I ate the cheapest cheeseburgers from McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King. Wendy’s was best by a slice.

Dollar menus may be dying, or even dead, but a plain cheeseburger remains one of the most affordable items at most fast-food restaurants.

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Dollar menus may be dying, or even dead, but a plain cheeseburger remains one of the most affordable items at most fast-food restaurants.
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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Before there was the Big Mac, the Whopper, or the Dave’s Single, there was the plain old cheeseburger.

Two buns, a small beef patty, a slice of cheese, and a dash of pickle, onion, and ketchup: the original stars of the drive-thru, eminent citizens of the takeout bag, and longtime companions to fries and a soda.

Dollar menus may be dying, or even dead, but a plain cheeseburger remains one of the most affordable items at most fast-food restaurants.

Read more: I compared the legendary McChicken with 4 cheap sandwiches from other fast-food chains, and it proved the original is still the best

So if you’re in the mood for this cheap, simple classic, which chain will best satisfy your craving? I tried the cheeseburgers from McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King so you don’t have to.

Here’s what I found.


MCDONALD’S — An oldie but goodie, the McDonald’s cheeseburger is always there for you. It cost $1.99 at the New York City McDonald’s I ordered it from.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

It’s an inoffensive beef patty with American cheese melted on top, sandwiched between two classic McDonald’s buns.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

The dominant flavor was ketchup, but the pickles and onions made a noticeable appearance too.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

These are eatable by the bag. It had the right combination of flavors to satisfy a savory craving. There was just a little something off about the beef though.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

WENDY’S — The cheeseburger at Wendy’s was just slightly more colorful and interesting than the one at McDonald’s. It emitted a foreboding, pungent smell when I unwrapped it. It also cost slightly less than the Wendy’s burger, at $1.79.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

But the pungent smell turned out to be from the cheese, which was significantly more flavorful than McDonald’s cheese.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Even though the patty was square, the beef was fair. It tasted fresher and more real than McDonald’s beef.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Again, the dominant flavor was ketchup, and there was a healthy dash of onion and pickle.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Read more: I taste-tasted the signature breakfast sandwiches from 6 major fast-food chains, and the winner was clear


BURGER KING — The only cheeseburger with a sesame bun, this burger was also handed to me mere seconds after I ordered it. Suspicious. It was, however, the cheapest burger, at just $1.29.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

It was lukewarm and felt more like a hockey puck than a cheeseburger. I felt a familiar sense of dread creeping up my digestive tract.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

My fears were confirmed by my first bite, which was dry, hard, and flavorless. The flame-grilled taste of the beef came through, but it was so chewy and dry that I didn’t care. It tasted like it had been sitting under a heat lamp for hours, which it probably had been.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

There was simply nothing about this burger that made me want to keep eating it.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

So which one of these baby burgers packs the biggest bite-sized punch?

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Wendy’s cheeseburger is just slightly better than McDonald’s in every way — but we won’t judge you if you still choose to eat a McDonald’s cheeseburger. Burger King, however, is a different story.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider