To any real fan, a hamburger is never “just a burger.” A great burger is a work of art, passionately thought out and painstakingly executed. It's the very extension of the grill master's identity.
So with the smells of charcoal and grilled meat beginning to perfume backyards across the country, we challenged L.A. Times burgermeisters everywhere to submit their recipes in our third annual Battle of the Burgers. The response was amazing! We received submissions from all over the country (and even the world), for creations combining common and unusual ingredients, many drawing from local flavors and regional cuisine. Every recipe was at once unique and uniquely American.
Thousands of votes were tallied to narrow the choices to the top 20 burgers. Top recipes were then put to task in the Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen. The burgers were then judged by Food section editors and staff. It was tough, but after days of testing, exhaustive judging (and maybe a little post-burger napping), we came up with five favorites.
Video: Battle of the Burgers
- 1 hour. Serves 4
- 1 pound ground chuck
- 4 Kings Sweet Hawaiian hamburger buns, or regular hamburger buns
- Teriyaki barbecue sauce (1 cup teriyaki sauce mixed with 1 cup barbecue sauce)
- 8 slices thick hickory-smoked bacon
- 4 slices pineapple
- 4 jalapeño peppers, halved, stemmed and seeded
- 4 slices goat cheddar cheese, or other cheddar cheese
- Manoa or butter lettuce, for garnish (optional)
- Maui or Vidalia onion slices, for garnish (optional)
- Heat the grill. Gently form ground chuck into 4 (three-quarters-inch-thick) burger patties; each patty should be about 4 inches in diameter. Chill the burgers on a wax paper-lined plate, covered, until ready to grill.
- Grill the buns, cut side-down, until grill marks appear, 30 seconds to a minute. Brush the cut side of the buns with teriyaki barbecue sauce and remove from grill.
- Place the patties, bacon, pineapple slices and jalapeños on the grill, brushing them with teriyaki barbecue sauce. When each is done on one side (timing will vary depending on the item; the burgers will be ready after about 5 minutes), flip over and continue cooking, brushing the other side with teriyaki barbecue sauce.
- Place a slice of grilled pineapple on top of each patty, while still on the grill. Top each pineapple slice with two slices of jalapeno pepper. Brush with additional teriyaki barbecue sauce. Place a slice of goat cheddar cheese on each patty. Close the grill and continue to cook just until the cheese melts, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Serve the burgers in the toasted buns, topped with two slices of crisp bacon, garnishing if desired with lettuce and onion and with additional teriyaki barbecue sauce on the side.
Texas barbecue meets Hawaiian luau. The Texas Luau Burger! This burger rocks (or should I say hulas)! It's a knockout!
— Richard Amiel, Santa Cruz
- Calories 659
- Protein 39 grams
- Carbohydrates 89 grams
- Fiber 4 grams
- Fat 17 grams
- Saturated fat 7 grams
- Cholesterol 73 mg
- Sugar 59 grams
- Sodium 3,944 mg
The combination of all the ingredients and especially the jalapeños and habanero powder give the true burger lover a combo of mouth-watering flavor and pepper temperature.
— Julia Hoadley, San Diego
40 minutes, plus chilling time. Serves 4
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
- 1 cup chopped green onions
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Tajin clasico seasoning or taco seasoning
- Habanero or other hot chile powder
- 2 to 3 fresh jalapeño peppers, sliced, or sliced canned jalapeños
- 4 slices pepper jack cheese
- 4 jalapeño cheese bagels, toasted
- Lettuce, for garnish
- Fresh avocado slices, for garnish
- Hot sauce, preferably homemade or Frank's
- In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, green onions, garlic, mustard and taco seasoning. Divide the mixture and form into 4 patties. Cover and refrigerate the patties at least 1 hour to give the flavors time to marry.
- Heat the grill and season both sides of each patty with habanero powder. Grill the patties on both sides to desired doneness, topping the burgers just before they are done with sliced jalapeños and cheese.
- Serve the burgers in the toasted buns, garnish as desired with lettuce, avocado slices and hot sauce.
- Calories 672
- Protein 49 grams
- Carbohydrates 60 grams
- Fiber 4 grams
- Fat 25 grams
- Saturated fat 12 grams
- Cholesterol 129 mg
- Sugar 3 grams
- Sodium 925 mg
2 hours. Serves 8
Sigma Saulos's caramelized pears
- 2 Asian pears, sliced vertically as thinly as possible (as if slicing "chips")
- 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
- 3 to 6 tablespoons black truffle oil
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- In a large dry nonstick skillet, sauté the pears over high heat for 3 minutes, to give the slices a little color. Add the truffle oil and salt and simmer the slices until softened, about 10 minutes, carefully stirring so as not to break the slices. Stir in the sugar and continue to cook until the slices are caramelized, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve both the pears and pear juice separately, holding each in a warm place.
Tau Ted's sautéed mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- Salt and pepper
- In a large sauté pan heated over medium-high heat, melt the butter and stir in the mushrooms. Stir in the garlic, along with one-half teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are soft and lightly browned. Remove from heat and strain the mushrooms, separately reserving the mushrooms and any leftover liquid and holding in a warm place.
