The Truth About Five Guys Animal Style Burgers

Thanks to Five Guys, designing your dream burger has never been easier. With over 1,000 locations (and counting) around the world, according to the company, its fresh ingredients and no-frills atmosphere have clearly resonated on a global scale. Part of the appeal comes from its customizable menu. Diners can mix and match ingredients in a variety of ways, and never have to pay a cent for them because Five Guys toppings are free of charge. The ultimate fast food hack, if there ever was one. 

Naturally, this method also means it's easy to dupe menu items from other fast food places. One to emerge in recent memory is already famous in its own right, and that's the animal style burger. It takes a double cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and grilled onions, and turns it on its head with mustard-fried beef patties and a generous slather of secret sauce. Though it's associated with a certain West Coast burger chain, we have a fun little secret to impart on you: Animal style burgers are at Five Guys, too. We've peeled back the foil on this double-pattied delicacy to find out how it's made, where it came from, and whether its additional features will cost extra. Here's the not-so-secret truth about Five Guys' animal style burgers.

Animal style burgers were invented by In-N-Out

The modern fast food experience has been shaped largely by In-N-Out's ingenuity (drive-thru ordering, anyone?); animal style burgers are just one of the many tasty innovations that came along the way. The chain dates its invention to 1961 — 13 years after its flagship restaurant opened in Baldwin Park, California (per In-N-Out Burger) — but as Gear Patrol notes, it was never an official item offered by the business. In fact, the sauce-laden sandwich emerged by accident, and the memorable anecdote of its making forever cemented its place in fast food history.

The story goes like this: A group of teenagers roam into an In-N-Out, likely on a beautiful sunny California day. Having worked up an appetite from surfing or skating the afternoon away, the rowdy beach-dwellers make a series of delicious, if messy, demands. What exactly do they ask for? Double cheeseburgers, but with a twist: patties fried in mustard, extra pickles, and secret sauce drizzled all over (via Eater). Despite feeling annoyed by the disorderly bunch (the nickname "animals" was given), this didn't stop employees from honoring the requests, and word of the savory concoction soon spread across Southern California. Author Stacy Perman, who wrote an entire book about the burger empire, acknowledged the origin story's possible embellishment to Eater. Even so, it's a good tale that lays the foundation for In-N-Out's animal style burger recipe — and the resulting secret menu mania as we know it. 

They're a secret menu staple

Technically, you're not going to find animal style burgers on Five Guys' menu. At least, the particular delicacy won't be spelled out for you. That's because it resides in that tricky limbo known as the secret menu, where hidden delights lurk on the fringes. Unofficial menu items have circulated online in spaces like Reddit for years, thanks to Five Guys employees and burger enthusiasts. Their collective brainpower has produced unthinkable possibilities for building a burger; popular secret menu orders at Five Guys include a patty melt, nacho fries, and the Presidential, based on Barack Obama's burger of choice. Thrillist tasked chef and Food Network personality Justin Warner with coming up with a set of menu hacks in 2015, and one these winning ideas took the shape of an In-N-Out knock-off.

In today's fast food landscape, secret menus can seem unrealistic at best and overwrought at worst. Yet Five Guys is one of the few places where they make sense. They already offer a customizable menu that allows customers to create whatever burger they want. The ingredients are simple. The toppings are free. Short of a few hidden add-ons, a burger will cost the same no matter how it's styled. We can't say for sure who kicked off the In-N-Out trend, but we do know the free-flowing options at Five Guys are ripe for inspiration and experimentation. Animal style burgers were only a matter of time. 

Five Guys' burgers are big

Nothing silences hunger pangs more than a massive cheeseburger that fills the belly and loosens the belt buckle, and the Virginia-based chain guarantees a hefty sandwich every time. Five Guys' burger recipe features patties weighing an approximate 3.3 ounces, which might not seem like a lot at first. But the restaurant's standard cheeseburger features two of them, bringing the grand total to 6.6 ounces. Almost half a pound of beef is tucked between the bun, and that's before we even talk toppings. 

We know we're discussing Five Guys' animal style burger and not In-N-Out's, but we would be remiss not to mention the stark size difference between them. For starters, In-N-Out's patties are just 2 ounces (per The Washington Post), giving a Double-Double only 4 ounces of meat. Even amid heaps of grilled onion and spread, they're still razor-thin next to Five Guys'. However, the price of a Double-Double burger combo ($7.84, per Fast Food Menu Prices) is less than that of a Five Guys cheeseburger (around $9 and $10, depending on location) — and that's with a side of fries and drink. As such, it doesn't approach the massive heft of a Five Guys animal style burger. How generous they are with the toppings is up for debate, but as far as the beef goes, Five Guys sells a bigger burger.

Extra cheese is a must

At Five Guys, your wish is the burger chain's command. Assuming you don't ask for something absurd like enough ketchup to fill a kiddie pool, anything you crave — from extra pickles to steak sauce on the side — will be accommodated, no questions asked. This also applies to cheese (for the most part), and to build an animal style burger at Five Guys that does the original justice, you're going to need an extra slice of it.

The default cheeseburger, which we've established is equipped with two patties, is not festooned with double the American cheese like you'd expect. There's only one slice, and it's laid smack-dab in the middle of the meat (via Five Guys). This is fine — perhaps even preferable for the less cheese-inclined — but it isn't animal style, not by a long shot. A Double-Double from In-N-Out, on the other hand, features two slices between each patty per Reviewed, resulting in that melty, gooey interior a good cheeseburger calls for. When placing your order, ask the cashier for an extra slice to blanket your burger. Not only will the price stay the same (more on that later), but you'll feel even closer to the yellow arrow. 

