In this report
Overview
October 2010 Ratings

Our readers reveal: Best burgers

Last reviewed: October 2010
Illustration of a burger
 

McDonald's burgers are certainly cheap and fast, but you still might wonder why billions have been consumed when you see the results of our recent survey of 28,000 online subscribers who rated burgers at 18 fast-food restaurants.

Among the standouts were In-N-Out Burger and Five Guys Burgers and Fries. The biggest loser: McDonald's. Burger King and Wendy's fared better than McDonald's but far worse than the highest-rated chains.

In-N-Out Burger, which touts its fresh ground chuck, has 247 restaurants in California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. Five Guys had 640 restaurants in 42 states. And McDonald's? 14,000 restaurants. We sent a reporter (not a trained taster, but he has eaten his share of burgers) to make an informal comparison of the fare at Five Guys and McDonald's. Here's what he found:

Five Guys

The regular hamburger, two 3.3-ounce griddled patties, was served well done on a lightly browned sesame-seed bun. You can order any of 15 free toppings (the usual, plus options such as grilled mushrooms and jalapeno peppers). Bacon and cheese cost extra. The patties had a bit of searing along the edges, a chewy texture (the chopped meat was fairly coarse), and a beefy flavor. They reminded our reporter of minute steak. The meat was juicy but left an oily taste in his mouth. The bun was soft and spongy.

McDonald's

The basic burger was one 3.5-ounce patty with pickle slices, bits of chopped raw onion, and a dab of ketchup and mustard, served on a lightly browned bun. The meat tasted mild and more greasy than beefy. It was easier to bite through than the Five Guys patty and was uniformly round and brownish-gray. The major flavor came from the toppings. The bun was airy and bland.

Bottom line

The Five Guys burger was bigger and beefier but costs about $5, compared with $1 for McDonald's. (Five Guys sells a one-patty Little Hamburger for about $3.50.) And the meat is made to order, not in advance, so we waited 5 to 10 minutes.

Close up

Our reporter couldn't get his hands on an In-N-Out burger, but readers gave it high marks. "It always seems as though the burger was made moments before," one said, "as opposed to sitting under a heat lamp." The basic burger costs about $2.