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Burger patty debate: thick vs. thin?

Photo credit: Jessica Farreny/Community News Service LLC

Photo credit: Jessica Farreny/Community News Service LLC

If you could only eat one kind of burger for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Now pause. Think that over for a moment…picture it in your head. I’ll wait.

Got it yet? Ok, let’s move on.

Yesterday, Eatocracy posted an article referencing Alton Brown’s recent declaration on the Food Network special America’s Best that the late-night burger at Holeman & Finch Public House is the best burger in America.

And a tsunami of passionate comments ensued.

As I read through the comments, some of which agreed with the claim while most countered with what they considered to be the best burger and how crazy he/she thought Alton was, I noticed something. Most of the suggestions had a common theme: they weren’t just suggesting a burger from a different restaurant, they were suggesting a different style of burger.

Ranking food– specifically, claiming that one dish is the best of its kind in the country–can be tricky. So much of it comes down to individual preference. Of course, it is much easier to compare two dishes of the same style, but ranking two varieties of burger that are of equal quality is a different beast all together.

That’s why you will never hear me claim to have found the best burger ever.

One of the best? Sure, I can definitely say that. But to crown the One Burger to rule them all is a very big claim, and a question that I’m not sure that anyone can answer in this life.

There are many different sub-species of burgers to choose from, with limitless varieties of toppings and presentations. But, as far as I can tell, the countless combinations and arrangements all really boil down to two core styles, and it’s all about the patty.*

Exhibit A: “Stacked” style – Two thin pressed patties, stacked on top of each other, a la Holeman & Finch or Bocado.


Exhibit B: “Pub” style – A single, thicker patty, such as Farm Burger or The Vortex. Multiple thick patties qualify as a “double burger”, and falls into a sub-set of Exhibit B.

Beef burger from Jackson Hole Burgers, Lawrenceville (AJC Staff)

Beef burger from Jackson Hole Burgers, Lawrenceville (AJC Staff)

* For the sake of this discussion, I’m not including sliders or non-beef burgers as unique styles. One is a shrunken version of Exhibit A or B, and the other is simply imitating a burger. Buns and a protein do not a burger make. Yeah, I said it.

Though I’m sure that some of you believe you’re the exception, the fence-sitters who swear that they like both styles of burger equally, everyone has a preference. It’s like being asked to choose your favorite child– deep down you know that you have one, even if you won’t admit it.

So, what if you don’t prefer the thin double patty style that Holeman & Finch serves? What if your idea of the perfect burger is a massive ½ lbs single slab of beef? Then you are probably in the camp that thinks that Mr. Alton Brown has flipped his lid, or at least that he is a little off base.

Since I’ve had burgers on the brain lately, and have a lot of burgers in my near future with my new slot here on the Dining Team, I’m curious as to where my readers stand on this hot-button issue.

So I want to know: What kind of burger lover are YOU? Thick or thin?

*Objectivity Disclaimer* – While I have a preference, which I’ll keep to myself for now, it isn’t so heavily weighted that I don’t love burgers of both styles. There is room on this blog for both.

- Jon Watson writes about Popular Eats for the AJC Dining Team. He also publishes his own blog, Live To Feast

65 comments Add your comment


October 27th, 2010
11:07 am

I’ve always done the bigger is better route… but might have to try two smaller patties… once I get a bigger grill, or don’t have to cook so many at once. Interesting concept. It seemed to me most of the discussion was about the cheese though… and many people were offended by the kraft single. I’m more of a cheddar girl, but i understand the metly gooeyness that is a kraft single on a burger.


October 27th, 2010
11:07 am

Give me the thin/stacked burgers any time. If cooked properly, you get more of that nicely browned outside while still getting that juicy pink center.


October 27th, 2010
11:09 am

Pub-style for me!


October 27th, 2010
11:32 am

I LOVE a thin burger. . . I live on top of the Vortex and never go there as a result! :)

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ajcdinecritic, Jason Dominy, Erin K, Burger and Brew, John Kessler and others. John Kessler said: Burger patty debate: thick vs. thin? [...]


October 27th, 2010
12:02 pm

Hmm … I’m not sure I really care, as long as it’s tasty. I’ve had both (all, actually) of the burgers mentioned above and I like both.

But I think Kimbo has a point – more surface area = more flavor. And I’m all for more flavor.

SO – based on that rationale, I’m down with the thinner (but not fast food burger thin) patties, stacked. And now I’m really hungry.


October 27th, 2010
12:11 pm

Thinner and stacked is more my style. Five Guys style.

