McDonald’s Big N’ Tasty, I assume, was retribution for Burger King’s original Big King, a Big Mac copycat that also had a third bun. The Whopper-similar burger from the Golden Arches featured a 1/4 lb. beef patty topped with ketchup, mayonnaise, onions, pickles, lettuce, and tomato on a sesame seed bun.
It made its national debut in 2000 and was part of the Dollar Menu, which was the reason why I ate it often as a poor recent college graduate with an English degree that many asked what I’ll do with it.
It really should’ve been called the Big, Tasty N’ Messy because it seemed like EVERY TIME I ordered one, it would come with an excessive amount of ketchup and mayo that oozed out of all sides and onto my finger and hands when I applied any pressure to the burger. I ordered it from different locations, and they all seemed to be made by trigger-happy condiment gunslingers.
Despite it making my hands look like I was a serial burger strangler, I loved the Big N’ Tasty. It was as big as a Whopper. It was tasty, even with an overabundance of condiments. N’ it was only 99 cents.
But, from what I remember, at some point, it got smaller, less tasty, less condiment-y, and a bit more pricey. It was no longer competing with the Whopper. It was now fighting for its life with everything else on the McDonald’s menu.
While Burger King’s Big King is still around, but being used for a different line of burgers that don’t include a third bun, the Big N’ Tasty has been gone from U.S. McDonald’s menu boards since 2011.
As much as I’d like to see the Big N’ Tasty make a comeback, it probably won’t because we can get something close to it right now at the Golden Arches — the Quarter Pounder Deluxe without cheese.
It’s not a value burger like the original Big N’ Tasty, but if I custom order it with extra ketchup and mayonnaise, I imagine they’ll ooze out from under the bun, just like old times.
(Image via @collectingcandy. Go follow his Instagram to bring back sugary dreams of yore.)
23 thoughts to “FAST FOOD FLASHBACK: McDonald’s Big N’ Tasty”
What was the one that MCD’s did where the sandwich was on one side and the lettuce and tomato on the other side of a foam container? I was a teenager then I think but that thing was the bomb.
That was the McDLT. I wrote about that in a previous Fast Food Flashback.
This is basically the McDLT reinvented.
McDonald’s introduced the McDLT in 1984 and found a way to “Keep the cool side cool, and the hot side hot” with a double clam shell container.
They hired Jason Alexander to do the TV spots where he was (with hair) singing and dancing with a bunch of (over the top, way too excited) people on a street and in front of a McDonald’s.
The McDLT was discontinued in January 1991 due to environmental concerns with the oversized double sided Styrofoam container.
So it seems we’re back to hot, soggy lettuce with this new Big N’ Tasty….unless they’ve figured a way to repackage it.
I’m curious to hear some feedback on this new item.
McDLT container (1984 – 1991)
When I worked at McD’s, all of the condiments had dispensers. Mayo, target sauce, and that nasty pink dressing came in tubes about 3” wide and were dispensed with a single squeeze of what looked like a really stout caulk gun. Ketchup and mustard came in bags that were dumped into something that looked like a giant funnel with a handle like a colander. There’s a thumb trigger on top of the handle that dispenses the condiment. All of these devices share one thing in common: they all dispense precisely one measure of their condiment, so you can quickly sauce every sandwich with minimal thought required. So mustard had the smallest dose (five tiny dots) and didn’t appreciably increase the amount of condiment when added to ketchup. However, ketchup and mayo each had two of the larger measures, so the reason they squeezed out of that sandwich is simply because they were combined on one sandwich. There’s no way to efficiently reduce the amount of sauced dispensed, so the only way to prevent that would be to use pre-mixed ketchup/mayo that could be applied in a single squirt that would be about half the volume from two dispensers.
Thanks for sharing! That explains so much.
Funny story about those condiment dispensers: My very first job was at a McDonald’s back in January 1995. I started in the grill area, so the first thing I was trained on was making the burgers. As I’m making a Quarter Pounder for the first time, I put the ketchup on, which looked about right. Then I grabbed the mustard, which was the same size dispenser as the ketchup, so I assumed it would output a similar amount. When those five tiny dots of mustard showed up, I assumed the dispenser must have been clogged up, so I started hammering away on the trigger to put more mustard on there. My trainer was like, “NOOOO! STOOOOP!” LOL
Heh. I didn’t react the same way as you did, but I do remember asking them if something was wrong with the mustard dispenser when it didn’t put out the same amount. The caulk guns also had different spacing of the grooves cut into the rod, so they dispensed three different amounts of sauce. I know the ketchup and mustard dispensers could be easily distinguished by the fact that they had red or yellow handles, but I can’t remember how to tell the caulk guns apart. During the shift, you basically just relied on where they were located in the grill area. The Big Mac sauce gun, of course, was located on the regular prep table, while the fish and chicken guns were located by their fry vats. But those things needed to be cleaned every night, so you had to put wrap on the sauce tubes and store them in a fridge, which meant someone had to be able to tell them apart the next morning when preparing for the post-breakfast changeover.
Oh, and that was another weird thing about them. The three caulk guns put out a single dollop of sauce (ideally in the center of the bun, but that really depended on a combination of skill, luck, and pressure to keep up with demand). The ketchup and mustard dispensers put out a ring of five smaller dollops. Mustard absolutely had to be done this way because they put so little on each burger that you’d never get some in each bite if they didn’t divide it up somehow. I suspect the ketchup was done in the same way to prevent it from spreading the mustard out too much when you stacked the burger or cheese slice on it.
We didn’t prep the burgers right next to the grill or fryers. We had a make table and a meat cabinet set to keep the meat warm. When rushes were expected, the managers told us to drop more 10 to 1 or 4 to 1. We did use a microwave, but that was mainly to help melt the cheese on the burgers that had it. I remember the caulk guns for the other sauces putting out ridiculously sized globs, especially tartar sauce and mayo. Yuck. Another funny thing from my time there: managers would tell us to start dropping fish filets if it started raining. Sure enough, it seemed like half of the orders that came through during rainstorms included fish sandwiches.
Yeah, you don’t really understand how much McD’s (and probably most similar fast food burger joints) is geared towards efficiency until you’ve worked grill there. Everything is set up around the size of burger. For “regulars” (1/10 pound burgers), everything works around a dozen. For “quarters” (1/4 pound burgers) it was half a dozen. Now, I have to think back about the process here (I might have some of the steps in the wrong order). The grills (we had two) were dual-clamshell, meaning you could be cooking two sets of burgers per grill at the same time. You would prep the buns upside-down because you prepared them top-to-bottom. You’d lay the tops out on a prep tray, put the heels on a shuttle (looks like a _GIANT_ spatula that’s big enough to hold twelve hamburgers), and load the prep tray in a bun toaster before laying the frozen burger patties out on the grill and closing the clamshell over them. The bun tops would finish toasting about then, so you’d load the heels into the top of the bun toaster, and you’d dress the tops (pickle slice, rehydrated onions, and a squirt each of ketchup and mustard, plus a slice of cheese for any cheeseburgers) before shoving the edge of the prep tray under a lip on the front of the grill. The clamshell would automatically open when the burger cook cycle finished, and you’d use a spatula to transfer them, one at a time, to the dressed tops. You’d slide the heels out onto the shuttle, and then slide them all off onto the waiting burgers before placing the prep tray on the shelf over the grills for the counter crew or a shift manager to wrap. This entire process took maybe two minutes, tops. In a serious rush (usually about an hour or two around lunchtime), you could speed things up quite a bit by putting one person on buns and another on burgers, so you were basically loading one clamshell while the other one was cooking the previous batch. Doubles were awesome, because it involved half as many buns for the same amount of burger patties, and Big Macs sucked because you had to dress them completely different from hamburgers and cheeseburgers, and you had to deal with three sections of bun (one of which I think had to be toasted on both sides?). And Big Mac sauce reeks.
Quarters worked pretty much like regulars, but they started newer employees out on them because they took longer to cook half as many burgers, so you didn’t have to be able to dress them as fast.
While I was working there, they tried out a new prep system that involved toasting large amounts of buns and cooking large amounts of meat in advance and storing them in special cabinets. Then you’d prep the burgers and transfer them to these ridiculously over-powered microwaves (something to the tune of 10k watts, compared to most residential models topping out around 1-1.5k watts) and nuke them for just a few seconds. I don’t know how the grill area works now, but I seriously hope they abandoned that system.
I’ve never worked in fast food, but this stuff is seriously fascinating to me. It’s amazing to me how fast fast food is.
Last time I had one was at a location in Ireland in 2010. It was equally messy.
