Cheeseburger Paradise — Or Not
Andrei Kravtsov/istockphoto

Taste Test: The Best Fast-Food Cheeseburger

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Cheeseburger Paradise — Or Not
Andrei Kravtsov/istockphoto

Cheeseburger Paradise — Or Not

If there's one guilty pleasure food that reigns supreme, it is undoubtedly the fast-food cheeseburger. Chances are high that if you've chosen to eat one, you're not worried about what's inside: You want comfort food. There are a multitude of fast-food chains slinging cheeseburgers, but which one is the best? Who deserves your hard-earned dollars? We looked at six chains — McDonald's, Jack in the Box, Carl's Jr., Wendy's, Sonic Drive-In, and Burger King — that are pretty nationally widespread, so no regionally specific locations like In-N-Out or Shake Shack were considered. Read on to find out how the fries fared, and for the complete meal, be sure to check out our taste tests of fast-food French fries and chocolate milkshakes.

Related:  From Mongols to McDonald's: A History of the Humble Hamburger

Methodology
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Methodology

There are a few things we were looking for in the ultimate fast food cheeseburger. How is the overall taste experience? Do the flavors come together harmoniously? We've all landed on the combo of meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickles because they are a tried and true team. But sometimes the individual ingredients in fast food can be of such low quality that they come together to create pure chaos. Does the cheese feel melted? Do the veggies taste good, or are they gross little slimeballs that feel processed? What's the bun like? Is the meat too dry? All these things matter.

Best Bacon
Courtesy of Wendys/facebook.com

Best Bacon

Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger, Wendy's
Fast-food bacon, for the most part, can be a special kind of nightmare. It has the potential to be one of the most artificially gross parts of a fast-food meal. The good people at Wendy's have solved that problem, though — the bacon at Wendy's is crispy, smoky, and tastes like, well, real bacon. Any burger benefits a lot from the crunch this bacon can provide.

Related:25 Amazing Bacon Dishes Across America

Burger Least Concerned with Quality
Courtesy of burgerking/facebook.com

Burger Least Concerned with Quality

Whopper, Burger King
Eesh. Burger King has got to be selling the worst burger of the six. The meat is by far the most dry, to the point that we suspect the little "flame grilled" charcoal marks to be fake. Lettuce-wise, we're dealing with one of those situations where it seems like somebody ripped an indiscriminate amount of lettuce straight out of the head and shoved into the burger, regardless of whether or not it fits. The tomatoes are the archetype of all gross tomatoes; when people say they don't like tomatoes, it's because they're picturing the thin little slime clusters that Burger King is serving. How much mayo do you like on your burger? Doesn't matter, BK is hooking you up with a full oil rig of mayo. Avoid the Whopper — you deserve better.

Related:The 19 Biggest Fast-Food Flops of All Time

Most Like a Backyard Burger
Courtesy of sonicdrivein/facebook.com

Most Like a Backyard Burger

Sonic Cheeseburger, Sonic
Sonic's cheeseburger lands right in the middle of everything. It's not the juiciest, but it's certainly not the driest. It's a solid size with average-quality veggies, and the whole thing really just feels like the type of burger somebody might make you at a backyard BBQ. Not the type of burger that will blow your mind with flavor, but it certainly won't haunt your nightmares the way Burger King's does.

Best Bun Lineup
courtesy of jackinthebox/facebook.com

Best Bun Lineup

Jack in the Box
Pretty much across the board, Jack is spitting fire when it comes to buns. The standard burger buns are soft, buttery and never crumble — it's crucial that your bun stay intact the entire time you're eating the burger. Jack is also hawking his "Signature Bakery Bun" which has the buttery flavor of the regular buns along with a knotted visual to sort of create a pretzel roll vibe. Those buns are great of course, but no bun in the fast food world is as killer as the one true Jack in the Box signature item: the toasted sourdough bun. Nobody in fast food is doing this. We have no idea why.

Best Burger Veggies
Courtesy of Art C./yelp.com

Best Burger Veggies

Quarter Pounder with Cheese Deluxe, McDonald's
This is not to say a veggie burger — like you might find if visiting a McDonald's abroad — but rather the "veggies" that come on the burger (and yes we know that tomato is a fruit, but there's nobody more irritating than the person who reminds you of that, so we're going to stick with the script and call it a veggie). McDonald's is doing something that not a lot of other chains are doing, and that's giving you veggies of an actually decent quality. For the most part (CC: Burger King), a fast-food joint will give you two tiny, ratty little tomatoes that barely fit on your burger. McDonald's is actually dishing big juicy ones that are the actual size of the burger, shredded lettuce, and pickles that have a real crunch. It makes a world of difference.

Most Overpriced
Courtesy of carlsjr/facebook.com

Most Overpriced

Carl's Jr.
Carl's is slinging an array of burgers, all with different weights and styles, but, at best, they don't transcend the fast-food world, and at worst they are upwards of $8, $9, and even $10. It's not uncommon to spend between $10 and $15 at Carl's Jr., which really defeats the whole purpose of fast food, especially when you're dealing with their incredibly sub-par food. Don't spend the money.

Best Value
Courtesy of jackinthebox/facebook.com

Best Value

Jumbo Jack Cheeseburger, Jack in the Box
A standard Jumbo Jack is under $4, and that's a special thing. Jack's value menu — a part of which is the famed two-tacos-for-a-dollar deal — is a true force to be reckoned with. The price is great, but what makes it all the better is that Jack in the Box probably serves the best overall food of any of these six chains. There was one burger that just barely edged them out for Best Overall Cheeseburger, but if you're at Jack in the Box, things are going to go well for you. Take advantage of the wonderful prices.

Best Overall Cheeseburger
Courtesy of soiferfamilymcdonalds/facebook.com

Best Overall Cheeseburger

Quarter Pounder with Cheese Deluxe, McDonald's
It's important to note that this award is not nearly as biased as you would expect. In fact, we didn't really expect McDonald's to have the best cheeseburger. It's almost too obvious — they are, after all, the most widely recognized and famous American fast-food company by a landslide. McDonald's is such a titan that it's almost synonymous with America itself; if you asked a foreigner to name things that are distinctly American, we bet McDonald's would be one of the first three things said.

This all clicked into place when we ate the Quarter Pounder with Cheese. It's not that it's such an incredible or delicious burger that we lost our minds; it's just that everything in that burger feels right. The sesame seed bun is great, and it doesn't crumble at the sides or crack open across the top like other places. As previously discussed, the veggies are bang-on. The meat itself is solid, not at all overcooked, and much less dry than all the other patties we tasted. The cheese fits and melts into the patty very well. From top to bottom, the McDonald's cheeseburger is tasty. There's just no denying it. McDonald's remains the heavyweight champion.