We Tried McDonald's, Burger King, & Wendy's Signature Burgers—and This One Is Still the Winner!
When you want a fast-food burger, you probably have a go-to. Some love the old-school classic that is McDonald's, others want the flame-broiled taste of Burger King, and some think Wendy's iconic square patty is the way to go. But, which chain makes the overall best fast-food burger of all time?
I decided to try three of America's most popular and accessible burgers—the Quarter Pounder from McDonald's, the Whopper from Burger King, and Dave's Single from Wendy's—to see how they stack up against each other in 2023. I enlisted one other taster and burger fan to try the iconic ¼-pound burgers from McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's side by side. We got each burger with its default toppings, though we did add cheese to the Whopper to even out the playing field. We also got each chain's signature fries alongside the burgers, because what's a burger without its classic sidekick?
First of all, the similarities between the three burgers are probably no mistake. All boast ¼-pound of 100% pure beef and they are all about the same thickness when you line them up side by side. The differences are very minor. The buns and the toppings varied slightly, so the differences really came down to execution and a good bit of nostalgia. Here's what we thought!
Dave's Single is Wendy's all-beef basic burger served with melted American cheese, onions, lettuce, pickles, ketchup, and mayo. This burger debuted at the very first Wendy's in 1969 and was known simply as The Single.
The look: Wendy's 1/4-pound burger has the most top-notch-looking bun with a glossy top. The signature square patty peeks out the side and the tomato and cheese are visible. It has cheese on both sides of the patty. The tomato had slid a little off the sandwich and the bun was slightly flatted during the delivery ride. Wendy's natural-cut fries have a bit of skin on them and were a very deep golden brown.
The taste: This tastes like a real restaurant burger in a smaller package, but honestly, that's sort of its downfall. Dave's single lacked the fast-food burger taste. The bun was high quality and just slightly too thick for the burger patty, which was muted among all the other ingredients. Dave's has too much of everything with the pickles, shredded lettuce, cheese, onions, mayo, and ketchup overshadowing the beef.
While I've seen chicken hold up well to the salad that all these condiments and veggies create, the burger patty got a little lost. The sandwich was overly wet and while it all tasted good, I wanted a better bite of burger, especially because what I got like good-quality beef.
The fries had a very potatoey taste and had a nice salt level. They didn't taste like fast-food fries, but more like fries you'd get at a fair or boardwalk.
The Whopper had all of the same toppings as Dave's Single—cheese, lettuce, pickles, onion, mayo, and ketchup— but with a sesame seed bun. The Whopper is actually the oldest of these 1/4-pound burgers, joining Burger King's menu in 1957.
The look: The Whopper is the biggest of the three when it comes to the circumference, which means that the beef wasn't patted down thinner to fit the larger bun, since all had the same amount of beef. The fries looked to be an even thickness and perfectly cooked to a light golden brown.
The taste: Like Dave's, the Whopper's beef gets a little overshadowed by the extras, especially because it's thinner. But the flame-broiled flavor did give the Whopper a ½-point lead. The veggies and condiments again made the sandwich a bit wet. The burger was noticeably tougher than Wendy's burger, but the flavor was very good and the salt level was spot on. The fries tasted like a thicker version of McDonald's fries. In the end, Burger King suffers from being very similar to McDonald's but not quite as good.
Quarter Pounder With Cheese
McDonald's keeps things simple with its ¼-pound of beef. Unless you want to upgrade, your Quarter Pounder comes with American cheese, pickles, onions, ketchup, and mustard. McDonald's quarter pounder burger is the youngest of the three—it was added to the national menu in 1973.
The look: The QPC is all about the beef and that means that the bun is slighter smaller than Burger King's and we could see the patty hanging over the sides. McDonald's was the only one to serve the burger in a box which kept it perfectly circular and looking pristine. It really does come down to the nuances in differentiating the three contenders. The fries looked perky and golden brown in the signature red box.
The taste: The QPC is all about the fresh beef, which McDonald's has been using for the Quarter Pounder since 2018. The king of fast food lets that beef shine. The beef was not tough but crumbled in the mouth with a nice chew, the bun was soft and just the right size for the sandwich. On the other hand, the first bite of the Whopper and Dave's single resulted in a lot of extra bread.
McDonald's cheese has the magic ability to turn creamy instead of gummy like some American cheese that has cooled. The tangy pickles add just enough crunch and there is no lettuce and tomato to make the sandwich wet—a flaw that plagued the other two.
Plus, what is there to say about McDonald's fries except they are the gold standard for a reason? They taste the same every time with the perfect mix of different sizes. The salt is spot on and that added beef extract gives them a cravable quality that keeps everyone diving back in for more.
While we can split hairs about everything that McDonald's had versus what the Whopper and Dave's Single didn't, only one thing mattered in the end: McDonald's Quarter Pounder with Cheese tasted like we remembered. A bite of burger and a bite or two of McDonald's fries brought back real memories of going to McDonald's as a kid. It tasted familiar but still good enough to keep up with today's better-burger pace.
The Whopper tasted like it was trying to be the Quarter Pounder with cheese. Dave's Single tasted like it was trying to differentiate itself from the McDonald's classic by being slightly higher quality. All three were good on their own, but next to the McDonald's burger and fries they just couldn't compete.