If you’ve looked at the ingredients list on an ice cream container or chocolate milk carton, carrageenan is probably familiar to you. It’s a food additive extracted from red seaweed and it’s used as a gelling, thickening, and stabilizing agent in food products. So thank Mr. Carrageenan for helping make chocolate milk possible.
Carrageenan was also in the beef patty of McDonald’s McLean Deluxe.
The burger, introduced in 1991, was McDonald’s answer to the critics of fast food’s unhealthiness. It featured a 3.75-ounce, 91 percent fat free beef patty that used carrageenan to hold the beef together and allow water to replace fat. The beef patty was developed by food scientists at Auburn University. Along with the mostly beef patty, the burger was topped with lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard, pickles and onions on a sesame seed bun. It was also available with cheese.
Thanks to that lean beef patty, the McLean Deluxe had 10 grams of fat, which was 10-16 fewer grams than a Big Mac or Quarter Pounder. A McLean Deluxe without cheese had 320 calories, 10 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat, 5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 670 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, and 22 grams of protein.
I ate one McLean Deluxe burger in the 1990s and I remember thinking the beef patty didn’t have any flavor. If it weren’t for the toppings, providing some flavor, I wouldn’t have eaten the whole thing. Maybe it was at this point in my young life I realized that fat = yummy.
Even though its use of carrageenan got it teased by Johnny Carson and other fast food companies, the beef patty’s flavor was off, and there were complaints about the patty’s dryness, the McDonald’s McLean Deluxe stayed on menu boards for FIVE years. It was discontinued in February 1996.
Even though I didn’t care for the McLean Deluxe, I like the idea of a lower fat burger. And I’d really like to see McDonald’s take another stab at it, because food technology has improved, more people know what carrageenan is, and I’m getting tired of ordering a McDonald’s Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad when I want to eat health-ish at McDonald’s.
Did you try the McDonald’s McLean Deluxe?