Dammit, now I have to go out in the rain and get a burger for lunch…


October 27th, 2010
12:13 pm

Gotta be thick, cause it’s gotta be rare.


October 27th, 2010
12:17 pm

Thick, of course. What is Alton smoking? :)


October 27th, 2010
12:30 pm

I’m a big fan of Alton Brown, but I have to agree with Jon, it’s almost impossible to declare one burger as the best of them all. NO WAY. My preference is the double patti and not fast food thin as Rodney mentioned. My favorite burger to date was a wagu beef slider served at a Radford University gala affair. Talk about a flavor explosion in your mouth…OMG. I would follow that up with a double all the way from Five Guys.

Jon Watson

October 27th, 2010
12:31 pm

@Rodney and @Carole – You both just made my day. Making you hungry is literally in my list of job duties, in writing. I’m serious.


October 27th, 2010
12:48 pm

thicker cooked medium, definitely not stacked….love The Counter’s burgers and Flip Burger Boutique. Not fond of Yeah! Burgers stacked.

JIMBOB (aka James Robert)

October 27th, 2010
12:50 pm

You heard it here first: the hot trend for 2k11: restaurants that specialize in sloppy joes.


October 27th, 2010
1:02 pm

Thick juicy burgers to go with some thick steak fries.

Captain Spaulding

October 27th, 2010
1:03 pm

For the life of me I cannot understand the allure of Five Guys….


October 27th, 2010
1:10 pm

Thin, unstacked rules. Now, I’m going to have to go out in the rain for a sack of Krystals.


October 27th, 2010
1:38 pm

thin/medium is best. stack em if you want to. along the lines of bocado (is it the meat or cheese of perfectly toasted bun) or grindhouse (my favorite in the city).

John Kessler

October 27th, 2010
2:04 pm

Thick for me. That’s maybe why I haven’t been as blow away as others by the H&F and Bocado burgers. That, and the evil gooeyness of American cheese…


October 27th, 2010
2:12 pm

I have heard that Kozmo Gastro Pub in John’s Creek has the best burger in Atlanta. I think it won best burger.


October 27th, 2010
2:22 pm

Thick! Just like at The Highland Tap!!


October 27th, 2010
3:11 pm

Five Guys for me with gooey evil cheese and Jalapenos.

Burger Connoisseur

October 27th, 2010
3:13 pm

Thick, Med Rare to Med. With the fixin’s: avocado, tomato, bacon, mushrooms and Swiss cheese, no bread necessary and right off my husband’s grill. Phone call being made to hubby now to put in my dinner request.

Burger Connoisseur

October 27th, 2010
3:15 pm

CHARCOAL grill, that is. Lit with a chimney. Pure bliss.

Gene Lee

October 27th, 2010
3:28 pm

I’m completely fine with both styles depending on the execution. I love H&F’s version and have no problem with American cheese. The only real cheese I’m fine with on a burger is Swiss, as most everything else has been too overpowering.


October 27th, 2010
4:16 pm

Weird question. Does anybody else love hamburgers but dislike cheeseburgers? When I want a burger, I want to taste the beef. More like revel in the flavor and do everything short of taking a bath in the juices (or fat.) So when you put a slice of cheese on top, it distracts my tastebuds from the smoky bovine carcinogens rather than enhancing it. Slap some mayonaise or butter on it and I’m fine since those more or less magnify the beefy taste.

Maybe because the flavor is too distinct. Ideally, cheese is fat and should have the same complimentary qualities. Whenever I have a cheeseburger, the strong cheddar, bleu or lor help me American cheese flavors seem to clash with the meat. Every now and then I’ll down a bleu cheese burger or a melted swiss & mushroom but usually because I know the kitchen doesn’t like special orders.

I’m the same way with say fish. I can’t imagine why people would smother the delicate flavor with a piece of cheese.


October 27th, 2010
4:33 pm

It all depends upon the mood, to some extent the time of day and finally, the method of preparation. If I’m grilling out or making a meal of a burger, thick with all the toppings is my favorite way to go. But if I’m looking for a late night snack or maybe just bar food with a couple of beers, I’ll go for the thin sliders that are prepared on a flat top. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that there’s no way one burger can be the best.

