Even the biggest food snob has to admit that at one point or another, either out of convenience, drunkenness, or lack of other options, he is going to eat fast food. And while I myself have no shame in admitting that I am a bit of a fast food connoisseur, in light of the most recent invention of the new Burger King broiler, I might claim that even the snobbiest foodie (they hate being called that!) could feel at home at their local Burger King.
On this particular rainy Tuesday afternoon, a number of writers from the Daily News, the New York Post, GQ, Gawker, assorted food blogs and, inexplicably, myself were ushered in past a velvet rope (seriously) outside of a Burger King in beautiful midtown Manhattan by Penn Station to learn all about BK's new "secret weapon," a brand new broiler that would change the way fast food was perceived, made, and consumed (again, seriously).
Honestly, the sincerity with which they presented the whole thing, the way they believed in the broiler and what it was capable of, made the whole Burger King team of high level executives really seem amiable. At one point Burger King's Top Chef of Innovation (not to be confused with America's current Top Chef Michael Voltaggio) came by to explain to us the strength of new broiler: the fact that the new broiler offered the same flame broiled heat from the bottom that America currently loves (which is how there are grill marks), but also a serious amount of heat from the top to provide a char that was prevalent on everything on the menu, while also causing the meat to be cooked from the outside in, rather than inside out as is the case with other methods of fast food cooking.
So what was served? First was a list of existing or soon to exist Burger King items:
â€¢ The Whopper – I mean, what else would they start with? The flagship of Burger King hamburgers, this guy was pretty much what you'd expect him to be.
â€¢ A.1. Steakhouse XT (pictured) – Called the "XT" by those in the biz (that would be the people explaining the burger to us), this was a pretty serious hamburger that was SEVEN OUNCES of beef (WTFOMFG), topped with mayo, crispy onions, A1 "Thick & Hearty" steak sauce, American cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. The crispy onions added a crunchy texture that was a good way to imitate/offer an alternative to the salty crustiness that you get on the beef from a burger at Shake Shack-my gold standard of hamburgers.
â€¢ BK Fire-Grilled Ribs – This was probably my personal highlight of the meal, these St. Louis style, still on the bone char-broiled ribs came three in a box with a side of BBQ sauce. According to the Top Chef of Innovation these take 5 minutes to cook in the new broiler and are coming to the menu soon. It's definitely a departure from standard fast food fare, and you can really see the top heat from the broiler add some serious, delicious, crusty char to this thing.
â€¢ BK Fresh Apple Fries – Now these weren't done in the broiler, but they're still pretty great! It's an apple that's cut to look like a fry (and it really does, kind of freaky/weird!?) that you dip in a low-fat caramel sauce. [Ed. Note: A WUT sauce???] This is apparently going to be offered as a not-fried alternative in kids meals!
The next round of things were items that would probably never make it on a BK menu but were intended to showcase the abilities of the new broiler-they referenced this multiple times as their "car show" moment. I've never been to a car show so I'm not quite sure what they meant.
â€¢ Filet Mignon (pictured) – YEP! So this sliced filet was a dry-aged tenderloin, flame-broiled (OBVS), served with a Port Demi-glace, pearl onions, and baby portobello mushrooms. Presumably Burger King is not going to start offering this on their menu, and really, it's probably okay if they don't. It was fine and all-my plate was clean, and I'm impressed by the broiler, but it's kind of hard to prepare a filet the way you really want it done in a Burger King kitchen, which is where all of this stuff was cooked.
â€¢ Mixed Grill – This was a combo plate of chorizo, pork tenderloin, rib eye and organic chicken with a romesco sauce. This was probably the low light of the meal for me, the meats seemed dry and pretty meh, and I mean, I love chorizo (lol, Cho-rizo?!) but I don't hold this against Burger King. I don't foresee myself ever going there for a plate of mixed meats served in a various ways, one of those ways being alongside a romesco sauce.
â€¢ S'mores (pictured) – The last offering was a desert that was just pretty much a deconstructed S'more. Charred, smokey, marshmallow, on top of this is pretty rich and delicious tasting graham cracker and chocolate thing. I'm not super into sweets, but if you don't find the Momofuku Milkbar cookies and pie to be too sweet (which I do), then this is probably right up your alley.
So there you have it, Burger King has a new broiler with which they can prepare a whole variety of things that, if you like fast food are, in some ways, a cut above the rest of the fast food landscape.
David Cho is the publisher of The Awl and he eats a LOT. The Awl has no financial arrangements with Burger King or its parent company Burger King Holdings Corporation.