Slideshow: Staff Picks: Our Favorite Fast Food Burgers

Double Double Animal-Style from In-N-Out
Double Double Animal-Style from In-N-Out

"In-N-Out's Double-Double Animal-Style is the fast-food burger other fast-food burgers aspire to be. Why else would our own psychotic genius Kenji spend so much time deconstructing it so that all those poor people (like me) who don't live near an In-N-Out can experience it magnificence? The combination of well-seasoned, well-griddled patties and sweet caramelized onions has never reached the level of art as it has at In-N-Out. And unlike most chains, In-N-Out actually uses ripe red tomatoes and lettuce that hasn't taken on the form of a soggy tissue. Whenever I travel through California, this is a must-have." —Adam Lindsley, Portland correspondent

"This is an easy decision for anyone living in Los Angeles: a Double Double from In-N-Out. I almost always order mine with grilled onions and chopped chiles. And while I'm certain that's the best way to order, I've learned not to push my ordering habits on others. Grabbing a fast food burger is usually a concession of some kind, but that's not the case at In-N-Out; I'm excited every time I walk through the doors."Paul Cline, web developer

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Check out the whole In-N-Out Secret Menu »

Double Double, Medium-Rare, LTP from In-N-Out
Double Double, Medium-Rare, LTP from In-N-Out

"It's almost cruel to compare the majority of fast food burgers to In-N-Out, except maybe Steak 'N Shake or Shake Shack (neither of which I can get to without purchasing a plane ticket). Until recently, I stuck with the cheeseburger, but the Double Double has the better meat-to-bread ratio, and that second all-important slice of cheese. I nix the onions and the spread and get mine medium-rare, when I remember to ask (which isn't always). Then, I look for a quiet corner where I can privately worship the burger gods, which usually translates into a lot of burger exaltation ('oh my god so good mmmrrhhhghgh') and chair-dancing." —Erin Jackson, San Diego correspondent

[Photograph: Erin Jackson]

2x4, Animal Style, Extra Toasted Bun, with Chopped chilis, No Pickles, from In-N-Out
2x4, Animal Style, Extra Toasted Bun, with Chopped chilis, No Pickles, from In-N-Out
"I love American cheese, which is why I go cheese-heavy on my favorite In-N-Out burger: two patties and four slices of cheese, Animal Style (which I think should always be mandatory) because the caramelized onions and mustard-cooked patties make anything better. Chopped chilis and regular onions add a nice crunch and heat to the burger, while the extra toasted bun makes sure the whole thing stays together until the end (almost)." —Wes Rowe, San Francisco correspondent

[Photograph: Wes Rowe]

Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburger from Jack in the Box
Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburger from Jack in the Box

"I always seem to fall for that 'the-grass-is-always-greener' philosophy. As a result, I'm a sucker for the fast food chains that don't exist in my list of local options. And while I give a hearty honorable mention to just about anything from Culver's, the fast-food burger that I find myself daydreaming about is the Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburger from Jack in the Box. Perfect meat-to-cheese ratio with both American and Swiss, three slices of decent (for fast food) bacon, and a perfectly squishy bun. With ketchup, mustard, AND something the chain describes as 'mayo-onion sauce,' it's a little on the wet side for me...but whenever I have a road trip coming up, I admit to checking Jack's website to see if I'll be passing one on the interstate, just so I can rekindle this long-distance love affair." —Todd Brock, Atlanta correspondent

[Photograph: Todd Brock]

McDonald's Two Cheeseburger Meal
McDonald's Two Cheeseburger Meal

"The Big Mac is my obvious choice, and I prefer Wendy's patties to its competitors, but I would say my favorite fast food burger is actually two burgers: the McDonald's Two Cheeseburger meal. It's one of the cheapest value meals McDonald's offers, so it's perfect for my college budget (I've seen Big Mac Meals veer over the seven dollar mark quite often). Also, it just tastes like childhood for me. After soccer games, football games, long car rides, McDonald's was frequently the most convenient stop. Are these real cheeseburgers? Most likely not, but I love them nonetheless." Sam Levison, Providence correspondent

[Photograph: Alice Gao]

McDouble from McDonald's
McDouble from McDonald's

"Growing up, when we ate fast food, it was always McDonald's. Always, always, always. What's really fascinating to me is that the food still tastes exactly the same as I remember it. When I was a kid, I always felt like a grownup eating the Quarter Pounder because it was the burger the big boys ate. These days, while I try not to eat too much fast food, I almost always go with the McDouble, despite what Robyn thinks, I mean, let's face it—I shouldn't be eating the stuff anyway, but come on, people, it's on the dollar menu, and it tastes like childhood to me. Mmm...childhood." —Dennis Lee, Chicago correspondent

[Photograph: Alice Gao]

All-American Cheeseburger from Smashburger
All-American Cheeseburger from Smashburger

The half-pound All-American Cheeseburger from Smashburger. Perfect bun, brilliant balance of traditional toppings—ketchup, mustard, onion, pickle, and of course the vital ingredient that is American cheese." —Ewan Macdonald, Dallas correspondent

Smashburger review »

[Photograph: Ewan Macdonald]

Shake Shack
Shake Shack

"I'm sure I'm not the only one that will say this, but my favorite fast food burger is a Shake Shack burger. In case you need an anecdote that might be different from others': One of my favorite memories of Shake Shack is from when I lived in NY for a year right after college in 2007-2008. That winter was the first winter that they were open in Madison Square Park. I used to live right by there and there were many occasions where I would be the only one insane enough to be out there eating a burger in the freezing cold and even snow sometimes. This was even before they had heat lamps. It's be me huddled over the burger with only my hands and face being warmed by the steam and maybe one other person. I could never bring myself to take it to go back to my apartment. It seemed wrong not to stuff the burger in my face as soon as it was in my hands." —Brian Oh, Washington, D.C. correspondent

"If I had grown up in California, maybe I'd be In-N-Out obsessed, but I've been living in NYC for almost nine years so I've got to pick Shake Shack. A single ShackBurger is what pops in my head when I get a burger craving, although the Double Shack Stack is also a beautiful thing." —Robyn Lee, AHT editor

Shake Shack review »

How to make a ShackBurger at home »

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Frisco Melt from Steak 'N Shake
Frisco Melt from Steak 'N Shake

Steak 'n Shake calls it a Frisco Melt, but believe me, it's a patty melt, and a glorious one at that: two pieces of griddled sourdough bread, American and Swiss cheeses, a griddled patty that is a little too small for the contours of the bread, and some Thousand Island dressing-like concoction called 'sweet n tangy Frisco sauce.' Ask for the bread nice and crispy. Otherwise, the off-white bread looks like grease has been spilled on it. Plus, you want that bread toasty and golden brown." —Ed Levine, founding editor and publisher

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Green Chile Burger from Blake's Lotaburger
Green Chile Burger from Blake's Lotaburger

"In truth, it's an In-N-Out single cheeseburger, Animal Style. What can I say, I'm a Californian. But my other favorite would be a Green Chile Burger from New Mexico-only Blake's Lotaburger. It's piled with green chiles, the real draw—warm chunks that juicily pop open, with their distinctive, vegetal heat. But the burger itself, with a great griddled crust, is notable too." —Carey Jones, senior managing editor

Blake's Lotaburger review »

[Photograph: John M. Edwards]

Five Guys
Five Guys

The double-patty Five Guys burgers I've had in Northern Virginia seemed vastly superior to those I had in NYC. Juicier, tastier, satisfying. I wonder if there's some regional variation?—Maggie Hoffman, Drinks editor

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]