Jane Garvey

October 27th, 2010
4:43 pm

Thick so I can have it rare (I’m with Wino). And topped with some bleu cheese. Gimme The Earl, where Iget seared steak tartar with bleu cheese, or ditto at the Blue Ribbon Grill up at Northlake, or the Corner Pub in East Decatur Station–especially as I can get the latter all the way to 2 a.m.!!! The Iberian Pig in Decatur does pretty good in the burger department as well as McKendrick’s and The Lobby at Twelve. The Vortex let me down the last time I had one. Just not as good as in the past. But will probably give it another shot. Of the “gourmet” burgers, I like The Counter and FLIP a good bit, and if Farm Burger ever finds a bun that stands up to the juiciness of its gorgeous meat, I’ll be pinning a star on their shoulder.


October 27th, 2010
5:51 pm

Thin, thin, thin! Cooked on a really hot gridle, smashed so the edges are crispy and piled high with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and pickles. Mustard only on grilled bun. Chips. Root beer. TEXAS!!!


October 27th, 2010
6:02 pm

Thin with lots of cheese, onions, mushrooms, etc etc


October 27th, 2010
6:17 pm

I’m fine with either, as long as they’re not overcooked. Such a waste of good meat to turn patties into blackened, rubbery pucks. I suppose I have a slight preference for thick, because they run a slightly lower chance of having been turned into carbon by inattentive grillers, but not too thick.


October 27th, 2010
8:35 pm

Seriously you Atlantans and your low brow fads………..REDNECK Paradise down there…….

Jon Watson

October 27th, 2010
9:21 pm

@I LOVE NY – Before you start calling anyone a redneck for our “low brow fads”, allow me to quote a piece that ran in The New Yorker this week about the burger trend in your favorite city -

“The recession hasn’t been easy on fine dining in the city, and its purveyors are clinging to their buns to survive. Whether it’s a stand-in-a-queue spot like [Danny Meyer's] Shake Shack, a large table-service eatery like Stephen Hanson’s Bill’s Bar & Burger—one opened last fall in the meatpacking district, another just opened in Rockefeller Center—or an intimate dining room like John McDonald’s Burger & Barrel, which opened October 14 on Houston and Mercer, all around the city trendy big-name restaurateurs have set their recessionary sights on a single concept: the burger joint. ”

So does that make New York full of rednecks too?

Jenny Turknett

October 27th, 2010
9:49 pm

I’m with Jane Garvey. I like a thick burger because it’s less likely to be overcooked. And, I can taste the meat better. If I’m craving the meat flavor, like Kar, I don’t want cheese. Otherwise, I like a strong cheese… American wouldn’t be my first choice.

Jenny Turknett

October 27th, 2010
9:53 pm

And Jon, I am ready to run out for a burger, as well! Those pictures are very appetizing!


October 27th, 2010
10:30 pm

@KAR: You are so NOT weird. I totally agree with you on the cheese thing, especially fish. Just gets in the way of the burger flavor, especially if you’re going to a farm to market place for the homegrown/locally grown/supposed to taste better beef!

I Love NY

October 27th, 2010
11:06 pm

Granted the burger fad is everywhere, the difference is that your “redneck” city is losing Chefs and restaurants, where as in NY burger places are being added to an already stellar line up of great places…..


October 28th, 2010
12:10 am

Uh, NYC has been rediscovering their love of burgers in a big way in recent years so if Atlanta’s redneck because we love a good burger, so are New Yorkers.

From pioneering the private Black Label burgers at exclusive steakhouses to the 2-hr waits at certain street kiosks, NYC seems to celebrating this “redneck” trend as well.

I Love NY

October 28th, 2010
12:16 am

L o L “2 hour waits at street kiosks”, sure like anyone in NYC would stand in line at a street kiosk for 2 hours…………a city where people get pissed waiting for a light to change.


October 28th, 2010
12:39 am

They’re certainly willing to wait for a good burger just as they’re willing to wait a good table.


October 28th, 2010
2:42 am

Thin: H&F
Thick: Ann’s Snack Shop
End of discussion ;-)


October 28th, 2010
3:28 am

Thick, juicy, and medium rare.

I Love NY

October 28th, 2010
7:02 am

I assure you no one waits 2 hours in line for a burger here.

Izzy does it

October 28th, 2010
8:41 am

So, I Love NY, you say no one waits in line 2 hours for a burger “here”. Are you in NYC right now? If so, what in the heck are you doing trolling Atlanta’s dining blog? You’ve never lived in the city, have you? Come on….you’re from Conyers, right?

And by the way, I’ve had just about all of ‘em, and if I had to pick just one, it’d be H&F’s. Because of the thin, (read, well browned) and gooey American cheese. If you don’t get that part of it….well I just don’t know what to say.

[...] Restaurants : Burger patty debate: thick vs. thin? [...]


