Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fast Food Review: Carl's Jr. Turkey Burger

If you had asked me to guess which fast food chain was debuting turkey burgers, I probably would have guessed McDonald's. Sure, turkey would seem out of place on their menu, but at least they have made efforts towards healthier items in the last few years. Jack in the Box probably would have been my second guess, if only because I could see them jumping at the chance to do a commercial with Jack chasing a turkey around like Rocky chasing a chicken.

Turkey is delicious and it's healthy, so Burger King would obviously have been my last choice.

Carl's Jr. would have been down at the bottom of my list, too. This is the chain that came out with a bacon burger modeled after a grilled cheese sandwich; a burger topped with a Philly Cheesesteak; even a 1400-calorie footlong burger last year. I would not have expected health to be of any concern to them.

I have aways loved turkey burgers, although, as you can probably guess from some of the things I eat, it has little if nothing to do with health. I just love the taste of turkey. I could give up red meat, I could probably give up seafood... but I could not give up turkey. There were many years when I rarely ate a hamburger, I mostly stuck with turkey burgers. Fatburger and Wolfe Burgers were my favorite.

Last night, I headed up Carl's Jr. to try out one of the turkey burgers. They are offered in three varieties: one with special sauce, one with guacamole, one with teriyaki sauce. I chose the first option, the one simply called "Turkey Burger" that comes with lettuce, pickles, mayo, red onion, tomato, and "special sauce." The cost was $3.62 with tax.

I thought it smelled good when I received it, and it felt pretty hefty. I unwrapped it and took a couple pictures.

Then, unfortunately, I took a bite. I'm not sure how else to say this so let's keep it simple: it was unquestionably the worst turkey burger I have ever had. It might well be the worst burger I have ever had. The veggies were sloppily thrown on the bun - you can see in the picture how the lettuce is about to slide out of the bun, which it did with the first bite - and the sauce was only covering one tiny patch of the patty.

But most importantly, the turkey patty was horrible. It had zero flavor and was the texture of a piece of chalk, a dried-out disk that required quite a bit of force to bite through it.

I needed a second opinion so I asked Elizabeth to try it. She is nowhere near as critical of fast food burgers as I am; she likes the Big Mac and the Whopper, both of which I hate. She took a bite.

"That's disgusting," she said.  

I removed a piece of the patty from the burger to get a better idea why it was so dried-out. I was not surprised to find the pock marks of a typical frozen, mass-produced patty. (A decade ago I used to buy turkey burgers in bulk at Costco and this is what they looked like, although they were always good when I grilled them.)

I put the piece between my thumbs and forefingers and tried to bend it; it would not bend at all. After a second of me exerting force it snapped in half.

I like the fact that Carl's Jr. decided to come out with turkey burgers, not just for the health aspect but to offer one more variety of sandwich. But I don't know what kind of turkey patties they use or how they decided to cook them. This turkey burger was the worst thing I have tried in a long time.

(I will point out that this Carl's Jr. is the same one I went to when I tried the hand-breaded chicken tenders for the second time and they were also horrible. That was the first time I went to this particular Carl's Jr.; this was the second. Maybe it's just the location. I have a hard time believing that all Carl's Jr. locations are going to make turkey burgers this bad, or else this is going to become a legendary fast food flop along the lines of the Arch Deluxe or that time Burger King decided to offer table service.)

34 comments:

Cafe Pasadena said...

I luv Turkey burgers also.

Just saw they've begun to sell them. But it looks like Carl is still learning how to make the new burger and you may have gotten the 1st one they made at that hamburger stand.

JustinM said...

It wouldn't surprise me. But they didn't give me a discount for it being the first day, so I'm not cutting them any slack for it being the first day. It was awful.

Michelle said...

I made the mistake of zooming in on the pictures of the patty. Wow that's ugly.

Anonymous said...

first boneless wings from the sevee (7-11), now a turkey burger from CJ's. when will the madness end, PP?

JustinM said...

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time..."

Anonymous said...

Wow man, well thanks for warning us. I actually was gonna go try this. Instead I guess I'll go eat some sawdust instead.

JustinM said...

Let me point out again - there is no way they're all this bad; it would be mind-blowing if Carl's really thought this sawdust/chalk/flavorless jerky burger would be something that consumers want.

However, if even one franchise thought it was acceptable to serve a burger like this, it makes we wonder how many others feel that way. It really was the worst I have ever had.

sherijung said...

