Due to popular demand and the fact that we love trying weird foods and candies, The A.V. Club will now regularly feature "Taste Tests." Feel free to suggest disgusting and/or delicious new edibles for future installments: E-mail us at email@example.com.
Cheeseburger In A Can
Never let it be said that we don't make sacrifices for our readers. Terrible, greasy, wadded sacrifices. When word hit the Internet that a German camping-supplies company was marketing a canned cheeseburger, we were instantly buried under a wave of requests—nay, demands—that we get our hands on one and rate the experience of eating it. The German company doesn't ship to the U.S., but we paid an embarrassing price for one on eBay, acquired by an American soldier currently stationed at a German military base. (We're fairly sure it wasn't smuggled out of the country in a coffin, à la American Gangster, but we aren't 100 percent positive.) A few days later, we all eagerly gathered around the hot plate in the A.V. Club labs to see whether cheeseburger-in-a-can could possibly be any good.
Answer: no. Oh dear sweet shrieking Lord, no.
According to the instructions, canned cheeseburger works like this: You toss the unopened can into a "bain-marie" (or a double boiler, for those of us here in the States) and heat it for 10 minutes. We didn't have a double boiler on hand in the office (and who the hell takes one camping, anyway?), so we just used an ordinary saucepan. Possibly we robbed ourselves of amazing deliciousness by not using the proper double-boiler method, but we seriously doubt it. We did, however, let ourselves in for an alarming racket, as the bubbles boiling up under the can rattled it around in the pot:
It was noted during this process that we could generally grill perfectly good hamburgers in the comfort of our own homes in about five minutes. (One participant asked if it was possible to overcook cheeseburger in a can, or get cheeseburger in a can medium rare instead of well done.) But cheeseburger in a can isn't meant for people lolling about in said comfort of their own homes; it's for hardy campers who are sick of their steady diets of trail mix, dried fruit, and tree bark, and want some hearty potted meat-like product to slime up their esophagi real good and make the next handful of granola go down easy.
The label boiled off the can after about a minute, and floated around unappetizingly in the pot, prompting complaints, but when we actually fished out the hot can and opened it, the disgust over the actual burger completely overwhelmed any concern about loose label bits:
Compare this to the deceptive advertising picture above. Note the lack of pickles, onions, lettuce, or signs of edibility?
A few pre-taste reactions we didn't manage to record on video:
• "Why would they put sauce on it already? That's retarded!" "You know what's retarded? A cheeseburger in a can."
• "Oh, that looks so gross. It's so grey. It's the greyest meat ever."
• "It looks more greenish to me."
• "It's got this horrible film on it."
• "It's really mealy-looking. Does anyone read German? Are we sure there's meat in there?"
And then we cut this thing up and put it in our mouths. Deliberately. Voluntarily. Because of you. Yes, you. Don't you feel guilty now?
Taste: Something like a really terrible veggie burger: Sort of beef-esque, in a way that would only fool someone who never actually eats beef. The fairly rank, unsweetened ketchup overwhelms the burger, while the cheese and bun do not lend anything to the experience one way or the other, apart from helpfully keeping the "meat" further away from the taste buds.
More pertinent than the taste is the texture. The bun is only very slightly soggy on the bottom, and surprisingly fluffy and ordinary otherwise. The cheese is clammy and clumpy. The burger itself is weirdly, unpleasantly smooth, again something like a bad grain-burger. It lacks the chewiness of actual meat; it's grease-slick, smooth, and eerily regular. Imagine modeling clay lightly dipped in meat drippings. We're not sure what kind of meat drippings. Horse, maybe?
• "It tastes like the hamburgers that you get in elementary school."
• "Oh, auuugh. It's awful. Have these people ever had hamburger before?"
• "Boy, that taste really stays in your mouth, doesn't it?"
• "That was so bad."
• "I think it's more the soggy bun than the meat."
• "No, it really is the meat that's the problem. Oh God."
• "It's like the Salisbury steak in a cheap TV dinner."
• "It's like Upton Sinclair nightmare bratwurst."
• "It tastes like Spam. Spam, but chewy. The texture's about the same."
• "It is a little smushy. It's spongy. I don't hate it. I think I could eat it if it was hotter, and I could dip it in Ranch dressing."
• "I cannot swallow this. It will not go down."
• "It's not quite meat, is it? It looks like freaky airline food."
• "It tastes like beef-flavored something. Beef-flavored matter."
• "It's a really dense meat-like puck."
• "When I first tasted it, it didn't bother me, but it festered." "Really? I gagged the second it hit my tongue."
• "It was still way better than I thought it was going to be. It wasn't nearly as slimy." "Yeah? It was exactly as bad as I thought it was going to be."
• "It's pretty much like a dog-food patty."
• "It tastes like something that was dropped on the floor. It tastes like a 7-Eleven hamburger that's been sitting around in the store for a couple weeks."
• "It's like this chicken-fried steak that I got once at a disreputable diner, then left in the fridge for three days, then ate in a drunken stupor. No, it's a little worse than that."
But by far, the best reaction came from A.V. Clubber Genevieve Koski, who was initially unable to express her loathing verbally, and wound up doing a little dance of flailing horror. We managed to get a little of it on video:
Afterward, when she re-established her connection to verbal communication, she summed it up for all of us: "Overall, I think this wasn't about the cheeseburger itself, it was about the experience of eating a cheeseburger in a can. It's something I would never want to relive, but that won't stop me from telling every single person I know about it."
Where to get one: Cheeseburger in a can is currently not available in the U.S. For good reason, we think. But if you happen to be in Germany and you want to pick one up—or you just want to see canned cheeseburger in its natural habitat, you'll find the product page here.