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Fast Food

Big fast food chains think people still really love bacon on burgers

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The larger-than-life El Diablo features sliced jalapenos, crunchy Jalapeno Poppers, spicy habanero bacon sauce and pepper-Jack cheese-- with bacon of course. (Carl's Jr)

Has there even been a more important food than the burger?

Eater is conducting a city-by-city poll to find the best local burgers, but took some time out to look at what national chains are doing with America’s favorite sandwich.

In a highly scientific study (not really), the Eater team analyzed 37 burgers introduced by 10 major chains over the past year and a half to figure out what really sets one burger apart from another.  

Their conclusion: toppings “can make or break” a burger.  While many include the standard tomato, iceberg, onions, cheese, pickles—a lot of restaurants have upped their game in the last few years as the era of the extreme burger came into full swing.

So what do chains think Americans really like on their burgers?

Bacon. 

Yup, 2006 called and it wants this food trend back. Ok, bacon is undoubtedly delicious but does it still need to be everywhere? America’s burger chains think so. Of 37 burgers introduced in recent months, a little under half were topped with some kind of bacon. Many touted their porcine product as applewood or hickory smoked, according to Eater, while both Wendy’s and McDonald’s focused on strip thickness.

Aside from bacon, meat in general was a big topping headliner in the past 18 months. Almost a third of new burgers had more than one type of meat than just a plain old patty. Carl’s Jr. served a burger topped with thin-sliced roast beef; Wendy’s, Hardee’s and Red Robin added smoked brisket and pulled pork between their buns; and White Castle even had a pepperoni slider.

A third major trend was spicy things. From Sriracha to jalapenos or Pepper Jack cheese, chains were definitely heating things up.  Jack in the Box released a Spicy Sriracha Burger featuring hickory-smoked bacon, Swiss cheese, and a creamy Sriracha sauce.

The new chicken Sriracha sandwich from Denny’s didn’t make this list but is clearly right on par with other American eateries.

As if extreme meats weren’t enough, Eater found another trend they simply called “Side Dishes.” Apparently fast-food restaurants think Americans just want even more fast food, topping burgers with meal items like onion rings, french fries, coleslaw-- even mashed potatoes and gravy. Should burger eating really be a one stop shop per bite?

The 10 fast food restaurants included in the survey: McDonald's, Burger King, Sonic, Carl's Jr., Hardee's, Wendy's, Jack in the Box, Red Robin, A&W, White Castle.

Happy eating.