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12 Best Fast-Food Burgers, According to Chefs

Some of these regional chains may surprise you.
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When you think of high-end, award-winning chefs, it's easy to imagine every meal they eat is a multiple-course affair served on the finest china, but after feeding hundreds of people a night, most chefs crave simplicity and speed. Enter fast food burgers, beloved by millions, including top chefs around the country. 

Wondering which drive-thrus they hit on the way home? Spoiler, there are a lot of Shake Shack fans, and some regional chains that may surprise you. Read on to find out which fast-food burgers tempt our best chefs and the ones they crown as the best. 

RELATED: 11 Discontinued Fast-Food Burgers You'll Never See Again


Wendy's Junior Bacon Cheeseburger

Wendy's Junior Bacon Cheeseburger
Courtesy of Wendy's

"As for fast food, it would have to be Wendy's junior bacon cheeseburger," says James Beard nominated Chef Douglass Williams, owner of Mida and Apizza in Boston. "More than just eating it, I have so many memories of making it, the touch of the bun, the pride that I took in making it, and understanding its simplicity. I can talk about this burger and just smile!"


Shake Shack's Smoke Shack Burger

Shake Shack's Smoke Shack Burger
Courtesy of Shake Shack

Executive chef David Standridge, who was awarded two Michelin stars with Joel Robuchon, and now heads up the award-winning Shipwright's Daughter in Mystic, CT., heads for his burger fix at Shake Shack. The chef told us, "No contest. It's the Smoke Shack Burger from Shake Shack. It's super bacon-y, and the potato bun just puts it over the top. Plus, you can get a side of Chicago-style hot dogs!"


In-N-Out's Double Animal Style

animal style double double burger
u/WT0311 / Reddit

Chef Charles Withers, of C Salt on Cape Cod, is torn between two burgers (who isn't?). He loves Shake Shack's Smoke Shack burger, saying, "It has some heat and acidity from the cherry peppers, smoked bacon and American cheese. It hits all the best notes of a delicious dish for me." However, he also loves In-N-Out, saying "The In-N-Out Double Animal Style comes in second…or tied for first." Try both and let us know what you think!


Whataburger with Cheese, Bacon, and Jalapenos

Whataburger with Cheese, Bacon, and Jalapenos
Whataburger / Facebook

Fort Worth-based Chef Tim Love told Esquire he loves Texas chain Whataburger, saying, "It's like a fresh, clean, Texas version of McDonald's." 


Tasty Burger's Cheeseburger

Tasty Burger Cheeseburger
Tasty Burger / Facebook

Local chains rule with Chef Michael Serpa, of Atlántico, Select Oyster Bar and Little Whale in Boston, who says, "My favorite fast food—well counter-service—burger here in Boston has got to be Tasty Burger. The patties are super flavorful without being too greasy and their ingredients always taste fresh."

Serpa is also a fan of In-N-Out and Whataburger. "When I'm traveling and need to grab a quick bite, I think it's fun to try the local flavor so I'll go for places like Whataburger down south, In-N-Out out west, and other spots that are hard (or impossible) to find in New England." 


Shake Shack's Stackburger

Shake Shack's Stackburger
Courtesy of Shake Shack

We have another Shake Shack fan in Executive Chef Aidan McGee of Boston's The Dubliner, who loves a burger after long days and nights of creating Irish favorites. He told us, "After a long day it's perfect for late-night eating," and his tip is to always order the burger "With extra cheese! Yummy!"

RELATED: 9 Secrets About Shake Shack That Might Surprise You


Culver's Butter Burger

Culver's Butter Burger
Culver's / Facebook

Chef and host Andrew Zimmern dished on a Midwest fave to The Daily Meal, saying, "I have a weakness in my heart for Culver's. It's a family favorite. It's a mid-Western chain that does custard really well and does hamburgers pretty decently." We'd add some fried cheese curds to the order!


In-N-Out's Double Double

in n out double double
Courtesy of In-N-Out

One of the more opinionated, and well-traveled, food personalities and chefs, the late Anthony Bourdain, was another In-N-Out fanatic. He told Eater the chain was his favorite restaurant in Los Angeles, and praised the bun, good quality meat, non-limp fresh greens, and the perfect "cheese-like substance" of this "brilliant" burger.


In-N-Out's Animal Style Double-Double Cheeseburger

In-N-Out Animal Style Double-Double Cheeseburger

Chefs really, really like In-N-Out. Food personality Tyler Florence, whose go-to order is an Animal Style Double-Double Cheeseburger, told Delish, "I dare anyone to tell me their burgers aren't as good as any you'll find anywhere, from fast food to fine dining." 


Burger King's Whopper

Burger King's Whopper
Burger King / Facebook

Some chefs prefer sitting down with the king when eating a burger. "Burger King is king! I think overall their fast food packs in the most flavor," Laurent Tourondel, BLT Restaurants, multiple locations, told Delish.

RELATED: Burger King, Popeyes, and Others Pull Out of Major Expansion Plans With This Company


White Castle's Sliders

white castle burger
White Castle / Facebook

This favorite is so popular there's even a movie about getting the restaurant's famous Crave Case, and Chef Patrick Rebholz of Yardbird (multiple locations) told Insider it hits with "By far the lightest bun known to man and all those beautiful mini onions are so perfectly distributed in every bite!"


Five Guys' Little Bacon Cheeseburger

five guys employee preparing burger
Five Guys/Facebook

Unique Sweets host and pastry chef Zac Young is a Five Guys fan, telling Thrillist, "My favorite fast-food burger is Five Guys. I get the Little Bacon Cheeseburger." He offered a pro-tip for ordering, saying, "Since all toppings are free, I take advantage and get lettuce, tomato, onion (raw, not grilled), jalapeños, mushrooms, ketchup, relish, and mayo. There are more condiments than meat, and I like it that way."

Tanya Edwards
Tanya Edwards is a seasoned food and health journalist, who has held roles at Yahoo Health as Managing Editor and at Food Network as Programming Director. Read more about Tanya