- 1 pound bacon
- 2 tablespoons flour, more if needed
- Reserved mushroom liquid
- Reserved pear juice
- 2 cups apple juice, more if desired
- In a large skillet, crisp the bacon strips. Set the strips aside in a warm place, reserving 2 tablespoons bacon fat.
- In a sauté pan, heat the flour over medium heat. Whisk in the mushroom liquid, then the bacon grease, then the pear juice. Continue mixing to form a lumpy roux (add more flour if needed). Whisk in the apple juice and bring to a simmer, whisking until the mixture has the consistency of ketchup (whisk in additional flour, apple juice or both to form the right consistency). Remove from heat. This makes about 2 cups gravy; set aside in a warm place.
Ogre's onion rings
- 1 white onion
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup flat stout beer
- 2 cups of corn oil
- Peel and slice the onions into rings 1 inch thick.
- Fill a large mixing bowl with ice, and set a medium mixing bowl inside, surrounded by ice.
- Into the medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Form an indentation in the center of the flour mixture.
- Combine the water and beer. Slowly pour the water-beer mixture into the flour, mixing until the batter has the consistency of lumpy pancake batter. You may not use all of the liquid.
- In a large saucepan, heat the oil to 350 degrees. Dip the onion slices into the batter, then fry until golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on a rack and hold in a warm place.
We believe that the true spirit of burgerism is a personal devotion to one's ideals. The ideal burger has a juicy, flavorful patty that requires no augmentation.
— James Pike, Los Angeles
The pinky patty
- 3 pounds (20% fat) ground beef
- 1 (12-ounce) package chorizo
- 1/2 onion chopped, about 1/2 cup
- 2 to 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- Scant 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 2 tablespoons Montreal steak seasoning
- 2 teaspoons salt
- In a large bowl, combine the beef and chorizo along with the chopped onions. Season with the Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, Montreal steak seasoning and salt, kneading until the seasonings and flavorings are evenly dispersed. Divide into 8 burgers, shaping the patties so they are slightly larger than the diameter of the buns (they will shrink while cooking).
- Grill the patties to desired doneness. Hold in a warm place.
STG (Save the gravy) burgers
- 8 burger buns, divided
- Gravy, divided
- Caramelized pears
- Burger patties
- Fried onion rings
- 1 (8-ounce) log goat cheese
- To assemble each burger, spoon about 2 tablespoons gravy on the bottom of each bun. Top with a layer of caramelized pears, and divide the bacon strips evenly between each. Add a burger patty, then top each patty with an onion ring and a dollop (about 1 ounce) of goat cheese. Spoon over the mushrooms and then more gravy. Cover with the top bun.
- Calories 1,285
- Protein 62 grams
- Carbohydrates 67 grams
- Fiber 4 grams
- Fat 84 grams
- Saturated fat 27 grams
- Cholesterol 187 mg
- Sugar 18 grams
- Sodium 3,160 mg
3 1/2 hours. Serves 6
- 2 1/2 pounds ground rib-eye steak (grind yourself, or have the butcher grind for you)
- 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- Ground black pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon powdered onion, or to taste
- 3/4 teaspoon powdered garlic, or to taste
- 1 egg, beaten
- 4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- In a large bowl, combine the ground steak with the salt, several grinds of pepper, the powdered onion and garlic powders, beaten egg, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and Parmesan cheese. Mix the ingredients together until combined, being careful not to overwork. Cover and refrigerate the meat for 30 to 40 minutes to give the flavors time to permeate the meat.
- Divide the mixture and form into 6 patties, making sure to indent the center of each patty so it does not plump up on the grill. Crack a little more black pepper over each patty and refrigerate until ready to grill.
- 6 to 8 sweet onions, preferably Maui
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- Halve the onions and thinly slice. Place the onions in a bowl and toss with enough olive oil to lightly coat.
- Warm a large cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add one-fourth cup olive oil, and when the oil just starts to shimmer, add the onions. Cook the onions over medium heat, stirring infrequently.
- After about 20 minutes, stir in one-half teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper, along with the sugar. Cook an additional 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook until the onions begin to caramelize and their volume has reduced by more than half, 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from heat and remove the onions, leaving any leftover bits and juices in the pan (the pan will be used to make the steak sauce).
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large shallot, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 pounds cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
- Ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons Madeira wine
- In a large cast-iron skillet, melt the butter and oil over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and garlic, cooking until the shallot is nearly translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and season with one teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper, or to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 2 hours until the mushrooms are soft and reduced in volume by over half. Add the wine and, off heat, carefully light a match over the wine to burn off the alcohol. Continue cooking for another 30 minutes, stirring frequently, to give the flavors time to combine. Remove from heat and place the mushrooms in a bowl.
- 2 cups ketchup
- 1/2 cup Heinz 57 sauce
- 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
- 1 tablespoon prepared wasabi
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon chile powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- Cracked black pepper
- 1 cup Madeira wine
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the ketchup, Heinz 57 sauce, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, soy sauce, yellow mustard, wasabi, Sriracha, chile powder, onion powder, 10 grinds of black pepper and salt to taste to make the steak sauce base.
