According to the United States Department of Agriculture, if kept frozen, ground beef remains safe to cook and consume indefinitely, though it is at its best, taste and texture-wise, within four months. Fresh ground beef, on the other hand, is only at its best for about two or three days after purchase.
Which do you think is the more convenient and cost-effective type of meat for a fast-food chain? If you guessed frozen ground beef, you’re exactly right. Which makes it all the more impressive that so many chains never use frozen meat for their burgers. But fresh meat really does make for better burgers, as the freezing process breaks down some of the fibers in the beef, changing its taste and texture irrevocably.
So the next time you’re in the mood for a fast-food burger and you want to sink your teeth into the best, consider heading to one of these eight chains where the beef is never frozen.
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The “guys” at Five Guys are serious about fresh meat. So much so that they couldn’t even freeze their burgers if they wanted to. Per the restaurant’s website: “There are no freezers in Five Guys locations, just coolers.” The fresh, handmade burger patties are clearly worth the expense and effort, as this chain has grown from a D.C.-area niche spot to a global phenomenon in a generation.
Wendy’s uses fresh, never-frozen beef, and the chain wants to make very certain you know that—the slogan is plastered all over the menu, blog, and advertising materials. And in fact, it has been ever thus with Wendy’s: since its founding in 1969, the beef has been fresh, never frozen.
Smashburger seasons, smashes, and sizzles its meat, but never freezes it. The “fresh, never frozen 100% Certified Angus Beef” used in Smashburger burgers is guaranteed to be fresh, per the chain’s own self-reporting. This is good, because those fresh, loosely-formed patties that are “smashed” onto the griddle can then make the most of the tasty Maillard Reaction, which is the process of sugars and proteins breaking down and converting as they are exposed to heat.
When Steve Buscemi’s character Donnie says “those are good burgers” referring to In-N-Out’s burgers in the flawless 1998 film “The Big Lebowski,” he’s right. Partly it’s the sauce, partly it’s the stack of patties, cheese, and veggies, but mostly it’s the meat. Which, per the chain’s site, is always fresh and every batch is even individually inspected.
If you want a Texas-sized and always-made fresh burger, head to the classic Texas fast-food chain Whataburger. Per the chain’s site: “Each and every Whataburger is still made to order—when it’s ordered. We still use 100% pure, never-frozen beef and serve it on a big, toasted five-inch bun.”
Shake Shack enjoys a reputation as something of an elevated burger joint, and the restaurant deserves it. Why? Because it is really serious about the quality of its burgers, which are made of 100% Angus beef and are never frozen, per the Shake Shack site. The shakes, however, are frozen. But they’re also well-made.
This upscale burger joint has enjoyed rapid growth over the past decade and a half because it makes some very fine burgers using some very fine beef—beef it even claims is higher grade than that used in most steaks. And of course, the ground beef used in a Mooyah burger is always fresh and never frozen.
Fatburger’s burgers are made using hand-pressed, never-frozen beef patties. This isn’t surprising, given that this chain also offers made-from-scratch onion rings, hand-scooped ice cream for the shakes, and chili made right on the premises at each Fatburger location.