October 28th, 2010
9:57 am

ILNY, you apparently don’t go out much. Google burgers & NY and you’ll get pages of places like the Shake shack, Corner Bistro, etc that warn of long lines that are easily an hour on a good day.

Paulus VDS

October 28th, 2010
9:59 am

I Love New York is right everyone

I Love NY

October 28th, 2010
10:06 am

In a city of 10 million people you can google just about anything and get pages of listings…..duh

I happen to live three blocks from a Shake Shack, and no the lines are not 2 hours, who the hell has 2 hours for lunch? And I have lived in ATL, I chose to leave because of the lack of culture.


October 28th, 2010
11:14 am

I love NY. I have an idea. Take your “cultured ass” and quit posting in the ATL. You really must be bored up there. The city is nasty and the people are even worse. Long live the south.


October 28th, 2010
11:37 am

I love NY can go to hell. Oh wait, he/she is already in NY.


October 28th, 2010
12:16 pm

ILNY, you apparently live in a different city than nyc.

Doc Hollidawg

October 28th, 2010
12:22 pm

“And I have lived in ATL, I chose to leave because of the lack of culture.”

So in New York the best thing you have to do is come on an Atlanta food blog and bash the city?

How very “cultured” of you.

You may go now.


October 28th, 2010
12:51 pm

I don’t eat beef, but I do love burgers. I like the thin ones, so you can still fit it into your mouth after you put all the toppings you want on it (including another burger!). I’m a “cheese snob” only for the fact that I won’t touch American cheese, but I find cheese isn’t something I want on a veggie burger anyway. And while I’m adding my 2 cents here, if you don’t like Atlanta’s burgers then go back to NY where it’s obviously “better” yet you spend your time reading about Atlanta’s burgers!


October 28th, 2010
1:22 pm

Has anyone tried a Canyon burger? There’s one in the Acworth area. It was pretty crowded so we didn’t order, they are a 5 Guys style.


October 28th, 2010
1:46 pm

how can anybody like one kind of Burger
Thin and steamed like KRYSTAL yummy
thin and gooey like VARSITY yummy
Stacked like InandOut yummy
Thick Carolina style…mustard onions, chili and slaw woo hoo


October 28th, 2010
3:27 pm


October 28th, 2010
3:44 pm

I like em both! Each has their place and time…


October 28th, 2010
3:50 pm

@I love New York – Sorry you werent happy in Atlanta, maybe with your pissy attitude, you just fit in better in New York anyway

Elk Burgers Rock!

October 28th, 2010
3:51 pm

FIVE GUYS Burgers = Completely Inedible

Just another example of how pretty much anything Obama endorses is absolute garbage.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by A Hamburger Today and Dino J, Jenny Turknett. Jenny Turknett said: From our Chowhound Jon: Burger patty debate: thick vs. thin? [...]

Dan AKA blind blog

October 28th, 2010
8:34 pm

I love a thick patty, although places like shake shack and rub bbq make delicious thinner patty burgers.

I Love NY

October 28th, 2010
10:31 pm

God it’s so easy to piss you good ol’ boys….. Have fun drivin’ yer big cars to get yer meat n’ taters…..

Bemused Observer

October 29th, 2010
2:50 pm

@I Love NY: And so very sad that your only joy in life is “pi$$ing” people off on a blog. As Doc said earlier, life must be really great up there in the big city if you have to find your jollies trolling blogs like this.


October 29th, 2010
4:59 pm

Definitely thin! When I eat a thick one it always gets really messy. I don’t like when half of my burger slips away. But if you have a big mouth then that’s another story! staub cookware

Hopeless Foodie

October 29th, 2010
6:31 pm

For me, I fine with either style-as long as the burger is tasty. If it’s thin, it has to be a double (i.e H&F, In n Out), and I can only handle a single thick patty.

In regards to Kar’s comment further up about cheeseburger vs. hamburger, here’s my weird little burger habit. Whenever I order a burger while I’m out or if I’m making them in my home kitchen, it HAS to be a burger with chese. However, when I fire up the grill, I refuse to put cheese on my burger. It has to be grilled medium, brushed with a little BBQ sauce a minute before taking it off the grill and placed on the bun with just a bit of spicy mustard. That’s it: no cheese, no ketchup, no lettuce, tomato, onion or any of the usual accoutrements.

John Sexton

October 31st, 2010
6:36 am

Thick and never over medium-rare. I never go back to a burger joint that cooks the meat well done. Only lawyers should be cooked well done.