The secret sauce is DIY

From McDonald's to Shake Shack, most burger joints in America douse their patties in some kind of secret sauce. It's the glue that binds the whole thing together, that magic touch you never thought you needed until taking the first delectable bite. But Five Guys is a glaring exception. They don't offer a Thousand Island-esque spread for their burgers, instead keeping things simple with ketchup, mustard, relish, mayo, BBQ, A1 steak sauce, and hot sauce. That's it. Thankfully, Five Guys makes this easy because all the ingredients you'd need are already on the menu; all you have to do is assemble them. It's like IKEA, but for food!

In-N-Out is notoriously tight-lipped about its sauce formula, which has spawned countless copycat recipes and fan theories speculating on its contents. Yet conventional wisdom, as Serious Eats notes, usually points to ketchup, mayo, and relish. Five Guys offers all three, so you can request them on the side when ordering your burger and stir them together. Then spread it on to your heart's content, and voila! Your very own animal style burger, a la Five Guys. You can even make it at home if the ingredients are already in your fridge, though we promise no one would give funny looks if you did it at the condiments station (that's what it's for, after all).

The patties aren't grilled in mustard

As any In-N-Out lover knows, grilling the patties in mustard is the key component to making an animal style burger. It leaves a tasty crust and infuses the meat with a briny, tangy essence that can't be matched by drizzling it on at the end. Just don't count on Five Guys to do it. In exploring Five Guys' secret menu, Thrillist recounted employees (tactfully) turning down requests to cook the burgers in a sizzling mustard bath when they attempted to recreate the sandwich at the restaurant. They will only go so far in your quest for achieving the authentic West Coast specialty, and it appears this is the line they draw at doing so. Bummer. 

From Five Guys' perspective, we can understand this. Mustard is quite pungent and messy. To slather it on a surface cooking other orders at the same time would likely trigger some complaints from customers, on top of creating added work for the fry cooks tasked with wiping down the grills. You could throw caution to the wind and ask anyway; just be prepared for them to say no. Or go the DIY route mentioned above and spread a little French's on yourself. It won't be the same, but it'll stay true to the animal style spirit.

Animal style burgers are loaded with calories

No one should be shocked that a Five Guys cheeseburger, in all its greasy glory, is high in calories. Animal style burgers are no different, yet it continues to shock us all the same. According to the restaurant, a standard cheeseburger on the menu has 980 calories, 55 grams of fat, and 1,050 milligrams of sodium. Mind you, that's before dressing it up with fixings, which will add an extra 227 calories on top per the nutritional guide, with the additional cheese (70), relish (16), ketchup (30), and mayo (111). You're looking at 1,207 calories spent altogether. It's astonishing that a single (well, double) cheeseburger could harbor so much bulk inside of it. 

Despite the common 2,000-calories-a-day advice from health experts, calorie consumption is not as fixed as it seems. Not only are personal variables like age and activity levels taken into account (via VeryWell Fit), but approximate amounts change all the time. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' 2015–2020 dietary guidelines recommended numbers range from 1,600 to 3,000 calories per day for adults, so it certainly isn't applicable to every person. Does this mean you should never order an animal style burger from Five Guys? Absolutely not. It's a delicious indulgence, one any fast food fan should take advantage of when they can. It's just something to keep in mind the next time the red checkered burger spot flies on your radar. 

Animal style won't cost you extra

One of the (many) benefits of ordering from Five Guys is the free toppings. No matter how wild you get with the customizations (there are apparently 250,000 possibilities to try, the chain claims), a cheeseburger always rings up the same price, which currently stands between $9 and $10. It's as if they plugged a burger hack straight into the menu, and it's available at our disposal all the time. As such, going animal style doesn't cost customers a penny extra, and never will. That's because the building blocks that make up an animal style burger are all complimentary here.

For starters, the lettuce, tomato, pickles, grilled onions, and condiments are free of charge, straight up. No hidden costs will creep up the total printed on your receipt. Then there's the cheese. You're getting one slice by default, since a cheeseburger already comes with it. But is the second slice free? Normally we'd put it in the same category of exclusive extras like bacon and avocado, yet that isn't the case. Taste of Home revealed the gooey add-on is actually complimentary in this context. Since you're paying for the cheeseburger specifically and not a plain hamburger, doubling it won't tack on an additional charge. As long as the item itself features the ingredient, it counts as a freebie. Something to know the next time you feel like giving your usual cheeseburger some pizazz! 

They give In-N-Out a run for its money

Foodies likely gasped when In-N-Out was kicked off its mighty burger pedestal in favor of Five Guys, not just once, but twice (via The Harris Poll). The feverish devotion inspired by the California institution is undeniable. Nevertheless, there's reason to suggest why Five Guys gives it a run for its money. Hear us out: Whether one chain is better is entirely up for debate. But if we're talking physical access to cheeseburgers, let alone animal style ones, then Five Guys has In-N-Out squarely beat.

Per ScrapeHero, In-N-Out operates only 377 restaurants in just seven states. Unsurprisingly, most of them are in California. This exclusivity is part of its appeal, an insistence to stay true to the family business' roots (via Gear Patrol). It's also why many of us can't get it in the first place. On the flip side, Five Guys has over 1,000 locations all over the country, as well as international expansion on its side, according to Washington Business Journal. So unless you live on the West Coast, experiencing an actual Double-Double would require either a road trip or an incredible friend willing to bring one back for you. At that point, it's easier to hit up Five Guys instead. They'll assemble a burger that not only hits the spot, but also boasts a striking resemblance to the real thing. Think of it as a loving tribute to a fast food icon.