- In the pan used to caramelize the onions, warm up the leftover bits over medium heat. When warm, add the wine and scrape any flavorings from the bottom and sides of the pan.
- When the wine is warm, add the steak sauce base and bring to a gentle simmer. Reduce the heat so the sauce bubbles gently and cook, stirring frequently, for at least 20 minutes to marry the flavors. Remove from heat. This makes a generous 2 cups steak sauce, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe. The steak sauce will keep, covered and refrigerated, about 2 weeks.
There is nothing better than a great rib-eye steak. It is probably my most favorite cut of beef and makes a tremendous burger.
— Christopher Lucchese, Echo Park
- Steakhouse patties
- 6 soft but dense burger buns or rolls
- Steak sauce
- Mushroom reduction
- Caramelized onions
- Remove the burgers from the refrigerator and set aside for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the grill.
- Halve the burger buns and brush the bottoms with steak sauce.
- Grill the burgers, brushing the tops with steak sauce after they are flipped. Just before the burgers are finished, add the buns to lightly toast. When the burgers are done, remove and rest under aluminum foil for about 10 minutes.
- Add a large scoop of mushrooms to the bottom of each bun. Place a burger over the mushrooms and top with caramelized onions, then the bun top.
- Calories 864
- Protein 55 grams
- Carbohydrates 88 grams
- Fiber 7 grams
- Fat 30 grams
- Saturated fat 8 grams
- Cholesterol 165 mg
- Sugar 41 grams
- Sodium 2,685 mg
2 hours. Serves 2
Green Curry Paste
- 6 Thai chiles, minced (remove the seeds and ribs to minimize the heat)
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed and minced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons minced lemongrass
- 1 tablespoon minced galangal
- 1 teaspoon minced kaffir lime rind
- 1 minced kaffir lime leaf
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot
- 1/3 coriander root
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon whole white peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste
- Using a mortar and pestle, pound the Thai and jalapeño chiles and the salt until the chiles are reduced to a thick paste. Add the minced lemongrass, galangal, lime rind and leaf, shallots, coriander root and garlic, pounding to a smooth paste. Remove the mixture to a small bowl.
- Using the mortar and pestle, pound the white peppercorns and coriander seeds until powdered, then add the turmeric and cumin powders, pounding until well-mixed.
- Add back the wet ingredients to the mortar, and pound well to thoroughly combine the wet and dry. Add the shrimp paste, pounding again to form the curry paste. This makes about one-half cup paste. The paste can be made up to 3 days ahead of time; cover and refrigerate until needed.
Caramelized sweet peppers
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
- 7 to 10 sweet mini-bell peppers, diced into thin strips
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Asian 5-spice powder
- 1 cup dry white wine, divided
- In a heavy-bottom saucepan heated over medium heat, combine the olive oil, garlic and soy sauce and cook, stirring, for a few minutes to marry the flavors. Stir in the peppers along with a few grinds of pepper, the 5-spice powder and half of the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until the wine begins to reduce and begins to form a sauce. Add the rest of the wine and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the wine reduces to a sauce-like consistency. Set aside until ready to assemble the burgers. (The peppers can be made up to 3 days ahead and covered and refrigerated until needed; warm before using.)
- 1 pound ground chicken
- Prepared green curry paste
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- Heaping tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- Olive oil
- 2 Kings Hawaiian sandwich buns, or similar hamburger buns
- 4 slices Swiss cheese
- Fresh spinach, stemmed
- Caramelized sweet peppers
The green curry chicken burger (GCCB) creation is an inspiration of my travel experiences across the Pacific, combined with the touches of Americana.
— Winston Woo, Orange County
- In a large bowl, mix together the ground chicken, curry paste, basil, salt, bread crumbs and brown sugar until fully combined. Cover and refrigerate the chicken for at least 30 minutes to marry the flavors.
- Shortly before cooking the burgers, cook the eggs to over-easy in a skillet with a little olive oil. Set aside in a warm place.
- Toast the buns: Brush the insides of the buns with a little olive oil and place on a hot skillet to "toast" to desired doneness.
- Divide the chicken mixture into 4 patties roughly the same size as the bun. In a large lightly oiled skillet (or grill, if desired), cook the patties. Place a slice of Swiss cheese over each of two burgers, then top with a second burger. Place a slice of cheese over the remaining burgers. Lightly tent the burgers with foil to allow the cheese to melt.
- To assemble the burgers, place a small handful of spinach on the bottom of each bun. Top each with a double burger and a mound of caramelized peppers. Finally, add an over-easy egg, and gently press the top bun over the egg to release the runny yolk so it can work its way down each burger. Serve immediately.
- Calories 1,207
- Protein 71 grams
- Carbohydrates 70 grams
- Fiber 8 grams
- Fat 63 grams
- Saturated fat 20 grams
- Cholesterol 438 mg
- Sugar 27 grams
- Sodium 1,627 mg