I don’t recall ever getting one for a buck, but these were awesome. Of the burgers that McDonald’s had on the regular menu (no lto’s), this ranks third all time on my list behind the Arch Deluxe with the circular peppered bacon, and the 1/3 pound mushroom and Swiss, but i ate way more Big n Tasty’s than either of the other 2.
I would also add that the leaf lettuce also contributed to the messiness of the burger. Almost like you had more traction when using shreds, cause most of the time the burger was sliding of the lettuce or tomato.
Shredded lettuce has different physics than broad leaves. For starters, they mostly use a thinner portion of the leaf, so you don’t get any of the thick veins creating cavities in the sandwich. Like the difference between dumping a load of lumber onto the ground vs a load of wood chips, it sits flatter when the sandwich is assembled. And when you bite into the sandwich, any bits that you don’t sever with your teeth are going to pull loose from the sandwich without tugging on the contents very much. I actually prefer to make salads with shredded iceberg lettuce for the very same reason. It’s easier to get a consistent forkful with shredded, vs ending up with a giant chunk of bare lettuce that takes two or more bites to finish off.
When I think back, I didn’t like the Arch Deluxe for some reason. Maybe it was the sauce or the bacon. Or it could’ve been the price.
Also, I think you’re right about the lettuce.
Man, that Arch Deluxe sauce was the best!
We have Big Tasty (yes, without N’) in regular menu in Russia for years. And I mean years, more than 15. This burger is great, one of my favorites of all time. There were some special versions: Big Tasty with bacon, Spicy Big Tasty (with hot sauce), Double Big Tasty (with two patties and extra cheese), Big Tasty Junior (smaller size version)… Maybe some more. Anyway, great burger. Sometimes I really miss it in my USA road trips.
I can’t see any mention of McD’s in Russia without thinking back to reading about the very first location in Moscow. Back then there were still bread lines under the Soviet government, and there was never enough to go around. When the first McD’s was preparing to open, they had to train the staff by having the grill workers place dummy orders with the counter staff. Even though a Big Mac cost about a month’s pay for the average worker, they expected there to be so much business that they set up a _dozen_ registers for dine-in orders, and they planned to staff each register with two employees. One would run the register while the other collected the food for the customer. So there they were, with 24 newly-hired employees lined up behind 12 registers…and all of the grill workers got in line at the first register. Why? Because that’s how things worked there at the time. There was no reward for performance in the Soviet Union, so everyone did as little work as they could get away with. In the bread lines, there would have been enough counter space for more than one person to serve people coming to get there ration, but there would never be more than one person working the counter at any given time, no matter how many people were working that shift, and that’s exactly the mentality the new McD’s workers had when they were told to line up and start placing orders. Meanwhile, the Americans who were there to train them were used to trying to process orders as fast as possible, which is why they had such a ridiculous number of registers compared to any other McD’s in the entire world. There was zero competition in the entire Soviet Union (not even another McD’s location), so anyone who wanted an American burger had to go to _that_ location to get it. The Communist Party may have hated the US, but the citizens _LOVED_ us. I know people who took trips there, and they all pretty much said the same thing. You could pack your bag full of Levi’s and sell them to pay for anything you needed while you were there.
Actually, the McDonalds locations around the Brunswick Maine area still sold the B&T as of a few years ago.
I worked at McD’;s way back in the day, the Big N tasty was the direct descendant of the Arch Deluxe, it was the exact same formula except instead of the expensive and specially made 1/3 lb patty and larger bun it used the usual 4:1 patty and seeded bun. Also for someone way further up who couldnt tell the sauce guns apart, the handle at the top of the rod was different colors, red for Big Mac sauce, Green for Tartar and Blue for Mayo, no color was for the pretty rare occasion that a LTO had a sauce that came in that format, and pretty sure it dispensed the same amount as the mayo gun.
I could tell them apart when I actually worked there, but it’s been a few years. That sounds familiar. I remember the shaft on the plunger has a squared off hook at the end that’s about big enough to hook with two fingers in, then twist to disengage the teeth and pull. And the hook has a rubber coating like tool grip dip. But I couldn’t have told you the colors to save my life. I also don’t remember a fourth gun, so apparently we didn’t use it during my time there. The only LTO sauce I recall was the McRib, and that was poured in a metal tub that sat on the corner of the flat top grill.
My only lingering memory of this offering is the altered marquee in front of my local McD’s that someone changed to The Big Nasty
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