Burger Art

After 140 entries, online votes and rigorous testing, it comes down to five juicy victors
This mustard-and-onion-laden burger was among the top five entries in the Los Angeles Times' second annual Battle of the Burgers contest.MCT

Bored of the basic, backyard burger?

Recipes from the Los Angeles Times' second annual Battle of the Burgers contest ensure that this summertime favorite is anything but typical.


1. Use good-quality meat with a high fat ratio, 20 to 30 percent; form thick patties, using a gentle hand.

2. Heat the grill (or cast-iron pan or griddle) until very hot. Season patties with salt and pepper and place them on the grill. Do not press them with a spatula or touch them for 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Flip patties. (If they don't want to loosen from the grill, they're not ready to be flipped. Let them cook another minute and try again.) Let them cook another 3 to 4 minutes, undisturbed.

4. Add cheese and let it melt a little. Then remove patties to a plate, tent with foil and let them rest for 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, toast the buns.

6. Build your burger: Place the bottom half of the bun on a plate, top with lettuce, then tomatoes and then the patty. Add any additional condiments or special sauce, and top with the upper bun half.

The best burgers — beef, buffalo, turkey and sausage — were inspired by Italian cuisine, the lexicon of chilies, the balance of yin and yang, a BLT for breakfast and one contestant's mustard- and onion-loving uncle, Howie.

Never "just a burger" to true fans, a hamburger is the very extension of a grill master's identity. These entries proved that a great burger is a work of art, passionately thought-out and painstakingly executed. Of course, determining what makes a burger great can stir as much passion as choosing our next president.

Thousands of votes from Times readers nationwide narrowed 140 submissions from all over the country to the top 20 burgers. These recipes then were put to task in the Times Test Kitchen. The burgers were judged by Food section editors and staff.

It was tough, but after days of testing, exhaustive judging (and maybe a little post-burger napping), they came up with five favorites. So as the smells of charcoal and propane perfume backyards across the country, take up the burgermeister's challenge with these winning recipes.

Featuring from-scratch jams, relishes and other condiments, these burgers require at least an hour of preparation or up to two. But some components can be made a day to a week in advance of your next burger bash.

If that's more effort than lazy summer days will allow, blame these overly enthusiastic cooks. As Richard Amiel, originator of The H-Bomb Burger, said, "The devil made me do it!"

See accompanying recipes for The H-Bomb, The Howie, BLT&E, Buffalo-Cambozola and Taste of Italy burgers.

Mail Tribune Food Editor Sarah Lemon contributed to this story.

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