Culver's Vs Five Guys: Which Burger Chain Is Better?

side by side of culver's and five guys burgers
side by side of culver's and five guys burgers - Culver's/Facebook | Eduardo Parra/Getty Images

For our money, Five Guys and Culver's make two of the best burgers in all of fast food. We just can't get behind ShakeShack's tiny, overpriced patties. I haven't lived in California for almost 20 years and don't miss In-N-Out Burger nearly as much as I should. Among many who try, these two chains transcend the fast food label and make genuinely good hamburgers and cheeseburgers. At the end of the day, though, only one can be the best.

Five Guys is a worldwide burger chain famous for its generous fry portions and fresh, customizable burgers. The menu is small, but reliable. Culver's is a regional fast food chain in the American midwest and southern states. While the Culver's menu includes chicken, cheese curds, and fried fish, it's mostly known for its frozen custard and signature ButterBurgers. These aren't much different from your typical smash burger, but the buttered bun it's named for is hard to resist.

Overall, both chains make a solid burger, and it's hard to choose between the two. But no one ever said life was easy, so we've gone through categorically and pitted the two chains head-to-head. Who will prevail? Read on to find out.

Read more: The Ultimate Ranking Of American Fast Food Restaurants

Which Burger Chain Has Better Beef?

raw beef patties
raw beef patties - Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Let's start with the beef, which is a very reasonable place to start when you're talking hamburgers. At Culver's, the chain makes its own blend of fresh ground beef from a mixture of sirloin, chuck, and plate. Culver's proudly never uses frozen beef, but neither does Five Guys.

The Five Guys website says, "In the United States and Canada, the beef we serve is not kosher, halal or organic. It is also not free range." However, each location gets shipments of vacuum-sealed, freshly ground beef each morning that are immediately rolled and formed into patties by workers. Nothing is ever frozen, and there are actually no freezers whatsoever in any Five Guys restaurant.

On paper, neither chain has an explicit advantage because both use fresh, never-frozen ground beef. In my experience eating at both chains, though, Culver's patties simply taste better. This has to do with the way the beef is cooked. Five Guys patties are juicy and cooked well, but they don't have the crispy edges that a smashed Culver's patty does. I find this method produces beef with more textural contrast. Plus, Culver's beef is just slightly more seasoned than Five Guys, making it my clear winner in this category.

Which Burger Chain Makes A Bigger Patty?

Five Guys burger being prepped
Five Guys burger being prepped - Eduardo Parra/Getty Images

When it comes to burgers, size matters. So, between these two chains, who has the bigger burger? Let's start with Five Guys.

The chain used to list the size of its burgers on its website as 3.3 ounces. According to a behind-the-scenes look at the chain Business Insider got in 2021, when the patties are formed, they are made into "handmade meatballs weighing between 3.5 and 3.7 ounces." Cooked down, that gets us closer to the number previously advertised, although it could turn out slightly smaller or larger. Regardless, Five Guys winds up trumping Culver's in terms of size. At the midwestern chain, a single ButterBurger patty only weighs 2.75 ounces, according to an employee on Reddit in 2020.

Five Guys patties are definitely thicker than Culver's, so that extra nearly half ounce of beef is noticeable. If you want a thick, steakhouse-style burger to bite your teeth into, these chains shouldn't be your go-to, but in a direct comparison of size, Five Guys is the victor here.

Which Burger Chain Has A Better Bun?

Culver's ButterBurger
Culver's ButterBurger - Culver's/Facebook

So far, these two burger chains are pretty similar on paper. One of the biggest visual signifiers that the two differ is the bun. It's important to have a bun that stands up to your multiple layers of meat, cheese, and a plethora of toppings. Yet, only one of these chains really achieves that.

Five Guys buns are soft and have a good amount of sesame seeds on top, contrasting with Culver's seedless bun. Five Guys makes its own proprietary bun recipe that it's been using for over 20 years. The chain's buns are tasty, and I'm quite a fan of the sesame seeds, but since Five Guys allows you to pile on toppings at will, they can easily get soggy. That's the only downside here, but it's a big one.

Culver's buns don't have quite as much flavor, but they're much sturdier. The tops are bare but pillowy and not too dense. Both chains butter and toast their buns, which helps with overall flavor and sturdiness for each. At the end of the day, I prefer the Culver's bun.

Which Burger Gives Better Value?

Culver's burger and fries
Culver's burger and fries - Culver's/Facebook

When you order a regular cheeseburger at Five Guys, you're actually getting two beef patties. If you want a single patty, you have to order a "little" burger. Whereas at Culver's, the default is a single-patty burger, but you can add up to two more for an additional cost.

In my experience in different states, getting a burger meal at Culver's will cost you somewhere between $10 and $15 for a meal. If you want a burger, fries, and a drink at Five Guys, it will cost you closer to $20. The major difference comes down to Culver's offering the option to turn your meal into a value basket, while everything at Five Guys is sold à la carte.

Even just taking into account the burger itself, Five Guys prices have been skyrocketing lately. You're unlikely to pay less than $8 for any burger on the chain's menu. At Culver's, you can find single-patty burgers starting as low as $4 at some locations. The winner in this category is clearly Culver's.

