.
Big King: The bun is a bit crushed and puck-like. The third rail seems capable of supporting a much more substantial patty of meat. The bread is harder and leads your mouth to focus more on the crunch of the lettuce and smokiness of the burger.
Winner: Big Mac
While both buns are very purposefully designed to complement the rest of the ingredients, the Big Mac bun seems more important to the overall gestalt of the burger, whereas the King's extra bread seems like a gimmick.
Although BK dominated the flavor category, fast food isn't just about taste -- it's about the overall experience. Burger King was obviously the underdog here, and it would take a serious showing to dethrone the Big Mac. Unfortunately, the Big King just couldn't deliver. The packaging was lacking, the buns too hard and workman-like, and it didn't come through on the promise of bigness.
WINNER: Big Mac
Congratulations, McDonalds! You've successfully defended the honor of America's favorite burger with a gratuitous piece of bread in the middle and something kind of like Thousand Island dressing on top.