Why White Castle's Sliders Are So Delicious

If White Castle is famous for one thing, it's their delicious sliders. The tiny hamburgers are practically engineered so they can go down in just a few bites, leaving White Castle fans wanting another one, and another one, and another one. But it's not just the size of these small sandwiches that make them crave-worthy. Everything about the White Castle slider, from conception to creation, is meticulously planned to make the slider absolutely irresistible. As a result, the pioneering restaurant has not only been credited with creating the first fast food burger; they're also known for creating one of the best.

At first glance, White Castle's slider may seem like a hamburger shrunk down to a fun-sized version of itself, but in reality, the slider is very complex. From a detailed patty cooking strategy, to innovative vegetable use, to thoughtful ingredient choice, the White Castle slider exhibits every trait a delicious burger desires. But why exactly is this burger so incredible? It turns out, there's a lot to it.

This is why White Castle's sliders are so delicious.

There's a lot of fat in White Castle sliders

There are 7 grams of fat per White Castle slider, to be exact, and they're meant to be eaten 3-4 in a row, which can add up to 21-28 grams of fat per meal. That's a pretty hefty amount of fat when compared with other fast food classics like the McDonald's hamburger, which clocks in at just 9 grams of fat for the whole burger. While that means White Castle sliders may not be the most nutritious daily choice, the fatty patty has a luxurious taste that simply cannot be replicated in leaner burgers. 

Ultimately, if you're watching the nutrition facts, you may want to stick to just one slider, but if you're willing to go all in, that fat is exactly what will leave your mouth watering and fill you right up, as you somehow simultaneously continue to crave more of the tiny juicy burgers.

The tiny size of White Castle sliders is no accident

And speaking of tiny, that hand-held size of White Castle's sliders is fully intentional. White Castle created the slider with a "less is more" mentality, and the mini meal was originally called a "slider" because just one of them can slide right down with ease. So while other fast food franchises like McDonald's boost burgers with a full quarter pound of beef, White Castle keeps it small. In fact, one pound of beef can make a full 18 sliders. They're made specifically so patrons will want to eat one, and then another, and then another. Not only that, but the White Castle slider is the original slider, with other tiny burgers simply following in White Castle's innovative footsteps.

So while they may be small, they are still mighty, packing in a full burger's worth of flavor in every fun-sized sandwich. Furthermore, the slider makes it easy to adjust meal size, depending on how hungry a customer is feeling.

White Castle has mastered the secret to trapping in those hamburger juices

Every fast food company has their super secret methods, and White Castle is no different. As the pioneers of the fast food burger, White Castle was the first to innovate ways to trap in those rich, fatty juices and seal them into the patties. The secret? White Castle flattens the patty until it's incredibly thin and then sears the meat on both sides to lock in flavor while keeping the beef tender and moist.

In fact, this strategy works so well that other fast food companies picked up on it over the years and copied it. But if imitation is the greatest form of flattery, then White Castle was clearly onto something. While other restaurants were making hand shaped, individually cooked burgers, White Castle has mastered a more uniform method that no longer involves searing. However, they still use those thin slider patties, resulting in universally delicious, juicy burgers in every White Castle slider.

Flavor is steamed directly into the White Castle slider patty

And while the method of searing super thin burgers on both sides shot White Castle into infamy, as more burger chains have copied that strategy, White Castle has rethought the way they cook burgers. They actually no longer flip the patties, instead opting to steam grill the burgers on a bed of onions.

This is more effective for several reasons. For one, the burgers don't risk dents and deformation when workers flip them. They can also be left alone for longer and will cook faster. But more than anything, the bed of onions works to propel flavor directly into the beef. As onions cook, they sweat out an enormous amount of liquid in the form of steam. This is why onions taste so good when sautéed. When the onions create a bed beneath the White Castle slider patty, that flavored steam rises directly into the meat of the burger, making White Castle sliders extra flavorful from the inside out.

White Castle sliders have holes for a reason

Ever wonder why White Castle sliders are square with a distinctive five hole pattern? Just like everything else in the famous fast food sandwich, the dice-like punch outs are entirely intentional. Why include them? It's simple physics! More surface area means more room for the patty to take on heat, so the holes in the burgers help the steam travel through the burgers so they cook even faster. They're part of White Castle's dedication to getting fresh burgers out to customers as fast as possible.

As for the square shape, well that's just more efficient. When the sliders can be lined up on the grill in a grid-like pattern, you can fit a lot more on there and not have to worry about wasted space. For this reason, many fast food franchises have pivoted to square burgers, allowing their staff to cook more burgers even faster, but those five distinctive holes remain unique to White Castle.

White Castle has mastered delicious toppings on a tight budget

Remember those onions White Castle cooks their patties over? Well they're not exactly sliced onions like someone might cut up at home. For the burgers made on location and the frozen version of the sliders available in grocery stores, White Castle avoids the tearful vegetable while saving big by using dehydrated onions, which they rehydrate before serving.

