How much mustard and ketchup should go on a burger?


You're probably asking yourself how in the world can this be a blog post? Well, ketchup is evil, and as I've mentioned before here, it's been a huge debate in my own household. Recently I've been getting super technical in our food lab to create factual based recipes based on what I believe is the best tasting food. Shannon, my love, of course slathers ketchup on everything. If I make her a burger, and place ketchup on her sandwich, she will without hesitance, proceed to the kitchen and add additional to her plate and burger, then begin dipping her dripping burger into a puddle of ketchup. I've seen her put it on everything from eggs to pizza, and so when I spent the evening trying to calculate what the perfect number of ketchup drops were, she explained that I was an idiot.

In the end, I came to the conclusion that the perfect number of ketchup drops was five, not a five gallon drum to drown your patty in like Shan insists, but five drops. Of course, I knew I wanted to verify my hypothesis by utilizing capitalism for my own purposes. McDonald's sells millions of burgers each year, and spent millions of dollars on a proprietary ketchup dispenser for quality control. While their burgers may leave something to be desired for many of us, with respect to product testing and research, it's hard to argue their data because they create highly profitable products. McDonald's R&D does to burgers what NASA does to rockets. Their chefs researched and tested hundreds of combinations before coming up with an exact ratio of condiments to attract the consumer to buy their food. Their results: five drops, as demonstrated by their dispensers. There is one slight caveat to this line of thought however, their intended market. Their basic hamburger and cheeseburgers were originally marketed to children. Smelly, sticky children who like the sweet taste of ketchup because they haven't developed the taste for tart mustard.  Guess who those children grew up to become? Adults, bred like Pavlov's dogs to salivate at McDonald's drug-like combination of condiments.

Interestingly, their mustard dispenser is five drops as well (I've checked), though the output and holes on that dispenser is smaller. Shan would be jumping for joy to find out the ratio of mustard to ketchup is weighted in her favor, however, I won't be telling her. I like my mustard, and I'm certain that no matter how many times I put five drops of ketchup on her sandwich, she'll be adding more. Yet there is something very satisfying about having a rule. Rules make us civilized, and knowing the secrets to condiment enlightenment, slightly fascinate me.

So the rule of thumb is five drops of ketchup, and five drops of mustard. Interestingly, most ketchup bottles and mustard bottles you find at the grocery store have similar sized holes to McDonald's Golden Ratio of Condiments, meaning following this law of Kitchen Dynamics, it provides an optimum baseline for your own home cooking.

One really neat fact I learned in researching all this is, if you like extra ketchup or extra mustard at McDonald's, all you need to ask for is an "extra pump" while ordering. Maybe I'm a two pump mustard kind of girl, and Shan's a two pump ketchup kind of girl?

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