Last week, a video of molten copper being poured on top of a Big Mac quickly went viral.
The molten copper – which has a melting point of 1085°C – rolled right off the patty, suggesting the humble Mc Donald’s Big Mac is actually “indestructible and possibly indigestible”.
It pretty much seemed to confirm every sneaky suspicion you have about the inner grossness of fast food.
But while the video was perfectly authentic, its implication – that the effects took place due to qualities within McDonald’s food – are not actually valid.
The infamous video is actually an example of the Leidenfrost effect, a process by which the close proximity of liquid with a mass significantly hotter than the liquid’s boiling point produces a “protective” layer to keep it from boiling rapidly.
So basically, a significant portion of the dough used in the Big Mac’s bread is still water, even after baking. When that water comes into contact with the molten copper, a layer of steam is created which protects the burger from the searing heat.
Mythbusters demonstrated this back in 2009 by showing the Leidenfrost effect in action. The subjects dipped their hands in water, and then into a pot of molten lead at 450°C. Both subjects came out completely unharmed, describing the sensation as “kind of warm and pleasant”.
That delicious Big Mac you’ve been crucifying for the past week is actually just an innocent pawn in a diabolical crusade for Youtube hits. Judging by these experiments, the same process would occur if you used anything from a more healthy DIY burger to a stick of asparagus.