The Real Reason Five Guys Cuts Its Hot Dogs

The first-ever Five Guys opened in Arlington, Virginia, in 1986, according to the company. And since then, the burger joint has become iconic. Its namesake comes from Jerry Murrell and his four sons, who, when presented with two choices by their parents, opted to launch a business over attending college. One could say their decision to pursue entrepreneurship ended up being the right one. Over the past few decades, Five Guys has become a restaurant chain beloved for its made-to-order burgers piled high with toppings, peanut-oil-doused skin-on fries, and friendly diner-esque atmosphere. The establishment also offers a number of other menu items, including sandwiches, hot dogs, and creamy milkshakes.

Hot dogs and hamburgers are time-honored American fare, and Five Guys is a popular spot for families and individuals who want to enjoy a simple meal. But what makes the hot dogs at Five Guys, in particular, so special? Their uniqueness has little to do with the recipe, but rather, how they're prepared. 

If you've ever ordered a hot dog from Five Guys, you've likely noticed its trademark lengthwise slit. So, why does this incision exist, and how does it affect the final result?

Splitting the hot dog in half ensures even cooking, according to the brand

Five Guys' hot dogs are split down the middle before they're grilled, and it's for a specific reason. In fact, the company has explained its unique approach to hot dogs on multiple occasions throughout the years.

In September, for example, the brand shared a photo of its grilled cheese sandwich on Instagram. One user decided to interject with a query that had absolutely nothing to do with the product shown: "I love Five Guys like probs too much, but please explain the reason the hot dog gets cut. Please tell me. I have to know." The brand responded, "Cutting the hot dog allows us to ensure even cooking throughout and achieves a caramelization." 

The menu on the Five Guys website even describes the famous frank as an "all-beef hot dog, split and grilled lengthwise for a caramelized exterior with any of your favorite toppings." Pretty straightforward, don't you think?

Customers are divided about butterflied hot dogs

How do people actually feel about this doggone technique? Is it a mistake? As it turns out, customers' opinions are just as divided as the hot dogs themselves. 

James Lowenstern of The Savage Wiener, for one, is a fan of the butterfly method, explaining that "the real magic happens with you use that handy new slit to load up on toppings." However, others are quite perturbed by it. In a January 2021 video, Joe Avella — co-host of the YouTube series "U.K. vs. U.S. Food Wars" — begrudgingly examined a Five Guys hot dog and seemed notably unimpressed. "What in the heck is this?" he exclaimed. "I hate that they cut that in half. That is a cursed image right there. That is madness."

But at the end of the day, there are countless ways to cook franks. Although butterflied hot dogs may look a bit odd to some, a number of culinary experts swear by this step to achieve the perfectly charred bite of the ballpark and cookout staple.

There's truth behind the butterflied hot dog

Antoni Porowski, the food and wine expert on "Queer Eye," is a huge fan of grilled grub, including the ever-famous hot dog. During the eighth episode of Season 1, "Hose Before Bros," the gents help a firefighter named Jeremy plan a fundraiser, during which sales of gourmet hot dogs are given to charity. Porowski butterflied the hot dogs in an effort to provide the meat with more surface area on the grill, per Allrecipes. He claimed that butterflying keeps the condiments and toppings in place. 

Food writer and recipe developer Ann Taylor Pittman has a similar sentiment. "Because you're basically doubling the surface area [with the butterflying method], you get lots more opportunities for char," she explained to The Kitchn. "When you put one of these in a bun, you've basically created a hot dog trough for your toppings."

Five Guys isn't the only restaurant that uses this technique, either. Shake Shack also serves its hot dogs with slits down the middle, marketing them as "flat-top dogs." Shake Shack's dogs are made with 100% Vienna beef and "split and griddled crisp," per their description on menus across the country. Whether you're Team Uncut or Team Butterflied, there's nothing quite like chowing down on a hot dog piled high with your favorite garnishes.