While factory-dehydrated onions may take away some of the fresh factor from White Castle sliders, they make it possible to cook the fun-sized burgers on a budget, meaning they're that much cheaper for customers. This makes it possible for White Castle to recreate their burgers in the freezer section of grocery stores across America, expanding the accessibility of their burgers to people without a local White Castle location.

Ultimately, the final result may be slightly less high quality than a burger full of farm-to-table ingredients, the ultra-concentrated flavor of the dehydrated onions still result in a slider that is recognizably full of White Castle flavor.

White Castle sliders use real cheese

That's right. White Castle uses real American cheese that they place onto the burgers right at the end of cooking.

That said, there isn't exactly a limit to what they're allowed to refer to as "real cheese." But White Castle's cheese ingredient list isn't too hulking, and it's definitely reminiscent of the real cheese that isn't too processed which can be found in a grocery store. Additionally, White Castle definitely adds artificial color to the cheese to give it that uniform shiny orange glow, but artificial coloring practices are super common among fast food cheeseburgers.

However, when it comes to their frozen grocery store sliders, White Castle actually refers to their cheese as a "log of cheese," which is maybe not the most appetizing imagery.

Still, in a world where cheese can make or break your fast food burger, the White Castle slider's cheese definitely makes it, semi-processed chemicals, artificial colors, and all. 

The slider bun is baked fresh in White Castle's own bakeries

White Castle doesn't cut any corners with external bun suppliers. The popular business has their own somewhat less well-known bakeries, from which buns are shipped fresh to restaurant (and warehouse) locations. The buns are baked in batches and shipped whole before getting sliced in half on location. The restaurant saves the slicing for last so the insides of the squishy fresh bread doesn't dry out and get stale. Those buns are steamed right along with the burgers, so they're soft and full of flavor, just like the slider patties. Then, they're stacked in a specific order before the top bun joins to hold it all together.

The buns are also perfectly sized to match the tiny burgers, which means by the time the customer is served the whole slider, it can be held in just one hand and will not fall apart. This is yet another feature that makes White Castle sliders super snackable. 

White Castle makes sure every burger looks and tastes exactly the same

White Castle essentially invented the fast food burger industry in 1921, developing a strategy of meals that were not only fast and delicious, but also nearly identical. So not only did White Castle create fast food, they created the kitchen assembly line to standardize their sliders and get them out the door as fast and orderly as possibly.

While the Ford Motor Company was revolutionizing factory production, White Castle was doing the same thing for sliders. Through this strategy, each slider comes out looking and tasting just like the last, which means wherever customers are, on whatever day, their sliders will always taste and look familiar. Essentially, at White Castle there's no such thing as a bad batch of sliders. The sliders are cooked, assembled, and packaged the same in White Castle restaurants across the entire United States of America.

Meticulous thought and planning goes into every slider, even the frozen ones from the grocery store

Culinarily, sliders are delicious, but there is actually a ton of science and innovation that goes into every tiny sandwich. That is why even the sliders available in the freezer aisle of the grocery store have the same familiar White Castle flavor and perfection as the ones people line up for in White Castle's restaurants. The already cooked burgers are recognizably delicious, and almost indistinguishable from those at White Castle's brick and mortar locations, except for one key difference. Those frozen, packaged sliders skip the pickle.

Why leave off such a salty, crunchy ingredient? Unfortunately, pickles turn out universally terrible after a run through the microwave. While food scientists have cracked the code on altering other common foods for microwave preparation, the pickle remains elusive. As a result, in order to have tasty, or even edible frozen sliders, White Castle's taste kitchen has opted to leave the pickles out of grocery store sliders. If patrons need a pickle in their meal, they can add one in at home, after the slider goes through the microwave.

White Castle has been in the burger game longer than anyone else

At this point it's clear, White Castle invented the first fast food burger. And while the slider became an instant success, that's never been the end of the story for White Castle. In order to remain the best slider in the fast food business, the chain restaurant continues to innovate how the cook, assemble, and package burgers.

In 1949, White Castle cooks in Ohio pivoted from a round burger to a flat patty with holes at the recommendation of a little note left in the suggestion box of the Midwestern restaurant. Indeed, while the slider remains a timeless classic, what goes into the slider stays relevant, such as the restaurants choice to use all vegetable oil in 1965, or White Castle's far more recent innovation of the Impossible slider, a meatless vegan slider that tastes just as good as the original.

So while times change, so does the slider, even though its format and taste remain familiar to long time fans.

White Castle refuses to franchise, meaning they control the quality of every burger from a corporate level

White Castle refuses to franchise their restaurants in the United States, meaning every individual White Castle location is directly observed by the same corporate structure. That means that White Castle's executives are directly involved in the food production of every American White Castle location, which means the sliders are standardized on an even greater level.

Fast food is not only popular because it's inexpensive and readily available. It's also an excellent road trip food, because the familiar tastes and sights remind customers of home. For White Castle, this is even more true. A customer at a White Castle restaurant in New York City and a location in Ohio are eating food that is not just similar; it's identical.

This means White Castle sliders are a national treat, from state to state. They're even available in grocery stores! And each slider remains just as delicious as the last.