Carl's Jr. Famous Star copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur
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Carl's Jr. Famous Star

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It was in Los Angeles in 1941 that Carl Karcher and his wife, Margaret, found a hotdog cart on Florence and Central for sale for $326. They borrowed $311 on their Plymouth, added $15 of their own, and bought the brightly colored stand. Although the sign on this first stand read "Hugo's Hot Dogs," Karcher began purchasing more carts, painting on them "Carl's Hot Dog's." In 1945 Karcher opened his first drive-thru restaurant, which he named "Carl's Drive-In Barbecue." In 1956 he opened two smaller restaurants in Anaheim and Brea, California, and used the Carl's Jr. name for the first time.

With 630 units as of 1991, the chain's trademark smiling star can be seen throughout the West and Southwestern United States, as well as in Mexico, Japan, and Malaysia. The chain has come a long way from the days when Karcher used to mix the secret sauce in twenty-gallon batches on his back porch. Carl's Jr. takes credit for introducing salad bars to fast-food restaurants back in 1977. Today, salads are regular fare at most of the major chains.

Carl's top-of-the-line hamburger is still the flame-broiled Famous Star, one of several products that has made Carl's Jr. famous. 

Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • 1 sesame seed hamburger bun
  • 2 onion rings
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet pickle relish
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ketchup
  • 1/4 pound ground beef
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • 3 dill pickle slices
  • 1/4 cup coarsley chopped lettuce
  • 2 tomato slices
  • Do This
    • Restaurant/Brand
      Carl's Jr.
    • Instructions

      1. Preheat your barbecue grill on high.

      2. Toast both halves of the bun, face down, in a skillet over medium heat. Set aside.

      3. Cut each of the  onion rings into quarters.

      4. Mix the ketchup and relish together. This is your "secret sauce."

      5. Form the ground beef into a thin patty slightly larger than the bun.

      6. Grill the meat for 2 or 3 minutes per side. Salt lightly.

      7. Build the burger in the following stacking order from the bottom up:

      bottom bun
      half of the mayonnaise
      tomato slices
      beef patty
      remainder of mayonnaise
      special sauce (ketchup and relish)
      top bun

      Makes 1 sandwich.

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I'm Todd Wilbur,
Chronic Food Hacker

For 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

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