Dean Winchester is the fictional, monster-fighting equivalent of Guy Fieri you've probably never heard of.
In a 2013 interview, Jensen Ackles, who plays Dean Winchester on Supernatural, addressed a long-running joke on the show (Season 13 of which premieres tomorrow on the CW) about the unhealthy eating habits of his character.
“Dean [was] written as this glutton of fast food and junk food,” Ackles explained, to the delight of his audience.
As fans will know, Ackles was referring the fact that Dean—the brooding, classic rock-lover (his favorite song? It’s a tie between Led Zeppelin's "Ramble On" and "Traveling Riverside Blues), who drives ’67 Impala he adoringly refers to as “Baby,” one half of a monster-, demon-, and ghost-slaying sibling duo—is a compulsive eater of junk food. Bacon cheeseburgers, mini Philly cheesesteaks, pig in a poke, and especially pie, in any variation—he eats it all, without guilt or shame. As he proudly declares while stuffing face with a burger in Season 8, “Clear eyes and clogged arteries. Can’t lose.”
It’s Dean’s lifestyle that demands such a poor diet: He and the other half of the duo, his brother Sam, drive across the country in the Impala, living from motel to motel, and stopping in small towns where they’ve been tipped off to bizarre happenings from newspaper stories, usually involving unsolvable murders, which always end up being perpetrated by some mythical creature that drinks blood or eats human organs to survive.
The pair almost always end up in grimy diner or bar talking about each case, reading up on the mythology surrounding their villain, or devising a plan to take it down, usually over several beers and the quickest, most filling, tastiest meal one can get in the in-between and all-but-abandoned places across America where there are very few restaurants: a burger and fries. The classic choice is a staple for those among us who still haven’t mastered our cooking skills, have a ravenous appetite, and who think of food as fuel, not art. It’s simple, it’s dependable. It almost always tastes good.
When Dean isn't eating or "hunting," he's drinking: The show frequently ends with him and Sam cracking two beers on the side of road and decompressing after a long night of chasing down another nightmarish creature. A bottle of generic beer would appear on Dean’s version of the food pyramid; it’s so essential to his diet that he once quipped,“Beer’s not food, it’s whatever water is.” At a 2012 panel for the show, Ackles explained that Dean’s drinking only slows down after he’s resurrected from Purgatory, where “he couldn’t find a bar.”
In the universe of Supernatural, Dean and Sam have had so many near-death experiences—in fact, they’ve even died a few times before, too, and visited Hell on more than one occasion—that Dean considers eating (Sam doesn’t indulge as much as his brother), a pleasure reserved for the living. He doesn’t waste time counting calories or worrying about his blood pressure; Dean is aware that his time on Earth is limited, so he spends that time enjoying the few moments of peace he has eating food that makes him feel good. Later in the series he becomes obsessed with dessert—his common refrain to his brother is “Where’s the pie?”—and for the most part, Supernatural is unapologetic about its celebration of the meals that people these days, in the age of clean eating, might find repulsive.
On Supernatural food isn’t supposed to look good, restaurants and chefs aren’t elevated to god-like status like you might see on Master of None, it’s not even supposed to be all that nutritious. For Dean, food serves a simple purpose: to keep him alive and to give him even a moment of pure, uninterrupted pleasure in a life that is otherwise marked by violence, chaos, and tragedy. Junk food—even though it’s bad for him—is Dean’s refuge, and the only Heaven he believes in.