Nothing says summer quite like a home-grilled burger. The smell of charcoal, the sizzle of a patty hitting a hot grill and the sight of your burger sandwiched between all of your favorite toppings are the embodiment of the outdoor season.
But if you’re going to go through all that work, you want a satisfying result. Kansas City is crawling with artisan butcher shops and chain grocery stores all vying to sell you their patties.
We wanted to know which one was the best. So we set up a blind tasting for nine local patties at our office, from the deli counters of Whole Foods and Hy-Vee to the Wagyu patties of KC Cattle Company.
Here are the top five patties and what our tasters had to say about them. Ultimately, we found that the quality of pricey butcher-blend patties shone through even in a blind tasting.
How We Did It
To make sure our results were fair, we did a blind taste test. We got all nine patties—plain beef, no mix-ins—and thawed the frozen ones in the refrigerator.
We sous vide-cooked the burgers in marked plastic bags at 130 degrees for one hour. We removed them from the bags and stuck them with lettered toothpicks while we cooked them on a Weber grill fueled by lump charcoal.
For the tasting, each was dressed with the same top-pings—cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato and onion. We each tasted a quarter of the patty and then ranked them on a scale of one to ten.
1. The Upper Cut KC: Butcher’s Blend, $6 per patty
For the best burger in the city, you need to head toward the airport, where you’ll find the Upper Cut KC. This shop uses Akaushi cattle, a revered type of Japanese cow genetically predisposed to have more fat distributed throughout the muscle. “It’s the Lamborghini of beef,” owner Mariah Kinkade says. Those Akaushi cattle are raised in a grass pasture with no antibiotics or hormones and finished with non-GMO corn.
Kinkade and crew have thirty-five years of experience, and they dry-age all cuts for a minimum of three weeks. The Butcher Blend burger with a mixture of brisket, steak and short rib won our taste-off. This patty melts in your mouth, and unlike some of the others we tried, it also holds up really well on the grill to develop a nice char. Our staff was so in love that when we tried it, all we could say was “wow” and “yum.” This burger is worth the drive and the six dollars charge per patty.
2. Fareway: Ground beef patty, $2.50 per patty
If you’re looking for a thick burger (emphasis on thick), check out Fareway Meat Market, formerly home of McGonigle’s. This classic eighty-twenty beef patty hardly shrunk while cooking and got perfectly pink and juicy in the middle. Our tasters said eating it was like being transported to a Fourth of July cookout. This was also one of our cheaper burgers at only $2.50 a patty.
3. KC Cattle Company: Wagyu beef patty, $5 per patty
For a high-quality meat patty with big flavor, try KC Cattle Company’s Wagyu beef patty. It was definitely the juiciest we tried and had us licking our fingers for more when all was said and done. Our staff said this patty was beefy, fatty, thin and familiar. Keep in mind that these patties are only available online in packs of four for roughly twenty dollars through KC Cattle Company’s website, and supply is limited. We recommend reading the website for instructions on how to prepare them, as they come frozen and with so much fat that they need to be handled gingerly on the grill.
4. Bichelmeyer Meats: Ground beef patty, $2.20 per patty
KCK’s Bichelmeyer has been a Kansas City staple since 1946. It prides itself on being family-owned and selling everything from snout to tail. The company’s classic ground beef patty impressed our staff with its immense fatty flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture. One of our staffers even said it felt as if you were biting into whipped cream. This was also the cheapest patty we bought at $2.20 per patty. The quality far exceeded the cost. If you’re buying for a large group, this is where you’ll want to go.
5. Hen House: Ground chuck beef patty, $3 per patty
Hen House was the only major grocery chain to crack our top five. The patty from the butcher counter at the College and Quivira location was an eighty-twenty ground chuck patty. Chuck is a cut from the shoulder of the cow and is said to be fattier and juicier—perfect for burgers. Our staff agreed that it was definitely juicy, but the biggest thing we took away from this patty was that it tasted just like a hamburger. No surprises, no fancy flourishes. That means you are starting with a blank canvas on which to build your perfect burger.
Also Tasted: Price Chopper, Local Pig, Hy-Vee and Whole Foods