In-N-Out Is Better Than Shake Shack In Every Way

Is there anything quite as personal as an East vs. West Coast rivalry? New York City vs. Los Angeles; Tupac vs. Biggie Smalls; Lakers vs. Celtics. And one of the most formidable, In-N-Out vs. Shake Shack. 

For a long time, you had to go to The Big Apple for Shake Shack or come to California for In-N-Out, but that has changed over the last 15 years. In 2008, In-N-Out expanded to neighboring states, and in 2016, Shake Shack came to the West Coast. For the last seven years, West Coasters could do a side-by-side comparison of an In-N-Out burger and a Shack Burger, but East Coasters have had to travel west — to Dallas, at least — to try In-N-Out, but with the recent news that In-N-Out is heading east (as far as Nashville by 2026) the rivalry is back in the spotlight. 

As an Angeleno and lover of hamburgers, I've eaten at both establishments numerous times and recently tried both burgers side by side to see if one really does tower above the other — and I'm here to tell you when all is said and done, In-N-Out makes a better burger.

In-N-Out's burger is less greasy and more enjoyable to eat

Overall, The Shack Burger is fairly soft while In-N-Out's burger has greater textural variety, making it more interesting and enjoyable to eat. Shake Shack's biggest miss, however, is how greasy the burger is and that its veggies just can't take the heat. Its beef patty has good flavor, but it's nearly impossible to finish a Shack Burger without feeling a bit sluggish. 

Shake Shack does not divulge what precisely is in its patty (which is strange as most people want to know exactly what they are eating), only stating the blend is made with premium Angus beef. By contrast, In-N-Out serves 100% USDA ground chuck. It might seem more basic, but it's far less fatty, tastes much cleaner, and it's honestly nice to know for sure what goes into the burger. When comparing the signature spreads, In-N-Out's feels lighter, while Shake Shack's sauce has more of a thick, greasy texture like a glob of mayo — it's far too rich for the already heavy meal.

While both brands are pretty evenly matched when it comes to the cheese and buns, In-N-Out really excels with its veggies. Its burgers contain hearty, crisp pieces of lettuce, big slices of tomato, and raw or grilled onions. Shake Shack doesn't offer onion unless you request it, and the two small, thin slivers of tomato on its burgers can't compare to In-N-Out's mammoth slices. The biggest disappointment, however, lies with Shake Shack's lettuce, which is far thinner and more delicate. It wilts easily inside the warm Shack Burger giving it a sad, limp texture if you don't chow down right away. 

Shake Shack follows trends while the basics suffer

While Shake Shack offers more menu options, there's a feeling that the chain is always promoting new items based on the latest trends, which can distract from perfecting the basics. While some people might like variety, it's arguable that the more items on a menu, the harder it is to turn them out with consistent quality.

In-N-Out keeps its menu simple and has been perfecting these basics since 1948: hamburger, cheeseburger, double-double, fries, shakes, and fountain drinks. But that doesn't mean In-N-Out is boring; you can easily customize your meal with its not-so-secret menu. Popular options include animal-style burgers and fries and drinks like root beer floats or Neapolitan shakes, but there are also lesser-known, more unexpected options like lemon pepper fries or adding chopped chilis to your burger. Prefer your fries on the crispier side? In-N-Out even allows you to order them light-well or well-done for extra crunch, while Shake Shack does not allow you to customize fries beyond adding cheese. It's fun to be in the know with In-N-Out's secret menu and you get to decide what's most interesting to you at the moment — rather than the chain deciding for you.

You get more bang for your buck at In-N-Out

It's admirable that In-N-Out's prices remain low: As of March 2023, a cheeseburger purchased at one of the chain's L.A. locations costs just over $3 and the double-double is barely $5. A burger at Shake Shack will run you nearly twice as much, at just under $7 for the single and almost $10 for a double burger. While the Shack Burger has a larger patty than In-N-Out — four ounces for the Shack Burger vs. two ounces for the In-N-Out burger — the price of a double-double at In-N-Out is still less than the single Shack Burger and gives you the same amount of meat, plus more cheese.

While many may feel discouraged about In-N-Out's long drive-thru lines, it's nice to have the option. The California chain has a drive-thru at nearly all of its locations, while Shake Shack had just 10 nationwide as of 2022. And while Shake Shack has an app you can use to place to-go orders, you still have to park to pick up your order at most of its West Coast locations. At the flagship California restaurant that means paying for expensive West Hollywood parking, which raises the price tag of your meal even higher. In-N-Out has parking lots at nearly all of its locations. 

All in all, a burger at In-N-Out is simply superior tasting and a far better deal than one from Shake Shack. If you're given the choice between the two, there is a clear winner: In-N-Out beats Shake Shack every time.