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I Tried 6 Store-Bought Burgers & This Is the Best for Summer Grilling

The mission: to find the best-tasting, most dependable, most fool-proof burger for summer.
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There's nothing like a freshly grilled burger in the summertime. You love how it hisses when the cool patty first hits the sizzling metal grate. You love the rousing aroma as the smoke wafts through the air. But, most of all, you love that rich beefy taste, especially when it's perfectly charred outside but still pink and juicy inside. Quick! Grab a napkin before that juice dribbles down your chin.

Hamburgers are the second most popular grilled food in America, ranking only behind steak, according to Statista. It's one of the quintessential flavors of the season.

Last summer, I visited several of my favorite grocery stores—Costco, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and Wegmans, among others—in search of the most tantalizing, top-quality burger patties available for outdoor grilling. This year, I returned to the same retailers to see how my options had changed and whether the same brands could match or even outdo their previous grilling performances.

My local Costco doesn't sell fresh pre-made patties, so I again opted for the massive five-pound bag of frozen Kirkland Signature Grass-Fed Beef Patties. For a proper comparison, I also grabbed a pack of similarly frozen grass-fed beef patties from Whole Foods. Additionally, I rounded up four packages of fresh patties, including two specialty offerings from name-brand butchers, which are both available from various retailers. Then, I grilled each variety multiple times, according to the directions on the package, to ensure the most accurate result possible.

Burger taste test
Kirkland Grass Fed Beef Patties (upper left), Wegmans' 100% Grass Fed Angus Patties (lower right)Jeremy Mack/Eat This, Not That!

The mission: to find the best-tasting, most dependable, most fool-proof burger for summer. That last part is especially important, because when grilling season is in full swing, and your backyard is overrun with warm-weather revelers, the last thing you need is a finicky foodstuff that requires your undivided attention. This is your barbecue, after all, and you deserve to have a little fun, too.

Dust off the ol' grill-master apron and break out your trusty spatula, as I reveal the latest results of this store-bought burger taste-test. Here's how each brand fared, ranked in descending order from my least favorite to the overall best burger for summer grilling.

Whole Foods Market Organic 100% Grass-Fed Beef Burger

A previously frozen burger patty from Whole Foods Market, fresh off the grill and served on a bun
Photo: Chris Shott/Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 1 Patty)
Calories: 290
Fat: 23 g (Saturated Fat: 9 g, Trans Fat: 1.5 g)
Sodium: 75 mg
Carbs: 0 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 19 g

Whole Foods now offers its own brand of frozen patties, made from organic 100% grass-fed beef. Much like the Organic Meat Co. variety that I picked up from the Amazon-owned grocer's freezer last year, this one pound-pack carries both USDA organic and animal welfare certifications and comes from cattle raised without antibiotics or hormones, according to the package. Yet it also comes at a slightly cheaper price tag than the prior brand of $8.49.

The look: These 4-ounce patties are slender, compact, and oblong. They come out of the package so solid that you're directed to run under cold water for 5 minutes to separate them. But they cook up quick and the modest size matches up perfectly with your standard hamburger bun.

The taste: Perfectly palatable with a nicely charred exterior. The center is solidly brown and the meat is tightly compressed, offering a firm but relatively easy-to-chew bite. These would make a fine option to keep in the freezer for spur-of-the-moment grilling, but your regularly scheduled backyard cookouts probably deserve an even beefier option this summer.

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Kirkland Signature 100% Grass-Fed Beef Patty

A previously frozen Kirkland Signature grass-fed beef patty, fresh off the grill and served on a bun
Photo: Chris Shott/Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 1 Patty)
Calories: 380
Fat: 30 g (Saturated Fat: 11 g, Trans Fat: 2 g)
Sodium: 100 mg
Carbs: 0 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 26 g

Costco sells several kinds of burgers under its house brand Kirkland Signature, including regular ground beef, lean, and sirloin options. I chose the grass-fed beef patties for so many reasons. They come in a party-friendly, 5-pound bag, containing 15 pre-made patties, for $24.99.

The look: Despite being stuck in cold storage for who knows how long, the burgers still retained their proper pink hue. And they are much bigger than Whole Foods' frozen patties at a third of a pound each and a half-inch thick.

The taste: These burgers came off the grill nicely charred and tasty enough, albeit a little chewy and less juicy than fresh patties. "You can tell it's frozen," one of my fellow tasters commented last summer. That sentiment still rings true today.

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Trader Joe's Butcher Shop Ground Beef Patty

A cooked burger patty from Trader Joe's served on a bun
Photo: Chris Shott/Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 1 Patty)
Calories: 290
Fat: 23 g (Saturated Fat: 9 g, Trans Fat: 1.5 g)
Sodium: 75 mg
Carbs: 0 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 19 g

I've had good luck in the past with strip steaks from Trader Joe's, so I was eager to try the specialty retailer's fresh ground beef patties last summer. Despite rising beef prices, these burgers have held steady since then, ringing up at $6.49. The label indicates a 80% lean-20% fat ratio, which is pretty common among the various burger brands out there.

The look: Of all the fresh patties I tested, these were the smallest, weighing about 4 ounces each and measuring a half-inch thick, leaving them perhaps more vulnerable to overcooking.

