Have you seen all the stories yet of people claiming that McDonald’s hamburgers do not rot? Entire blogs are devoted to posting daily pictures of McD’s burgers that for whatever reason never seem to decompose. Speculations ran rampant, and most concluded the whole thing is a chemical concoction with no nutritional food value. But is there good science in these demonstrations? Do the “results” mean anything?
I shared about a month ago that the food blog Serious Eats was conducting a burger lab. The purpose was to set up not just variables but also controls, in order to validate results. Watching one hamburger not rot doesn’t prove anything. Do we know for certain that real hamburgers don’t rot, or is that an assumption? The way to find out is to place the two side by side. There were several McD’s burgers and control groups in this experiment, read the full report here. Or allow me to summarize:
A regular McDonald’s hamburger did not mold after 25 days of sitting in the open air. A homemade hamburger, made from 100% ground beef, did not either. The reason seems to be (read the full report, I swear) that it’s a small amount of meat with a lot of surface area and it dehydrated before mold could form. Larger patties did mold; both the quarter pound and one-third pound sizes, homemade from 100% beef and the ones from McDonald’s. The difference is in how long it took the meat to dry out. Dehydrated food does not decay. We’ve known this for centuries; what do you think beef jerky is?
Watching one burger not mold doesn’t mean anything. Good science wins the day.