As National Burger Month draws to a close, it’s time to fondly remember a classic; the McDLT. If you think back far enough, you may recall that in 1985, fast-food giant McDonald’s was looking for new ways to get you to buy their products. Throughout the Decade of Decadence, we were treated to “innovative” menu offerings such as McNuggets, Chef Salads, the McRib, Mc Hotdog (sold at Toronto’s SkyDome) McPizza and the infamous McDLT.
The purpose, for lack of a better word, of the McDLT was to give customers a ‘deluxe’ hamburger where the hot side of the burger (containing the beef patty and bottom bun) stayed hot and the cool side (complete with the top bun, lettuce, tomato and cheese) stayed cool until YOU the consumer, put them together. Honestly, of all the problems facing 1980s America, I can’t say that keeping two parts of a hamburger at desired temperatures really ranked high on anyone’s list, but there was McDonald’s and their McDLT.
The best part of the McDLT was the container it came in. It was a specially designed, two compartment Styrofoam box. Instead of being folded over so that one compartment is the top and the other side is the bottom (as was common in the 1980s) this box stayed flat and had a matching lid, thus using twice as much Styrofoam as any other burger on the menu.
Still, as far as burgers went, the McDLT appeared to be pretty awesome. As a kid, I couldn’t wait to try it after seeing commercials. I was fixated with the idea of flipping, bouncing, tossing or chopping the box so that the two sides came together, as seen on TV. (Word to the not-so-wise, should you find yourself in possession of a time machine and you go back to 1985 and decide to order a McDLT, don’t try karate-chopping the center of the box to flip your burger sides together. It doesn’t work.)
Some people called it a fail, but it lasted for almost five years. McDonald’s spent millions rolling it out in marketing campaigns, even having then virtually unknown actor Jason Alexander shilling the virtues of keeping “the hot side hot and the cool side cool” in a cringe-worthy TV spot.
Ads continued until 1990 when, to appear more environmentally friendly, McDonald’s did away with Styrofoam containers and started using wax paper and cardboard rings to hold the burgers in place, before switching to the boxes they have now. And since the two compartment containers were integral to the McDLT experience, and there was no way to replicate it, ultimately the McDLT was discontinued.
Naturally, I had to see if it was possible to recreate this fast-food classic in honor of its seemingly forgotten anniversary and put a homemade spin on it. I guess, in hindsight I could have just made a hamburger and left the top off it and told people to put it together themselves, but where’s the fun in that?
Naturally, a sesame seed bun is needed. Now, what most people overlook when trying to recreate any McDonald’s burger is that the buns are actually very lightly toasted, almost so lightly than the average person doesn’t even notice. The buns show up at McD’s already like that, but to recreate it, I simply heated my store bought buns in a stainless steel skillet for a minute to get the desired texture.
Then I started with a thinly pressed quarter pound of beef that would sit on the “hot side”. McDonald’s always says they use very little seasoning and proudly promote the 100% Pure Beef of their burgers. So I did the same thing. Beef, salt and pepper. That’s it. And cooked on a griddle instead of a flame-grill.
Crispy romaine lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup, diced onions, a slice of American cheese and mayonnaise – all on the “cool side”.
Because I have just a little extra time on my hands, I was able to track down a special container just so my homemade version of the McDLT would feel special and get to live out the 1980s expereince. (Don’t worry, this container is actually recyclable and biodegradable, so I’m being somewhat environmentally focused with this too.)
So while the McDLT is gone, it’s not forgotten and will always be a special entry into the 1980s Hall of Fame. And now you can have the fun of creating it at home. No word on whether Jason Alexander will be available to sing its praises to you though.