The taste: This burger has a nice hearty flavor, but tends to turn out a little more well-done than I typically like. You need to keep a closer eye on this one and flip a little quicker than larger patties, if you wish to find any trace of pinkness within. Though these burgers are highly affordable, a thicker patty is still a safer bet.

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Pat LaFrieda Original Blend Beef Hamburger

A fresh-grilled burger patty from Pat LaFrieda served on a bun
Photo: Chris Shott/Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 1 Patty)
Calories: 430
Fat: 34 g (Saturated Fat: 13 g, Trans Fat: 2 g)
Sodium: 110 mg
Carbs: 0 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 29 g

In the world of butchery, there is perhaps no bigger name than Pat LaFrieda, who famously supplied the special burger blend that launched the fast-food sensation Shake Shack. His company now supplies packaged burger patties in various styles to supermarkets nationwide.

Last year, I tested LaFrieda's short rib blend, which made for a rich and delicious burger that one friend described as having a "steak-y texture." My local supermarket didn't carry those this season, so I opted for the famed butcher's original blend, made from chuck, brisket, and short rib. A four-pack cost me $13.99 from my local Union Market, a buck more than I paid last year and the most expensive in this survey.

The look: Big, thick, and perfectly round like a meaty hockey puck. The LaFrieda patties each weighed around 6 ounces and measured close to a full inch thick. They came off the grill nicely charred and practically dripping with juice, though chunkier and less pink in the center than other fresh patties.

The taste: Super juicy and savory, if somewhat chewier than other burgers that I tried. You can tell it's a high-quality burger. Still, I was unable to achieve the lush rosy  center I desire, despite multiple grilling attempts. That's why I'm dropping LaFrieda one spot to #3 in this year's updated rankings.

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Wegmans Signature Plain Beef Burger

A freshly grilled Wegmans Signature Plain Beef Patty served on a bun
Photo: Chris Shott/Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 1 Patty)
Calories: 510
Fat: 40 g (Saturated Fat: 18 g, Trans Fat: 2 g)
Sodium: 95 mg
Carbs: 0 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 38 g

If you don't live along the East Coast, where the European-style market Wegmans reigns supreme, then I feel bad for you. In addition to its impeccable cheese and bakery products, the Rochester, N.Y.-based grocer offers a wide variety of fresh, pre-made patties at this time of year, including sliders and full-size burgers stuffed with everything from blue cheese to cheddar and bacon.

Wegmans 100% Grass-Fed Angus Beef Patties were hands-down my favorite store-bought burgers last year, but I couldn't find those this time around. So, I opted for the retailer's Signature Plain Beef Burger Patties, which are much larger and come two per pack, as opposed to four. Like the grass-fed Angus patties, these also carry Wegmans' yellow "Food You Feel Good About" banner, indicating no artificial flavors or preservatives. The two pack cost me $9.19.

The look: Massive. These circular patties were the heftiest of the bunch, weighing over 7 ounces each and spanning about 4.5 inches wide and three quarters of an inch thick. They cooked up perfectly, outwardly charred with a tantalizingly moist pink center.

The taste: Just as luscious and juicy as I remembered, and the meat was noticeably more tender than the LaFrieda burger, too. Despite being a different variety than my prior fave, these burgers proved to be an excellent choice, as well.

Even so, there was one burger that I enjoyed even more, meaning that Wegmans unexpectedly falls to the runner-up slot in this year's survey.

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Schweid & Sons Prime Burger

A freshly grilled Prime Burger from Schweid & Sons served on a bun
Photo: Chris Shott/Eat This, Not That!
Nutrition: (Per 1 Patty)
Calories: 440
Fat: 38 g (Saturated Fat: 14 g, Trans Fat: 2.5 g)
Sodium: 100 mg
Carbs: 0 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 24 g

Schweid & Sons claims to make "the very best burger," according to the tagline on its packaging. Yet, my friends and I were underwhelmed last summer with the venerable brand's Katana Blend, made from 100% American Wagyu beef. Those burgers did not char as nicely as other fresh patties we tried and had a "mushy" texture that some tasters found off-putting. This year, I had much better luck with two of the brand's other options.

The Butcher's Blend, made from "premium" but otherwise unidentified cuts of beef, was a big hit with friends at my first cookout of the season. But the Prime Burger, made from the USDA's highest grade of well-marbled beef, has become my new favorite for summer grilling. Its 75% lean, 25% fat content is more indulgent than many other patties on the market—and it shows. A pack of four patties cost $12.99 at my local Foodtown.

The look: Bulky and more handmade-looking than the disk-shaped LaFrieda patties, the Prime Burgers generally weighed between 5.5 and 6 ounces and measured about three quarters of an inch thick. They came off the grill streaked with brown char outside and the most lush, blood-red center inside, more akin to a medium-rare steak than the typical burger.

The taste: Ambrosial. You will absolutely need a handful of napkins, or maybe even a bib, when consuming this succulent burger. It's by far the juiciest, most tender, most flavorful burger I've eaten this season—and easily the messiest as well. The fatty patty is so soft and wet you'll find yourself slurping as much as chewing. It goes down easy and satisfying. 

If you like your burger a bit on the bloody side, as I do, you'll be hard-pressed to find a tastier store-bought option in 2024.

An earlier version of this article was published in May 2023. It has been updated to reflect new information, nutrition facts, and fact-checking.

Chris Shott
Chris Shott is the Deputy Editor covering restaurants and groceries for Eat This, Not That! Read more about Chris