Fast-food giant McDonald’s is selling a new “Texas” burger until September 5. The burger, called the Lone Star Stack, was conceived by a Houstonian named Joseph Pena and was the winning entry in a recent Burger Showdown competition sponsored by the chain. Pena won $5,000 for his entry.
The Lone Star Stack sounds like a decent combination of ingredients: “crinkle cut” pickles, with American cheese, white cheddar (which McDonald’s notes as “pasteurized” on the Burger Showdown website), applewood-smoked “bacon” (the reason this word is in quotes will be covered shortly), caramelized onions and sweet onion barbecue sauce, all wedged between two slices of Texas toast. There are one- and two-patty options (the single stack and double stack, respectively).
Four people taste-tested both the single and the double versions of the Lone Star Stack. First off, the meat is — well, it’s McDonald’s. The burger meat's texture is oddly soft. There’s not a trace of beefy heft or actual meatiness. That said, the double patty is the way to go with the Lone Star Stack. It just seems “more like a burger,” as one taste-tester observed.
Tasters were split on the Texas toast used as buns. The bottom piece was soggy, which one taster hated. Another thought it was like “Texas toast, if made from Wonder bread.” Another said that, regardless of the flaws, he liked it better than the regular buns at McDonald’s. Fair enough.
As far as the “bacon” went, if there were a punch-out paper-doll book, and some of the paper dolls were illustrations of bacon that were then baked, they’d taste about like the slices on the Lone Star Stack. Wait — printed bacon? Maybe that’s the sinister secret of why fast-food “bacon” is universally flavorless, like paper.
Neither the American cheese nor the white cheddar made much of an impact, mainly because the dose of some caramelized onions (possibly the best part of the burger) and an excessively sweet onion barbecue sauce canceled out all other flavors.
As covered in depth in our cover story on Building Houston’s Perfect Cheeseburger, the flavor profile of what people think of as a “Texas” burger is spicy, beefy and tart. The Lone Star Stack has none of those qualities.
If diners were getting the home-cooked version of Pena’s creation, chances are it would be a mighty fine burger. What McDonald’s customers are getting, though, is a good idea made with fast-food-quality ingredients (and the word “quality” is used loosely).
No matter what label is stuck on it, the Lone Star Stack is no true Texas burger.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.