Do you have a knack for putting together a good burger? Or perhaps you're known for grilling the perfect patty?

Your best burger might have what it takes to win some cash in contests now taking entries.

The granddaddy of these is Build a Better Burger, now in its 21st year and sponsored mainly by Sutter Home Winery in Napa Valley, