Fast Food Signature Burgers 8
Look at that. How can you top such triple-tiered extravagance?
  • When it comes to the classic fast-food burger, nothing comes close to the Big Mac at McDonald’s.
  • Like blue jeans and the iPhone, it has become a symbol of American culture around the world.
  • The Big Mac’s main competitors are “better burger” chains like Shake Shack.

This year marks half a century of one of America’s most enduring legacies: The Big Mac.

Gourmands and chefs may quibble, but at the end of the day, nothing can beat the Big Mac on three crucial points: It’s cheap, it’s consistent, and it’s downright good.

It’s America’s burger. There’s even a museum dedicated to it in Pennsylvania.

I recently pit the signature burgers at Burger King, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s against each other in an unwavering, definitive, and entirely unscientific ranking.

Lo and behold, after the sesame seeds had settled, the glorious Big Mac came out on top.

So it caught me by surprise to learn that only one in five millennials has even tried the Big Mac. That’s according to a memo written by a McDonald’s franchisee, cited by The Wall Street Journal in 2016.

According to the WSJ, McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook said the company is beginning to rethink “legacy beliefs” as it looks to revitalize its stagnant share of the burger market.

Rethinking legacy beliefs? Is our savoriest national treasure in danger of being phased out?

The Aristocrat

The Big Mac was once just a twinkle in the eye of a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-area McDonald’s franchisee named Jim Delligatti. After seeing the success of the Fillet-O-Fish — invented by a franchisee in Cincinnati, OH in 1962 —Delligatti decided to cook up his own new item. On a warm summer night in 1967 in the kitchen of a suburban Ross Township McDonald’s some six miles outside of Pittsburgh, the Big Mac was born.

A previous version of the sandwich was called “The Aristocrat” — a decidedly un-American name. Thankfully, much like America, McDonald’s also rejected the idea of hereditary peerage and after some slight adjustments, named it the Big Mac, debuting it nationally one year later. It sold for 49¢.

The sauce reportedly took Delligatti two years to perfect. The mixture, long kept secret, is now pretty easy to find on the internet. Pickle relish, paprika, and vinegar are all part of the equation; that golden orange savory velvet is what ties the whole sandwich together. It’s so revered that a McDonald’s-branded 25-oz bottle of it sold for nearly $95,000 at auction in 2016.

The triple bun approach is key to enjoying the burger and its myriad flavors. The middle bun piece — called the “club” — separates the two beef patties,…