In-N-Out versus Five Guys – who has the better burger?

Tyler HurstReview36 Comments

I’m not much of a burger connoisseur. I’ve never ground my own meat, think the Angus mushroom and Swiss from McDonalds is pretty good and don’t often grill in my backyard. I like my steaks medium rare, toppings kept to a minimum and my buns fresh. Like any man’s man, I do get the craving for the occasional burger, though it’s usually the 99 cent double burgers from Burger King. Steadfast in my refusal to eat fast food more than once every few months, I haven’t had a meal from a joint like Burger King in quite some time.

This burger from Five Guys was some seriously tasty meat.

But today was different. After reading a Zagat article declaring Five Guys burger to be superior to In-N-Out, I took it as a personal challenge. I’ve never eaten at Five Guys until today, nor am I a huge fan of In-N-Out. When it comes to impartiality, this is one subject where I’m your man.

I’ve been craving a burger since I read the aforementioned article at 9am. After spending most of the day trying to convince myself that burgers aren’t that good for you and I should be considering Fat Off, Katie came home hungry and ENCOURAGED me to take her to get a burger. My willpower, quite weak at that point, completely left me.

So here’s what I did. I drove 20 minutes from downtown Phoenix to Mill Ave, and ordered a cheeseburger from Five Guys, which consisted of two patties, American cheese, ketchup, mustard and pickles. After getting it to go, along with fries for Katie, we headed to In-N-Out where I got a double-double burger with two patties, mustard, ketchup and pickles. We did have a discussion on whether I should have ordered the secret sauce with the double-double, but I wanted them to be as even as possible.

Here’s how it started:

I decided to judge the burgers based on five criteria: Meat, Condiments, Bun, Overall Taste and my desire to frequent the establishment. I tossed out price, as the Five Guys burger was twice as much as In-N-Out.

My burger did not look like this. Not at all.

While I have no doubt that In-N-Out’s burgers are fresh, the neatness of their patties feels manufactured to me. They don’t fall apart and are a little too uniform for me to really get excited about munching on them. Five Guys burger’s texture looks like the burgers were made on the premises, and they have that slight crumbly quality of a high-fat, high taste patty. While In-N-Out burger is certainly heads above any other fast food burger I’ve ever had, Five Guys wins this one.

I know I chose boring condiments. Five Guys had an array of free toppings (I’m hesitant to call them condiments because they were way more than sauces) and In-N-Out has a huge menu of special ways to prepare their burgers, but I wanted to keep it simple, so I chose ketchup, mustard and pickles. Five Guys went pretty light on the ketchup and mustard, but had thicker pickle slices. In-N-Out arranged their pickles to completely cover the bottom bun, a very cool touch for those of us used to pickles just being piled on. Oh, In-N-Out won this one. They put a healthier amount of sauce on, and I tasted their pickles every bite.

Funny how they never take pictures of burgers after they've been wrapped and flattened.

There are people who like fancy buns with sesame seeds or other adornments. There are those who like thick, elaborate potato buns. I am not either of those guys. I want my buns simple, thin and not mushy, soggy and in any other way squished.
Five Guys has one of those thicker, sesame-seed adorned buns. In-N-Out has a simple bun that’s toasted so it keeps more of its shape. While eating the Five Guys burger, I found myself wanting to take half the bun off, something I often do with restaurant burgers, because it felt like too much. The perfection of the In-N-Out bun made me want to keep eating. Easy winner call for In-N-Out here.

This is a cool shirt from Brand X.

Overall Taste
Burgers aren’t something most of us have seconds on. Their big and thick and usually do a pretty damn good job of filling us up. While it certainly looked like my Five Guys burger had more meat (cost twice as much, too), I found myself not wanting another In-N-Out burger, but perhaps another, smaller one from Five Guys. Also, the potential for more toppings is HUGE. Five Guys wins this one.

My desire to frequent the establishment
Again, I’m not a huge burger or fast-food joint guy, but I do eat out fairly often. I do not like being in In-N-Out. It’s not the employees, as they’re usually the friendliest people I talk to all day. It’s not the smell, as most places have a far greasier aroma that permeates whatever you’re wearing. Maybe it’s the booths that seem too small for normal people, the crowd of unwashed masses looking to save a few bucks or just the fact that I know everyone LOVES it and I rebel against that, but it’s just not inviting. Five Guys, however, is airy, more open and has a crowd that’s likely there for some good food, rather than to eat cheaply. Strangely, neither smell much like burgers. Five Guys wins this one, by a long shot.

Five Guys wins, 3-2. Closer than I expected, but I’m fairly certain I’d go to Five Guys again. In-N-Out, especially the one in Tempe packed with screaming kids and too many college students, is definitely off my list. Other locations might be okay, but I think I’ll stick with drive thru. Or just make my own.

Now I’m full, thirsty and I need to figure out how I’m going to work all these extra calories off. Rail Life and I are planning a larger, burger joints on the light rail article for early September, so be ready to hear about EVERY burger joint that’s within ten minutes of the Light Rail. Also, I’m going to try all of them in one day.


Tyler HurstIn-N-Out versus Five Guys – who has the better burger?

36 Comments on “In-N-Out versus Five Guys – who has the better burger?”

  1. Jason Newlin

    You’re a funny guy Tyler… good write-up. I am a big fan of burgers, and like both 5 Guys and In-N-Out. I do prefer the taste of 5 Guys, but the steeper price hurts. You should do more of these random write-ups – you’re good at it.