Which Burger Is Better For You?

small Five Guys burger
small Five Guys burger - HJ.S/Shutterstock

Obviously, what toppings you get on your burger is the determining factor for how healthy it will be. For the sake of fairness, we're going to compare two basic single cheeseburgers from each chain and see how they stack up in terms of calories, fats, carbs, and sodium content.

To get a basic cheeseburger at Culver's, you'll order a ButterBurger Cheese, which we're comparing to Five Guys' equivalent, the Little Cheeseburger. The cheeseburger at Culver's clocks in at roughly 700 calories, 42 grams of fat, 40 grams of carbohydrates, and 830 milligrams of sodium. The Little Cheeseburger from Five Guys contains slightly less of each, with 610 calories, 32 grams of total fat, 39.5 grams of carbohydrates, and 690 milligrams of sodium.

After doing the math, we can see that Five Guys is slightly better for you. With its 42 grams of fat, Culver's will put you at nearly half the recommended daily limit, with many of those being unhealthy saturated fats. Don't get us wrong, a Five Guys meal is loaded with saturated fats too, but this is a category where the butter in Culver's ButterBurger is likely doing more harm than good.

Which Burger Chain Has More Toppings?

five guys burger with toppings
five guys burger with toppings - iansingo/Shutterstock

Not everyone can appreciate the simplicity of a smashburger with cheese, onions, and maybe a dab of sauce. For those diners who require maximalism, I recommend Five Guys and the veritable plethora of free topping options the chain provides. In addition to the typical lettuce, tomato, onions (both raw and grilled), and pickles, Five Guys offers some less common burger toppings. Grilled mushrooms, green peppers, and jalapeños are all available at the chain, and none of them will cost you a cent.

Admittedly, Culver's offers a number of toppings for its burgers (and other sandwiches), but they don't stray beyond the basics. You can get lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles on a Deluxe ButterBurger. But you're going to have to specifically order the Mushroom & Swiss ButterBurger to try Culver's grilled mushrooms.

If it wasn't clear already, we have to lean toward Five Guys in this category. Given its build-your-own approach to ordering, customers can customize their creations more freely than at Culver's.

Which Burger Chain Has More Sauces?

Culver's burger and cheese sauce
Culver's burger and cheese sauce - Culver/Facebook

Included in the Five Guys topping list are mayo, ketchup, barbecue, and mustard, as well as some more unexpected sauces. It's nice to see options like Frank's Red Hot Sauce and A1 Steak Sauce on the menu, but I find I never choose them. I do, however, frequent the Five Guys barbecue sauce when I'm getting a bacon burger from the chain.

Culver's, on the other hand, offers multiple unique sauce offerings. These include Culver's Signature Sauce as well as the chain's beloved Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese Sauce. In addition to other sauces that Five Guys also carries (like barbeque and hot sauce), Culver's offers a variety of Ken's dressings, but these are not so much for burgers as for salads.

While we technically have to give it up to Culver's for the quantity, we recognize that its many dipping sauces and dressings are not great fits for burgers. Meanwhile, every sauce on the more focused Five Guys menu has a better potential use case due to the chain's smaller overall menu. For that reason, we're going to call this a draw and move on.

Which Burger Tastes Better Overall?

Culver's burger and onion rings
Culver's burger and onion rings - Culver's/Facebook

Both of these chains make a tasty, meaty burger using high-quality ingredients and toppings. Even if you get identical orders at both chains, they will taste different due to the buns and how the meat is cooked. So the answer here comes down to personal preference.

Five Guys burgers are delicious. I love that they come with two patties by default, and the sesame seed buns are perfect vessels for the messy double cheeseburgers loaded with as many sauces and toppings as I want. That said, sometimes the cheese isn't as melted as I'd want, or the veggies aren't quite as fresh as they could be. These are minor nitpicks, but they are what led me to like Culver's more.

For me, it all comes down to the way the burgers are formed and cooked. Every time I order a ButterBurger, I get a lacy beef patty (or two) with an amazing level of crispness that doesn't compromise moisture. When I think of burgers at Culver's, I think first about this textural perfection. For my money, they are also seasoned better than Five Guys burgers, and I find the veggie toppings to always be as fresh as possible. Higher-quality onions, lettuce, and tomatoes also go a long way toward making Culver's burgers have more flavor and texture than the ones you can get at Five Guys. Putting the two head-to-head, it's clear Culver's makes the tastier burger.

So Which Burger Should You Choose: Culver's Or Five Guys? - Final Verdict

Culver's burger and fries
Culver's burger and fries - Culver/Facebook

In my opinion, if you have the chance to choose Culver's over Five Guys, you should do it. Not only are you statistically less likely to run into a Culver's if you're on a road trip across America, but it will likely be a cheaper meal than Five Guys. But okay, what if you have both chains in your hometown and money isn't a concern? Then, where should you eat?

My answer is, unsurprisingly, still Culver's. The chain's burgers might be slightly more unhealthy than Five Guys, but the difference in flavor is worth the calories. Not only does Culver's have fresher vegetables, its burgers are seasoned better, and its buns hold up better to your double, or even triple, cheeseburger orders. For sometimes as little as half the price of a Five Guys meal, you are getting a higher-quality burger at Culver's.

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