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Meaty Secrets Behind the Record-Setting, 1,774-Pound Burger

The beefy behemoth was recently bestowed the title of world’s largest commercially available burger

(Mallie's Sports Grill & Bar)
smithsonian.com

While some people brag about their half-pound burgers on Fourth of July, they have nothing on the latest beefy creation from Mallie’s Sports Grill & Bar in the Detroit suburb of Southgate.

As Elisabeth Sherman at Food &Wine reports, the restaurant cooked up a 1,774-pound burger with all the trimmings earlier this month, setting a new Guinness World Record for the largest commercially available burger. And if the restaurant has anything to say about it, that record won’t stand for long: They hope to create a burger over 2,000 pounds in the near future.

The big burger began as 2,000 pounds of raw meat, which cooked down to 1,774 pounds of medium beef. The cooking process took several hours to complete in a custom-created oven made from a shipping container. The patty was then topped by 300 pounds worth of cheese, onions, tomatoes, pickles and lettuce and cradled by a 250-pound bun. The meaty marvel stood over three feet tall and was five feet wide. And it’s now on the menu for $7,799, as long as you pay upfront and give three days notice.

While the big burger is definitely a publicity stunt for the restaurant, it’s also part of a personal obsession for restaurant owner Steve Mallie. He tells Smithsonian.com that he remembers going to Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor as a kid and watching people order "The Zoo." This massive sundae was carried by two people, covered in sparklers and led out to the beat of a big bass drum.

When he opened his own restaurant in 2005, he wanted something similar. “I wanted to make an item that creates lifelong memories for families and kids,” he says. This desire led to the creation of his ten-pound burger, as well as two-pound tacos, two-gallon sundaes, one-gallon margaritas and other massive munchies. "I wanted to create a wow effect, where people jump up with their cameras to take pictures," he says "I don’t want a boring restaurant where you look at the wall. It’s a fun atmosphere."

In 2007, Mallie says he was looking through Guinness World Records when he read that the world’s largest hamburger, weighing in at 78 pounds, had been created in Thailand. But he thought he could do better. It was a job well done: Mallie's 134-pound burger took the prize for world's largest.

He beat his own record again with a 164-pound burger in 2009, a 185-pounder in 2010 and a 319-all beef behemoth in 2011. But in 2012, disaster struck. An Oregon restaurant called Juicys Outlaw Grill created a 777-pound burger—more than doubling Mallie’s best effort.

As Mallie explains, at the time his kitchen could only handle a burger up to 350 pounds, so he began thinking about new ways to cook a massive burger. Over four years, he planned and designed a special oven. He then took a month off work to bring his vision to reality, building the oven in a shipping container. The massive cooker includes four burners (soon to be five) each hooked up to a 50-gallon propane tank.

On July 12, he took the oven on its first run, creating his big burger. While it doesn’t seem like the massive patty would cook evenly or completely through, Mallie says he used temperature gages to ensure the entire patty cooked till medium. And he insists it wasn’t half bad. “It’s literally cooked like a meatloaf,” he says. “When it comes out people are surprised, it’s not dried out but cooked through and tasty. People think it’s going to taste like crap but it’s pretty flavorful.”

Friends and customers ate a couple hundred pounds of the burger before Mallie allowed local non-profits and homeless shelters to collect buckets of the cooked ground beef, which was all taken away. As he tells Sherman, the project was in part a birthday gift to his daughters and in part a tribute to his wife, Renee, who passed away of breast cancer in 2016. 

While the Mallie monster burger is the largest commercially-available burger in the world, it’s not the world’s biggest burger. That beefy title was just earned this year on July 9 by a team of Germans in the city of Pilsting who created a 2,566-pound, three-patty sandwich. According to Mallie, his burger was limited by the size of the five-foot bun, which was donated by the Michigan Bread Company. He says that his oven can accommodate a patty 2.5 feet wider and over 2,000 pounds—a feat he hopes to attempt soon. His goal is to claim both the title for commercially available burger as well as the world's absolute largest.

His restaurant and its massive burgers have already saturated the Food Network and foodie websites, so why does he keep chasing bigger and bigger Macs? “Well, it’s my record, and anyone who wants to take it is going to have to fight me for it,” he says. 

But there’s more to it than just a competitive streak."It’s a challenge and I like to do it," he says. "Asking me why I cook these big burgers is like asking an athlete why they like to play in the Superbowl. For me the big show is doing big burgers."

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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