  2. tdhurst

    Thanks! This was a fun one.

    Yeah, I can see the Five Guys prices turning people off and unless you’re ordering all the “free” toppings, it’s definitely pricey, but I’m hesitant to call it overpriced. I didn’t finish either burger disappointed.

  3. Stephen Garner

    That a tough one. I think the only way to properly do this research is for all 4 of us to meet at 5 guys next week and conduct our research and then head to In N Out the following week to make sure our Double Blind Study is ethical. Who wants to take part in the scientific study for the benefit of other men across the country that no doubt have the same question?

  4. sirobins

    I want to know what you thought of the fries. I think Five Guys wins big time there.

    Also interested to see where you guys go for your light rail burger crawl.

  5. tdhurst

    Katie loved the fries. I had one, they were flavorful (Five Guys).

    For light rail crawl, we’re thinking seamus, turf, fatburger, five guys, in-n-out, though I might cut it off at fast food type places.

    Problem is, we want to give the local guys some publicity, too.

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  9. Guest

    You can’t judge In-N-Out on the overall taste without getting the special sauce. In-N-Out > Five Guys

  10. Crystal O'Hara

    is it wrong that I determine where I’m getting burger from by the way they wrap my burger because I ask for it without the bun. For me In-N-Out won hands down on that one. I actually have gone to several burger places and asked them to make me a burger without the bun. I always end back up and In-N-Out.

    1. Ron

      There is no way in hell that it is a fair contest between the two if you don’t get the burgers the way they are intended to be served. Ino developed their burger to be ate with the spread, ketchup and mustard on a double double is an insult. Animal style all the way! And every Ino burger I have had in the past tastes as consistent and fulfilling as the first one. P.S. no one who is an Ino fan calls it Ino. It’s In-n-Out everybody!

  11. 5 Guys Nazi

    You’ll never find fries anywhere else like 5 Guys.  But the last time I went their burger was a total disappointment.
    I asked them whether they’ve gone to a smaller burger….Maybe a 4-1 patty instead of a 3-1.  They were quick to address that issue by saying they are all made by hand and that maybe I just got a smaller than average one.  To my surprise, they offered me another burger which was just as small.  When they first open a store, their burgers are made bigger to get you to come back.  Then, you’re flooded with so many fries that youre not supposed to notice that the burger gets smaller.

  12. Beth

    dont be naive in n out does everything fresh including building the burger on the premises. You just proved that in n out was better at assembling them.

  13. dude

    while i admit five guys burgers are good, they are only good eaten there. i brought one home one day and it tasted like solid grease and poop straight from a donkeys butt. therefore, i will always and forever eat in-n-out where i have never had a bad burger

  14. jr

    I honestly don’t see how they can be compared.  The “Special Sauce” comes in packets that you can just grab a handful of and be on your way to the real food at Five Guys.  By the way, its Thousand Island with pickle relish. 

  15. tim

    How can you not factor in price? That is one of the biggest real world factors when comparing products.  I imagine more often than not if I compared two tvs, one being twice as much as the other, the more costly one will be far better.  Since you make it sound close, yet state five guys costs twice as much, they would make me think In-And-Out is the winner for people, like me, who do have to consider budget.  Maybe you have all the money in the world for eating out.  Some of us do not.

    I have not personally tried In-And-Out since I have not been in a state with one yet, but I can say Five Guys is overrated.  Maybe it was too much hype before I tried them, but here, and I imagine most places, you can get better burgers at local places or make better ones yourself.

    1. Vamp

      The meat is beefier than an In-n-Out burger, but everything else on the InO burger is better. I’ve been to 5 Guys twice now, and I’ve been let down both times. I didn’t enjoy it because the price factor kept flashing in my head. I feel completely satisfied with an InO burger just as it is..Even if the price were cheaper at 5G, they don’t do their buns like InO.

  16. Guest

    It’s useless to get the 5 guys burger and not get it “all the way”.  It’s what their known for. 

  17. Inobetterthan5

    I have had both if you want soggy fries and a greasy burger go to 5 guys if you want an amazing tasting consistent burger and fries go to Ino. Ino is a clear winner over 5 guys for me. Rather get a burger at cracker barrel than 5 guys.

  18. ting

    in n out isnt even on the same level as five guys you cant compare a good burger to the shit five guys serves! if you think five guys is better than you obviously have not had in n out!

  19. Alecks

    I’ve gotten plenty of In-N-Out burgers that look damn close to the picture, you must have stumbled upon that 1 rare employee who doesn’t give much of a fuck. I do think 5 Guys has slightly superior taste in terms of meat alone, but the Animal sauce probably pushes In-N-Out to the top by a narrow margin for me. The price difference is nice too seeing as I’m a 20yr old college student with virtually no money.

  20. Alecks

    Maaany good road trips were had to In-N-Out at 1am, taking bong rips the whole way there before demolishing our 4x4s (the burgers not our vehicles). I think that’s the true test right there, seeing which one you crave more when you’re totally loaded. In-N-Out wins.

  21. Geebu

    You really have to buy two in-and out double doubles to equal one double cheese burger at 5-guys. You can read a newspaper through in&outs patties. You get what you pay for. I have never had a bad experience at either one. It just depends on what you are looking for.

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