This Is What Makes Dairy Queen's FlameThrower Stackburger So Delicious

With seemingly endless fast food options available, differentiating one brand from another can be challenging. Even so, Dairy Queen has successfully grown and evolved since its first location opened in Joliet, Illinois in 1940. What began as a shop that only sold soft serve has emerged as a powerhouse player in the quick-service game, expanding its menu beyond sweet treats into savory menu items like the Stackburger, which it introduced in 2022.

Built on the mission that "Happy Tastes Good," Dairy Queen's legacy is its commitment to simple moments and the connection that comes from sharing a meal with others. I got to witness this firsthand on a press trip to Dairy Queen Headquarters, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Beyond the hip, modern vibe that emanated from every corner of the surprisingly quaint facility, what resonated most was not only the employees' enthusiasm, but also the detail with which each menu item is developed.

Among the numerous items we sampled, which included an endless parade of Dairy Queen's iconic Blizzards, one of the menu offerings that stood out was the FlameThrower Stackburger. While you may not think of Dairy Queen as the place to go for a dynamite burger, this may be an errant assumption. As far as quick-service restaurant burgers go, this was a surprisingly tasty and affordable treat. Here's what makes the FlameThrower Stackburger so delicious (and how you can best enjoy one).

Thin hamburger patties

Every Dairy Queen hamburger starts with a perfectly seasoned patty that has been formed to perfection. What constitutes either of these factors may partially be a matter of personal preference, but I can assure you that the folks at D.Q. did a lot of research and development to arrive at the patty the restaurant uses in its line of Stackburgers. The patties are seasoned with just salt and pepper — there are no frills, bells, or whistles. This enables the bold seasonings incorporated elsewhere to shine more brightly and the beef's flavor to be more discernible.

The hamburger patties are also thin and evenly shaped, something that helps them layer with many ingredients without falling over. The FlameThrower Stackburger, in particular, uses two patties, making this layering even more critical. Additionally, a thicker patty can be harder to cook through evenly, a factor that's important for consistency not just from store to store, but also from burger to burger.

I will note that I was underwhelmed by the burger patty in the plain Stackburger, but in the FlameThrower iteration, it worked well. In order to cook the burger to the safe minimum internal temperature, the patty dried out a bit. This is less of an issue in the FlameThrower Stackburger because there are so many moist ingredients included in the recipe. These were absorbed by the patties, making them juicier and bolstering their flavor.

The airy bun

I generally enjoy a crusty, hearty bun with my burgers, like ciabatta or a Kaiser roll. That said, there's a time and place for a light, airy bun, and this burger is it. Dairy Queen's signature bread that it uses for the FlameThrower fulfills all the bun criteria that can make or break a burger. Despite its delicate texture, it appears to defy the laws of gravity and resists absorbing excess moisture. The dense, juicy ingredients layered onto this bun don't dissolve it or make it fall apart. It retains its integrity through each hearty bite but somehow remains fluffy, providing a great contrast in mouthfeel to the other chewy and crunchy ingredients.

The fact that it's lightly toasted also helps prevent the bun from becoming soggy. Toasting a hamburger bun helps to firm up its texture, fortifying it against the heft and moisture of the remaining ingredients. As a bonus, when you toast bread, it undergoes the Maillard reaction, a process during which amino acids and sugars within it transform through a chemical reaction that not only confers a golden color, but amplifies its aroma and flavor. This result is something nutty and savory — the perfect complement to umami-rich beef.

Crisp jalapeño bacon

I've said it before, and I'll say it again — bacon makes everything better, and this burger is no exception. Also, this is no ordinary bacon. It's bacon that's been infused with the capsaicin-bite of jalapeños for a flavor that's simultaneously robust and spicy, making it the perfect pairing with the delectable burger patty and the Flamethrower sauce.

While there are many ways to cook bacon perfectly every time, my biggest pet peeves are when this culinary delight is floppy or greasy. I like my bacon crisp and not overly fatty. It should be well-drained so that it doesn't leave a lingering film of grease on the tongue, which will block other flavors from getting through. The bacon on the FlameThrower Stackburger accomplishes all of these, making it the ideal salty, spicy, crunchy bite to accentuate the other ingredients.

