I ate the cheapest cheeseburgers from McDonald's, Wendy's, and Burger King. Wendy's was best by a slice.

McDonald's Wendy's Burger King Cheeseburgers half-eatenIrene Jiang / Business Insider

Before there was the Big Mac, the Whopper, or the Dave's Single, there was the plain old cheeseburger.

Two buns, a small beef patty, a slice cheese, and a dash of pickle, onion, and ketchup: the original stars of the drive-thru, eminent citizens of the takeout bag, and longtime companions to fries and a soda.

Dollar menus may be dying, or even dead, but a plain cheeseburger remains one of the most affordable items at most fast-food restaurants.

Read more: I compared the legendary McChicken with 4 cheap sandwiches from other fast-food chains, and it proved the original is still the best

So if you're in the mood for this cheap, simple classic, which chain will best satisfy your craving? I tried the cheeseburgers from McDonald's, Wendy's, and Burger King so you don't have to.

Here's what I found:

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MCDONALD'S — An oldie but goodie, the McDonald's cheeseburger is always there for you. It cost $1.99 at the NYC McDonald's I ordered it from.

MCDONALD'S — An oldie but goodie, the McDonald's cheeseburger is always there for you. It cost $1.99 at the NYC McDonald's I ordered it from.

It's an inoffensive beef patty with American cheese melted on top sandwiched between two classic McDonald's buns.

It's an inoffensive beef patty with American cheese melted on top sandwiched between two classic McDonald's buns.

The dominant flavor is ketchup, but the pickles and onions make a noticeable appearance, too.

The dominant flavor is ketchup, but the pickles and onions make a noticeable appearance, too.

These are eatable by the bag. They've got the right combination of flavors to satisfy a savory craving. There's just a little something off about the beef, though.

These are eatable by the bag. They've got the right combination of flavors to satisfy a savory craving. There's just a little something off about the beef, though.

WENDY'S — The cheeseburger at Wendy's is just slightly more colorful and interesting than the one at McDonald's. It emitted a foreboding pungent smell when I unwrapped it. It also cost slightly less than Wendy's, at $1.79.

WENDY'S — The cheeseburger at Wendy's is just slightly more colorful and interesting than the one at McDonald's. It emitted a foreboding pungent smell when I unwrapped it. It also cost slightly less than Wendy's, at $1.79.

But the pungent smell turned out to be from the cheese, which is significantly more flavorful than McDonald's cheese.

But the pungent smell turned out to be from the cheese, which is significantly more flavorful than McDonald's cheese.

Even though the patty was square, the beef was fair. It tasted fresher and more real than McDonald's beef.

Even though the patty was square, the beef was fair. It tasted fresher and more real than McDonald's beef.

Again, the dominant flavor was ketchup, and there was a healthy dash of onion and pickle.

Again, the dominant flavor was ketchup, and there was a healthy dash of onion and pickle.

Read more: I taste-tasted the signature breakfast sandwiches from 6 major fast-food chains, and the winner was clear

BURGER KING — The only cheeseburger with a sesame bun, this burger was also handed to me mere seconds after I'd ordered. Suspicious. It was, however, the cheapest burger, at just $1.29.

BURGER KING — The only cheeseburger with a sesame bun, this burger was also handed to me mere seconds after I'd ordered. Suspicious. It was, however, the cheapest burger, at just $1.29.

It was lukewarm and felt more like a hockey puck than a cheeseburger. I felt a familiar sense of dread creeping up my digestive tract.

It was lukewarm and felt more like a hockey puck than a cheeseburger. I felt a familiar sense of dread creeping up my digestive tract.

My fears were confirmed by my first bite, which was dry, hard, and flavorless. The flame-grilled taste of the beef came through, but it was so chewy and dry I didn't care. It tasted like it had been sitting under a heat lamp for hours, which it probably had been.

My fears were confirmed by my first bite, which was dry, hard, and flavorless. The flame-grilled taste of the beef came through, but it was so chewy and dry I didn't care. It tasted like it had been sitting under a heat lamp for hours, which it probably had been.

There was simply nothing about this burger that made me want to keep eating it.

There was simply nothing about this burger that made me want to keep eating it.

So which one of these baby burgers packs the biggest bite-sized punch?

So which one of these baby burgers packs the biggest bite-sized punch?

Wendy's cheeseburger is just slightly better than McDonald's in every way. But we won't judge you if you still choose to eat a McDonald's cheeseburger. Burger King, however, is a different story.

Wendy's cheeseburger is just slightly better than McDonald's in every way. But we won't judge you if you still choose to eat a McDonald's cheeseburger. Burger King, however, is a different story.
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