Sunday, June 02, 2002

Burger King debuts 'back-porch' products

By Polly Campbell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Backyard barbecue — hot dogs and hamburgers cooked on a charcoal grill — rules summer cuisine. Getting into the cookout spirit today is Burger King, as introduces its Back Porch Griller Burgers.

        These are a couple of brand-new burgers that have been in the development stage for a year or more. They're touted by Burger King as “state of the art” burgers, a “burger-lover's burger,” and something they expect will create a lot of new business.

        The burgers' test-market trial in South Bend, Ind., was so successful the company rolled them out earlier than planned. Like all new fast-food products, equal amounts of technology, marketing and hype go into the introduction, which is not always evident in the final product.

        I tried both variations Thursday, and found they live up to their promise in some ways, and not in others.

        They look more thick and substantial than a Whopper, mainly because of the higher-quality bun. There are no sesame seeds, but the bun has a less fluffy, more substantial texture.

        And they do taste more like a burger you'd cook yourself in the back yard. It's hard to tell why, exactly, but that is the first thing that I and a couple of other tasters noticed. There's more of a charcoal flavor. The two patties (each 2.4 ounces) are seasoned with some secret blend that adds up to “back porch.”

        But the new burgers also seem less smoky, less charred than a regular Whopper. The extra seasoning leads the taste away from pure beef and more toward beef product. And, as long as burgers are cooked all the way through (which safety dictates) it will never taste the same as the rare, juicy burgers I grill in the summer.

        One version, the Back Porch Griller, has the traditional lettuce, ketchup and mustard, with a good thick slice of tomato. The other, the Smokehouse Cheddar, adds a layer of smoked cheddar and a couple of slices of bacon. The smoked cheese puts the smoky flavor back in the sandwich.

        Pricing is up to the individual Burger King franchise, but should be about the same as a Whopper.

        These new sandwiches are part of several changes Burger King is making to its menu. Look for the Chicken Whopper, new anniversary Whopper, reformulated milkshakes, new onion rings and a veggie burger.


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