Not all fast-food burgers are prepared the same, and how they begin can be a major difference. Some restaurant chains start out with fresh beef patties, and they are usually very vocal about it. “Fresh, never frozen” is the tagline commonly used by many big-name brands, including Wendy’s, Culver’s, and Shake Shack.

Meanwhile, other chains prefer to use frozen beef patties, which often last longer in storage and are more cost-effective. Those restaurants are often a lot quieter about this fact, likely because the general public views fresh ingredients more favorably.

So, if you’re wondering where your favorite burger joint stands on the fresh-versus-frozen issue, the level of communication is a good first clue.

There are several major fast-food chains that don’t always use fresh beef for their burgers, whether they explicitly say so or not. Eat This, Not That! reached out to all of these chains to clarify their policies. Only one responded. For chains that stayed silent, we turned to Reddit to find out what their employees had to say on the subject. Here’s what we know.

McDonald’s

mcdonalds cheeseburger
Photo: Shutterstock

Nutrition:
Cheeseburger (Per Order)
Calories: 300
Fat: 13 g (Saturated Fat: 6 g)
Sodium: 720 mg
Carbs: 32 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 7 g)
Protein: 15 g

The world’s largest fast-food chain made headlines in 2018 by finally introducing burgers made with fresh beef instead of frozen patties, but that isn’t the full story. In short: McDonald’s currently uses both frozen and fresh beef patties. It all depends on which burger you order. For example, the chain’s fresh beef lineupwhich includes the famous Quarter Pounder with Cheese and various other Quarter Pounder variations—is prepared using 100% fresh beef that’s seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper and cooked to order.

Other burger options on the menu are made using 100% ground beef formed into patties and then flash-frozen. McDonald’s explains on its website that flash-freezing is used “to seal in fresh flavor.” The frozen patties are typically used within two to three weeks and cooked to order, according to the company.

 13 Fast-Food Chains That Never Freeze Their Burgers

Burger King

Burger King meal
Photo: SrideeStudio / Shutterstock

Nutrition:
Rodeo Cheeseburger (Per Order)
Calories: 380
Fat: 17 g (Saturated Fat: 7 g, Trans Fat: 0.3 g)
Sodium: 700 mg
Carbs: 41.8 g (Fiber: 2.2 g, Sugar: 10.3 g)
Protein: 17 g

Although Burger King burgers have a “fresh off the barbecue” taste, thanks to flame-broiling, the popular fast-food chain uses frozen beef patties to make them. While the company did not respond to a request for comment, some BK employees have taken to Reddit to share some of the nitty-gritty details that go into making each burger. “At my BK we receive frozen raw patties, cook them for the first time on site, ” one wrote, pulling back the curtain on the restaurant’s burger-making process.

Another BK employee tasked with maintaining the broilers expanded on this, explaining that burger patties arrive at the franchise location “frozen solid” and are put in a freezer close to the feeding end of an automatic broiler. “As patties run out in the heating units, more burgers are fed in,” the user shared.

 I Tried Every Burger King Burger & the Best Is Heavy on the Bacon, Beef, and Cheese

Dairy Queen

dairy queen burger
Photo: Dairy Queen

Nutrition:
Original Cheeseburger – Double (Per Order)
Calories: 570
Fat: 34 g (Saturated Fat: 15 g, Trans Fat: 1.5 g)
Sodium: 1,530 mg
Carbs: 38 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 8 g)
Protein: 29 g

Dairy Queen may be best known for its tasty frozen treats, such as its famous Blizzard, but it also makes a burger that’s worth a try. Perhaps surprisingly, its burgers, like Burger King’s, are frozen and not fresh, although they are also made with, according to its website, “100% seasoned real beef patties.”

Dairy Queen didn’t reply to our request for more info on its burgers, but DQ employees have shared some intel on Reddit about how the famous chain whips them up. One grill worker who participated in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” divulged that the burger patties are indeed not fresh. “We have two sizes of beef patties, one for small burgers and one for the 1/4 and 1/2 pound burger,” the worker wrote. “They come frozen. We have a ‘grill’ where we put the patties on a conveyor belt that goes over a flame.”

 I Tried 6 Fast-Food Vanilla Ice Creams & the Best Was Thick and Creamy

Jack in the Box

jack in the box burger and fries
Photo: Jack in the Box / Facebook

Nutrition:
Big Cheeseburger (Per Order)
Calories: 560
Fat: 30 g (Saturated Fat: 12 g)
Sodium: 1,170 mg
Carbs: 43 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 6 g)
Protein: 29 g

Whether you order Jack in the Box’s Classic Smashed Jack with cheese or its innovative Sourdough Jack, served on toasted sourdough bread, one thing is for sure—each burger starts out as a frozen patty. Jack in the Box didn’t respond when asked for more insight on its burger-making process, but a handful of Jack in the Box employees have posted on Reddit about the ins and outs of what goes into making burgers at the West Coast-based chain.

One employee dished that nearly everything at Jack in the Box starts out frozen: “Everything is frozen, so there really isn’t anything that’s ‘fresh’, unless you count the salads but the chicken that goes into it is frozen.” Most recently, another Redditor revealed that even the chain’s new smash burgers begin as frozen patties: “Yes. Jack in the Box still uses a frozen beef patty for the Smashburger.” Yet another added of the “[f]rozen, pre seasoned” smash burgers, “Only real difference between the smash patties and jumbo patties are the smash are tapered at the edge so the edges crisp up more.”

 10 Restaurant Chains That Make the Best Smash Burgers

Sonic

sonic cheeseburger
Photo: Sonic Drive-In / Twitter

Nutrition:
Sonic Cheeseburger With Ketchup and Mayo (Per Order)
Calories: 720
Fat: 42 g (Saturated Fat: 11 g)
Sodium: 1,380 mg
Carbs: 53 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 12 g)
Protein: 31 g

Founded in the 1950s, the popular drive-in chain Sonic serves a wide range of burgers, from a basic plain cheeseburger to its Cheesy Bacon Sonic Stack, which is made with two thick slices of Texas toast instead of a bun. Sonic didn’t respond to our queries, but an employee last year told Mashed that its burger patties come from the freezer. Likewise, a fellow employee previously posted on Reddit, “Pretty much everything is frozen.”



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