The once blue collar hamburger has become a bit of a gourmet delicacy over the past decade, gracing menus far beyond traditional steakhouses and becoming a creative outlet for chefs looking to experiment. It’s become so big, one of the signature events of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival — The Burger Bash — features high-end restaurants (and even Al Roker) competing to see who can create the best burger. But you don’t need to be a celebrity chef of TV weatherman to make great burgers: One of the best thing about hamburgers is that they’re pretty easy to mess around with at home, too.
Of course, unlike restaurant chefs, you don’t have expert meat purveyors explaining to you which cuts make for the best meals. And oftentimes, you’re left at the mercy of whatever looks best in the frozen food aisle. So which premade, frozen hamburger patties are going to have you considering a spot in the Burger Bash? We chatted with some experts — and tasted a bunch ourselves — to take the work out of choosing for you.
Wild Fork Angus Beef Pub Style Burgers
If you’re not familiar with Wild Fork — and you like frozen food — take note. The chain of stores has set out to be a kind of Whole Foods of frozen foods, sourcing all-natural and often organic products ready to be defrosted and served. Wild Fork also makes a lot of its own stuff, as is the case with their farm-fresh burgers. Wild Fork Executive Chef Jacqueline Kleis broke down for us why, exactly, the frozen pub burgers are the pick of the litter, explaining they are flash frozen at a super low temperature right after production so all the nutrients and flavorful goodness get trapped inside.
"I always like 85/15, because fat will melt a little on the grill on in your skillet and give a wonderful flavor," Chef Kleis told Mashed, describing the beef mixture of 85 percent lean meat and 15 percent fat. "We also carry from chuck, which has more marbling and more flavor."
The pub-style patties are 1/3 pound each and come in packages of six. They’re not available everywhere, though Wild Fork does deliver. So check the website and see if they’re in your area.
Philly Gourmet 100% Pure Beef Patties
Advice on how to cook frozen burgers abounds, but if you ask a man who’s literally made a career talking burgers, his take is one worth listening to. Sef Gonzalez, aka "The Burger Beast," is author of All About the Burger; A History of America’s Favorite Sandwich, and at one time ran The Burger Museum in Miami. His advice to Mashed: "My suggestion for (frozen patties) is outdoor grilling. Not to be cooked on a griddle of flat top. It just doesn’t work well."
With that all in mind, one of the Burger Beast’s top suggestions for a frozen patty are these quarter pounders from Philly Gourmet, which also offers a thick burger and Angus variety. The reason these are tops, the Burger Beast told us, is that they’re a bit smaller, and the ideal frozen patty if you’re trying to make doubles. An ambitious undertaking, yes, but you don’t get to be the Burger Beast by eating only one patty at a time.
Ball Park Flame Grilled Beef Patties
We know, we know. "Ball Park?" you ask. "You mean that same company that makes hot dogs of indiscernible origin that you only buy for kids’ birthday parties because they don’t know the difference anyway?" Yes, that Ball Park, but the frozen burgers are a delightful surprise if you are looking for a quick burger fix. That’s why the name comes up on scores of "best frozen burgers" lists, including Food Shark and Kitchen Perfect.
The patties claim to be flame-grilled, and from all appearances, it’s not a lie. The grill marks on the meat are one indication, but heat up the patty and you’ll get a strong, flame-broiled flavor you don’t often find in frozen meat. An added bonus: The burgers are precooked, which does hamper the juiciness a little, but allows for quick preparation as they’re ready to be popped in the microwave. Make no mistake, you’ll still get a better burger if you heat it on the grill. But if you’ve only got a minute, the Ball Park burger is a great option.
Omaha Steaks Steak Burgers
You knew America’s favorite frozen meat delivery company, Omaha Steaks, would have an entrant on this list — the only question was which one. Their traditional burgers show up on nearly any list of best frozen hamburgers you might find, notching a #3 ranking from Palette Dining, and runner-up honors for both Food Shark and Chef’s Resource. The patties undergo a rigorous preparation process, where the meat is aged, then ground twice to give it a unique texture. There’s no seasoning or added ingredients here — just meat. So if you’re looking for a classic beef flavor, you’d be hard-pressed to beat Omaha Steaks.
The 80/20 blend gives these a slightly fattier consistency, but if you grill your meat, that can be mitigated. That said, Men’s Journal suggests pan-frying the burgers for maximum flavor, throwing them in a non-stick pan for about seven minutes on each side. If you like your meat juicy, this is probably your best option.
Nature’s Rancher Angus Beef Burgers
A favorite in the Whole Foods frozen foods aisle, Nature’s Rancher’s quarter pound patties come from Animal Welfare Certified ranches, according to the company’s website, meaning the cows are ethically treated right up until the time they’re … not. The grass-fed patties definitely look a little more processed than what you’d typically find at Whole Foods, but don’t let the thin, perfect circles fool you. The premade meat tastes totally fresh once you throw it on the grill, and with no added ingredients, they’re ideal if you like playing around with seasonings and toppings yourself.
These frozen burgers are so good, they topped the taste tests at Eat This, Not That, where one taster noted, "It’s unusual to take a bite of a burger and really taste the meat." We’re not sure what else one is supposed to taste when eating meat, but we’ll assume they meant it as a compliment. The site also noted, correctly, that the meat has been heavily processed, and if Nature’s Rancher has a weak spot, it’s that the texture can be a little thin.
Brooklyn Brothers Premium Steakhouse Burger
The city-of-origin branding is an interesting call here — while Brooklyn is certainly known for its pizza and, more recently, beer, is it really on the map for burgers too? The folks at First Avenue Foods think so, as according to the company’s website, they provide meat to esteemed steakhouses like Peter Luger’s, Benjamin’s, and Wolfgang’s. And now they offer a frozen burger patty available at Wegmans, Publix, and other grocery chains with intense cult followings.
The Burger Beast listed the Brooklyn Brothers burger among his top picks when asked by Mashed, saying the hormone and antibiotic-free patties "felt like I was eating healthy." The USDA Choice burgers are made from a chuck, brisket, and short rib blend, just like burgers you’d get in a steakhouse, and though it remains to be seen if they’d be described as "healthy," they are at least devoid of any additives. Burger Beast suggests adding salt, black pepper, and a slice of cheddar cheese to get the most out of these unadulterated patties.
Mount Pleasant Grass Fed Ground Beef Burgers
Judging by the collective frozen burger rankings of the internet, grass-fed beef appears to make for a better frozen patty than traditional grain-fed. That’s why you find grass-fed patties topping lists from Food Shark, Home Gear X, Eat This, Not That!, and others. And the name that came up more than any? Mount Pleasant’s 100% grass-fed patties, which tout their free-roaming and organically fed cows. If you’re looking for clean meat in a frozen patty, you won’t find much cleaner than Mount Pleasant.
The flavor, much like the "mountain" for which the brand is named (the ranch is actually in very un-mountainous Northeast Texas, per the company website, but … details), is also quite pleasant, giving a clean, lean finish that confirms the beef is well-raised. The patties are flash frozen, so you don’t lose much in the processing. And though nobody’s claiming hamburgers as part of a healthy diet, if you’re conscious of what you eat and still looking to indulge, Mount Pleasant is the way to go.
It is a strange time we live in … for so many reasons. But one of the more overlooked is that the most talked-about hamburger in America right now isn’t even made of meat. The plant-based Beyond Burger has gone so mainstream it’s topped frozen burger rankings from Men’s Journal, Food Shark, and Palette Dining, all praising its low cholesterol, sustainability, and high protein content. They are soy- and gluten-free, so pretty much anyone with any dietary restriction can eat them. And, yes, they do actually taste something like meat, though when blind taste tested you can pretty easily tell the difference.
That’s not to say Beyond Burgers aren’t a solid meat alternative if you’re trying to reduce your carnal consumption. Just don’t expect the fatty, juicy decadence that comes with beef. The combination of natural oils like coconut mixed with pea and rice proteins give it a meat-like consistency. And if you grill Beyond Burgers, they absorb the smoky flavor better than beef. Fans of flame-broiled burgers will likely be big fans, though if you’re more of a smash burger person, your results may vary.
Kansas City Steak Company Classic Steakburgers
Not to be outdone by their neighbors up Interstate 29 in Nebraska, the Kansas City Steak Company also puts out some of the most highly regarded frozen meats in America. And their steakburgers are right up there with any patty coming out of Omaha. The patties are favorites of Food Shark, Chef’s Resource, and Palette Dining, offering corn-fed, 4.5 ounce patties in vacuum-sealed packages of 16. Chef’s Resource described Kansas City Steaks as having a "loyal fan base that speaks for itself." And that may be because the company does things just a little differently.
The frozen burgers are half an ounce bigger than typical quarter pounders, and with 96 percent lean meat, you’ll end up with a lot more protein once the fat melts away. This also results in a leaner, lower-fat burger than other options, and though it might be a little drier, Kansas City Steak Company’s steakburgers make up for it in other ways. The patties come with a special KC seasoning packet, so what it lacks in fat it makes up for in zest.
