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 burgermeisters everywhere to submit to the L.A. Times their recipes in our third annual Battle of the Burgers. The response was amazing.
The burgers were tested and judged by food section editors and staff to come up with five favorites: Texas luau burger, Hoad’s hot jalapeno burger, green curry chicken burger, save the gravy burger and a steakhouse burger.
Texas luau burger
“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, Calif.
Time: 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 jalapeno 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)
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Place the patties, bacon, pineapple slices and jalapenos 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
Nutrition per serving: 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.
Hoad’s hot jalapeno burger
“The combination of all the ingredients and especially the jalapenos and habanero powder give the true burger lover a combo of mouth-watering flavor and pepper temperature.”
—Julia Hoadley, San Diego
(with husband Charles and son John)
Time: 40 minutes, plus chilling time.
- 1½ pounds ground beef
- 1 cup chopped green onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¾ teaspoon dry mustard
- 1½ teaspoons Tajin clasico seasoning or taco seasoning
- 2 to 3 fresh jalapeno peppers, sliced, or sliced canned jalapenos
- 4 slices pepper jack cheese
- 4 jalapeno cheese bagels, toasted
- Lettuce, for garnish
- Fresh avocado slices, for garnish
- Habanero or other hot chile powder
- Hot sauce, preferably homemade
1. In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, green onion, 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.
2. 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 jalapenos and cheese.
3. Serve the burgers in the toasted buns, garnish as desired with lettuce, avocado slices and hot sauce.
Nutrition per serving: 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.
STG (save the gravy) burger
“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. The ideal burger has toppings that provide a sensory explosion but complement the meat, rather than mask its flavor. After a year of practice, the men of the Sigma Tau Gamma burger team are proud to present a burger that fulfills this promise, the Save the Gravy burger.”
—James PikeLos Angeles (with fellow helpers Jayson Carvalho and Ted Markowsky)
Time: 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 ½ tablespoons sugar
In a large dry nonstick skillet, saute 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 SAUTEED MUSHROOMS
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 pound white mushrooms, sliced
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- Salt and pepper
In a large saute 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
1. In a large skillet, crisp the bacon strips. Set the strips aside in a warm place, reserving 2 tablespoons bacon fat.
2. In a saute 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 to form a lumpy roux). 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.
THE PINKY PATTY
- 3 pounds (20 percent fat) ground beef
- 1 (12-ounce) package chorizo
- ½ onion chopped, about ½ cup
- 2 to 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- Scant 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 2 tablespoons Montreal steak seasoning
- 2 teaspoons salt
1. 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).
2. 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.
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
“There is nothing better than a great rib-eye steak. It is probably my most favorite cut of beef and makes a tremendous burger. Now imagine you can have an entire steak dinner served on a delicious soft bun. A rib-eye steak in a hand-held delivery system!”
—Christopher Lucchese, Echo Park, Los Angeles
Time: 3 ½ hours. Serves: 6
- 2 ½ pounds ground rib-eye steak (grind yourself, or have the butcher grind for you)
- 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- Ground black pepper
- ¾ teaspoon powdered onion, or to taste
- ¾ teaspoon powdered garlic, or to taste
- 1 egg, beaten
- 4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1. 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.
2. 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
1. Halve the onions and thinly slice. Place the onions in a bowl and toss with enough olive oil to lightly coat.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
- Steakhouse patties
- 6 soft but dense burger buns or rolls
- Steak sauce (see recipe online)
- Mushroom reduction
- Caramelized onions
1. Heat the grill.
2. Halve the burger buns and brush the bottoms with steak sauce.
3. 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 foil for about 10 minutes.
4. 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.
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
Green curry chicken burger
“The green curry chicken burger creation is an inspiration of my travel experiences across the Pacific, combined with the touches of Americana. Imagine taking a round trip to Thailand, and then on the way back, stopping by Hawaii en route back to California.”
—Winston Woo, Orange County, Calif.
Time: 2 hours.
GREEN CURRY PASTE
- 6 Thai chilies, minced (remove the seeds and ribs to minimize the heat)
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and minced
- ½ 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 shallots
- 1/3 coriander root
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic cloves
- ¼ teaspoon whole white peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1½ teaspoons turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- ½ teaspoon shrimp paste
1. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the Thai and jalapeno 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.
2. Pound the white peppercorns and coriander seeds until powdered, then add the turmeric and cumin powders, pounding until well-mixed.
3. Add back the wet ingredients to the mortar, and thoroughly combine the wet and dry. Add the shrimp paste, pounding again to form the curry paste.
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. 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 form a sauce. Add the rest of the wine and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the wine reduces to a sauce-like consistency.
- 1 pound ground chicken
- About ½ cup prepared green curry paste (see recipe online)
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ 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
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
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
NOTE: This recipe requires the use of a mortar and pestle. Galangal, kaffir lime rind and leaves, coriander root and shrimp paste are available at Thai markets and select Asian grocery stores. When handling hot chiles, wear protection (gloves and eyewear) to protect yourself from harmful oils.