I also tried one on Monday(the teriyaki version, and in NorCal), and it was nearly identical to your experience. I am puzzled why anyone would order this instead of a grilled chicken version of these burgers. The nutrition profile is similar (just can't make the under 500 calorie claim) and you get an actual portion of chicken breast, not some unmentionable bits reconsitituted in a burger shape.

JustinM said...

Hi Sheri. That's interesting... maybe they are supposed to be this lousy? I will be interested to read other reviews of the product.

When a turkey burger is done well, I prefer it to chicken breast. But yes, in this case, you are much better off ordering a chicken sandwich.

Michelle said...

I almost always agree with you but I still had to try this burger just to be sure. It was worst thing I have ever tasted and even harder than the one you tried.

Liz said...

I don't know how you can mess up a turkey burger, but they did. Ew is all I can say.

Anonymous said...

I totally disagree with this review, the basic turkey burger should be ordered without the secret sauce as that combines with other condiments to taste like tartar sauce. Aside from that though, I have tried all three and while they are no way as tasty as say a Super Stat or $6 Burger I thought they were really tasty and much healthier. They come on a light wheat bun and are filling and tasty. My favorite is the teriyaki turkey burger. As others have said, maybe your experience was an initial "getting it right still" experience. I'd strongly suggest you try it again, maybe from another Carls to rule out specific franchise difficencies, and see if a second try. If not, it's all a matter of personal taste, and personally I thought they were well worth the price and applaud Carls for offering a healthier alternative to the horribly unhealthy flagship burgers of all fast food chains out there!

JustinM said...

I definitely agree that it's cool of Carl's to offer something healthier. But it was the worst thing I have had in a long time, as others have agreed with. Are you in the L.A. area? If so, please let me know which Carl's you visited. I am up for trying it at another location, because it definitely can't be this bad everywhere.

ScottH said...

So the Carl's Jr. across the street from my office (in Novato, CA) serves EXCELLENT turkey burgers. I think it might be a location-by-location basis though, because I consider myself an expert in turkey burgers and I have zero complaints (for a fast-food burger). I also got a coupon for a free Coke Zero with my order, to ensure that my order was under 500 calories. I have enjoyed this Carl's for the Original Grilled Chicken Salad (w/o dressing) for about a year now, and now I like having a variety when I'm feeling burgerish.

JustinM said...

Thanks for the tip, Scott. I'm 0-2 at this particular Pasadena location, so if I try another turkey burger I will definitely be trying another location.

Any advice like that anonymous poster, e.g. order it without sauce?

Anonymous said...

I agree but also disagree with the original review. Yes, it wasn't a great burger like I make at home, but it is a fast food turkey burger and I was not expecting much. Mine also was sloppy put together with alot of condiments. I had the basic Turkey burger, and I would ask it with easy condiments. Mine was cook fine and not tough. I agree with another one of the reviews that it's a place by place basis. Basically it's a Turkey Bocca Burger, just like you get from Costco. I will try it again.

JustinM said...

Isn't one of (if not the main) benefits of fast food chains that they are supposed to be the same everywhere? So if you pull into town in the middle of nowhere and the dining options are scarce, you at least know if you see a McDonald's that the Big Mac there will taste the same as the Big Mac at home.

If the burgers vary from store to store and you might get a good one somewhere or a piece of cardboard that snaps in half like the one I got, it's not for me.

Anonymous said...

Yep... I just got one at the Carl's Junior here in Reno, NV. It's really, really terrible.

Alex Chidester said...

I had the guacamole turkey burger here in Salt Lake City. I thought it was good (compared to other fast food options).

The condiment placement was poor with mine as well, but I really liked the bun, and the patty itself satisfactory.

I'll probably have it again.

melissa said...

Just tried the original turkey burger, I'm still eating, in fact. It's very good. Carls Jr is not some 5 star restaurant, and I think they did very good on this one in offering healthy eaters like myself. I kinda like the way it's put messy, makes me feel like I'm eating a fatty hamburger. yummy Carls jr.... thanks!

Anonymous said...

I had the regular turkey burger for lunch and I thought it was pretty tasty....

Anonymous said...

I've tried the guacamole and teriyaki in diffrent cities and to my suprise both were really delicious and filling too. I really like the fact that they are both under 500 calories. I know that these burgers will be my first choice if and when im eating fast food :)

Burger Boy said...

I had the guacamole burger and would order it again. To put in perspective this is not a first class burger. My favorite burger is JG Melons in NY.. and favorite fast food burger is an In'N'Out Double-Single Animal Style.

The first time I had Carl Jrs. in maybe 10 years was 3 weeks ago.. I had the "regular" Jalapeno Burger. I thought it was very good. I though the bun was too dry, and burger not really beefy.. but the jalapenos were spicy and it was suacey. Not an in'n'out burger AT ALL, but it was a nice change. I had it again, and this time I was thinking maybe I should get the Six Dollar burger instead to make it a bit better (beefier, better bun, etc.).

I went back to the Six Dollar burger, but decided I wasn't hungry and perhaps I should try something healthier. I got the Guacamole Turkey burger.

I make fun of people who have turkey burgers and this was the first turkey burger I have EVER had. Maybe my expectations were low, but it wasn't bad. Turkey patty had no flavor but it was peppery which added some flavor. Bun was the same bun but I think it was ?wheat? or something. and the guacamole sauce added some flavor. So it was lettuce/tomato/guacamole and a peppery type of turkey patty. It had a nice flavor. I wouldn't order it over a regular burger or jalapeno burger, but if I'm in a health kick mood this burger is serviceable. Perhaps I give the burger too much credit because I assume Mens Health = healthy. If this burger isn't really healthy then its indeed a pass. But I wouldn't call it inedible.

Now I feel like hitting an in'n'out and getting some chopped chilies added to my double/single/animal style burger (I haven't done this before..).

Burger Boy said...

Isn't 450 calories ho-hum? The worst thing about fast food hamburger meal IS NOT THE BURGER, BUT THE FRIES! I think a Big Mac is only 500 calories! A double/double at in'n'out I think is maybe 600. I think the turkey burger has to excel elsewhere.. saturated fat or something. They may advertise it as less calories but if that's the only benefit its a definite PASS. I suspect though there are other health benefits here.

JustinM said...

Hi there Burger Boy. JG Melon's is good, my favorite in NYC, but not my favorite anywhere.

My Carl's Jr. turkey burger not only had no flavor, it was as dry as any patty I have ever tasted and, as you see above, literally snapped in half when I tried to bend it. I seriously doubt everyone is getting turkey burgers that bad, because even people with low expectations would know that is gross.

I know I've said I should try the turkey burger again, I just haven't. It was so freaking bad. I'm gonna be made at myself if I get another one and it's just as bad.

julie said...

I have had a Carls Jr turkey burger for lunch about 3 days a week since they started serving them. They are THAT good. Not sure where you folks are getting yours, but at the locations I visit in Las Vegas they are great! The teriyaki turkey burger is great, and I like the teriyaki sauce so much, I get some on the side and make it a dip sandwich.

Anonymous said...

I tried it today, it was just as you described it, also this was in Anchorage Alaska. The worst burger I ever ate in my life, I would rather buy one of those frozen burgers at a Gas station, throw it in the microwave and it's way better.

Anonymous said...

Found a coupon in the weekly ad in my mailbox. Two turkey burgers for $4 bucks.

Bought a couple for dinner, the 1st one was pretty good!

Granted it would have been better without the mayo and special sauce.

I usually get the Super Star without the special sauce...too messy!

It was so good, that I ended up eating both of them (yeah I'm a pig!)

Next time I'll get them without the sauce, but I'll add guacamole!

That'd be tasty!

Anonymous said...

We have always favored Carl Jr's burgers, but the turkey "burger" is not a burger....it's a sandwich. A burger is ground meat, this is a slab of (previously frozen?) turkey something or rather. It is pretty tasteless, and we were very diappointed, to say the least.The commercials are great, the product is not.

Anonymous said...

I've had the turkey burger from about 4 or 5 different Carl's Jr's here in North San Diego county and I thought they were good every time. I don't know why everyone's complaining

JustinM said...

Because they, like I, didn't like them. It's called an opinion.

Anonymous said...

I have had their regular turkey burger before and it wasn't bad but the turkey patty seemed a little bland in my opinion. However, after a couple hours in the fridge so that it was cold, it tasted MUCH better. Maybe its just better off as a cold sandwich?

Anonymous said...

I do not eat too many hamburgers,i usualy prefer the turkey burger at carl jr..i can say that it is a shame that a good company like that offers a sandwich that is cold,with no flavor and tastes like it was sitting under the hot lamp for a while,my wife ordered the six dol. burger,same thing ,cold,and with 2 tiny mushrooms that cant be seen unless you stare into your burger,this carl jr. in Clovis,California on 1933 clovis ave was one of the best,not any more,again it is a shame.

Anonymous said...

I think they are great. Just leave off the sauce.