Western Grassfed Beef Patties
You may be asking yourself what the difference is between grain-fed and grass-fed beef, aside from the obvious difference in diet. From a nutritional perspective, grass-fed beef is higher in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, as well as Vitamins A and E, according to Healthline. However, Beef Magazine reported the only two studies done on health benefits found no difference between grain- and grass-fed beef in regards to risk factors for cardiovascular disease and Type II diabetes.
In terms of flavor, Cook’s Illustrated points out that grass-fed beef was long thought to have a lean and chewy taste, while grain-fed was richer and fattier. That, however, seems to be changing, as that magazine’s taste test found little difference in steaks, and grass-fed burger patties now dominate "best of" lists. Western Grassfed is among the best, produced by Western Family Ranchers, which, according to its Instagram is paleo and Whole30 approved. They topped Home Gear X’s rating of frozen burgers, which cited the cows’ organic diet and customers’ ability to buy in four-packs as key factors.
Amy’s Kitchen Organic Sonoma Veggie Burger
There is a marked difference between the beef substitute burgers sweeping the nation — like Beyond Burgers and Impossible meat — and the traditional veggie burgers your vegetarian friends always brought to the barbecue. While the former attempt to recreate the natural taste of meat and boast about their beef-like properties, veggie burgers taste like, well, veggies. The best among them, Wild Fork’s Executive Chef Jacqueline Kleis told Mashed, come from Amy’s Organic Kitchen. And though Amy’s has halted production of many of their veggie burgers due to COVID-19, the Sonoma burger is still readily available.
These quinoa-based patties are made with mushrooms, garbanzo beans, walnuts, celery, carrots, and garlic. The flavor is a little starchy, with strong notes of veggies and herbs throughout, and a marked improvement over generic soy and black bean options. Just don’t expect it to taste anything like beef.
Greensbury Market Grass-Fed Beef Burgers
Another top entry into the grass-fed, organic burger category comes from Greensbury Market, whose 4 ounce patties come in packs of eight, and are all USDA certified organic. They are some of the more expensive options on the list, as you’ll pay about $24 per pack, or about the same as it would cost you to buy eight Whoppers. But the quality here is on a different level. According to Greensbury’s website, all the beef is humanely raised and processed completely in the United States. It’s also non-GMO certified, meaning no genetically modified organisms were used in feeding the beef. And it’s all free from antibiotics.
All that social responsibility is lovely, but doesn’t mean much if the burger doesn’t taste good. But Greensbury Market’s flavor holds up. It topped Kitchen Perfect’s rating of frozen burger patties, who praised the high fat content as the reason they tasted so good. "[I]t’s reasonable to assume that most people aren’t buying burgers as a health food option," the site said in its review, "[so] we’re rating these as the best."
Kirkland Ground Beef Patties
Is there anything Kirkland, Costco’s private label house brand, can’t do? Chocolate chip cookies? Check. Smooth, sippable vodka, available by the half gallon? You betcha. And while once upon a time it came as a big surprise when somebody told you they purchased their entire barbecue spread at Costco, the warehouse retailer’s reputation for great meat is now widely known. And that’s a big reason why the Burger Beast told Mashed that Kirkland’s ground beef patties are some of the best on the market.
"These burgers (are) … definitely the best choice for a party," he says of the 75/25, high fat patties. "Just make sure to use a nice steakhouse seasoning to liven up the burger." The burgers also clock in at a whopping 1/3 pound, making them considerably larger than the quarter pound options in the freezer. If you’re buying in bulk (and why else would one go to Costco?), Kirkland is the move. Just make sure not to fill up on the $1.50 hot dogs before you get home to grill.
Chop House Burgers by Holten
Top to bottom, Holten offers the most impressive line of frozen hamburger patties, with different butcher blends and meat styles, all of exceptionally high quality. The family behind these burgers understands the importance of meat selection, and tells you right in the product name if you’re getting chuck and brisket, prime rib, or angus sirloin. "(Holton) reveals the cuts of beef used," Sef "Burger Beast" Gonzalez said in an exclusive Mashed interview, explaining why he put these tops on his list. "Not sure if that’s why I thought these were better but I did think these were the best of the bunch."
Holton doesn’t just vary the cuts of meat it uses. The steakhouse burgers also offer USDA Prime patties and Certified Angus Beef patties, probably the two highest markers of American beef quality. Though Burger Beast wouldn’t specify a favorite from the line, we can’t blame him: All the 1/3 pound patties are fantastic if you’re a beef connoisseur. And still pretty great even if you’re not.