Plus, Dairy Queen isn't stingy with it. There's just enough bacon that you get some in every bite. Now, if I could just figure out how they get that jalapeño flavor into the bacon, I'd be a happy camper. Alas, this technique remains a trade secret, though some of the spices indicated on the ingredient list include salt, green bell pepper, sugar, jalapeño pepper, dehydrated garlic, chipotle pepper, dehydrated onion, tomato powder, lime juice solids, and natural smoke flavor.

Spicy FlameThrower sauce

If there's one ingredient that truly sets one burger apart from any other, it's the special sauce you put on it. Dairy Queen's signature FlameThrower sauce exemplifies this. This sauce will knock your socks off — it's simultaneously smoky, sweet, and hot, with a creamy texture that coats the burger for a luscious mouthfeel. My primary comment about this burger when I first sampled it was that it's a "flavor bomb." This has a lot to do with the sauce, which starts off mild but builds in heat, until it all suddenly explodes in your mouth. It's more than a taste; it's an experience.

While the precise ingredients and production of this sauce are part of the proprietary recipe, the basic components listed on D.Q.'s website include soybean oil, water, hot sauce, sugar, egg yolks, distilled vinegar, natural smoke flavor, paprika, mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, and ground chipotles. This explains the sauce's complexity — it's spicy, but it has just the right balance of acidity, sweetness, smoke, and a hint of umami-richness conferred by the egg yolks.

There's also the matter of proportion and distribution of the sauce. It's applied to both the top and bottom halves of the bun, encasing the other ingredients completely. As we learned, the exact amount used on each half is measured down to the ounce, as the sauce has been carefully tested to accentuate other flavors, not mask them.

The assembly process

Believe it or not, there's a right and wrong way to assemble a burger. The way the burger is put together matters for a number of reasons, ranging from balancing textures and blending the ingredients' flavors to keeping the entire sandwich from becoming too heavy or waterlogged. A haphazardly stacked burger can not only ruin the shirt you're wearing, it can put a damper on your whole day when it disintegrates and falls to the floor, wasting your money and creating a stupendous mess. The folks at Dairy Queen know this and planned accordingly to construct the perfect burger.

As I've already noted, a layer of the FlameThrower sauce is spread on both the top and bottom halves of the toasted bun, creating a solid barrier upon which to stack the ⅓ pounds of hamburger meat, pepper jack cheese, jalapeño bacon, lettuce, and tomato. Generally, heavier ingredients are placed toward the bottom of the sandwich. In this case, the two burger patties are on the bottom, and each is topped with spicy pepper jack cheese that melts beautifully between the layers of hot meat. Next comes the bacon, which is finished with a hint of fresh lettuce and sliced tomato. These vegetables may not seem like an integral component, but those tiny hints of freshness and crunch do complete the burger.

Selecting the right side dishes

No hamburger would be complete without accompanying side dishes. Three standouts on Dairy Queen's menu are its french fries, cheese curds, and onion rings. I tend to lean toward fries that are thin and crisp. Their dainty shape and crunchy texture are the best balance for a hearty burger with a lot of ingredients. The ones at Dairy Queen deliver — they're svelte, flavorful, not overly salty, and not excessively greasy.

The cheese curds are a Midwestern classic that sets Dairy Queen apart from many of its competitors. For the uninitiated, fried cheese curds are unique in many ways. First, they have a distinct squeakiness, a texture that's retained even after they're battered and fried. This squeak provides a unique contrast to the burger's other ingredients. It also helps tame some of the heat from the bacon, pepper jack cheese, and signature FlameThrower sauce.

While onion rings often taste better at a restaurant, some appear to contain little to no actual onion slices or have too much or too little batter, making them soggy or burnt after they're fried. None of these characteristics apply to those at Dairy Queen. These are not only made from real onion slices, but they're lightly battered, crispy, and not drowned in fryer grease. They're perfectly golden brown, and the onion flavor really amplifies the savoriness of the burger and spiciness of the FlameThrower sauce.