STG (Save the Gravy) burger

This burger has unique ingredients, including Asian pears, goat cheese and gravy. Recipe: STG burger (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Our third of five finalists is James Pike of Los Angeles. Needless to say, it's a glorious mess of a burger. He writes:

“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 which provide a sensory explosion, but one that complements the meat, rather than masks its flavor. The ideal burger reminds you of your local burger joint, but also provides an unforgettable gourmet dining experience. 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.

“The Save The Gravy Burger balances the sweetness of the caramelized pears with the saltiness of the bacon and mushrooms to create a smorgasbord of flavors for the palate. The onion ring provides a satisfying crunch, while the goat cheese enriches this with a creamy, tangy burst. The gravy is a synthesis of the flavors, ensuring that every bite contains a myriad of sensations and tastes. The heat of the patty itself serves to tie the entire experience together.”

“This burger is awesome!”

This year, we received almost 50 submissions from readers and grill-masters across the U.S. and Canada. We asked you to vote for your top 20, and then we got down to testing.

Over 48 hours, we shopped (using a seven-page grocery list), prepped, cooked and grilled our hearts out testing a whole host of burgers (our Test Kitchen went through more than 20 pounds of meat alone, including hand-ground sirloin and salmon).

The results were judged by the Food staff, including editor Russ Parsons, restaurant critic Jonathan Gold, deputy editor Betty Hallock, Test Kitchen director Noelle Carter and Web producer Jenn Harris.

The five finalists and their recipes will be featured in the Saturday section on June 29. In the meantime, we'll be giving a daily shout-out to each on our blog. Congratulations all!


2 hours. Serves 8

Sigma Saulos’s caramelized pears

2 Asian pears, vertically sliced 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, non-stick skillet, saute the pears in the vegetable oil 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 button mushrooms, sliced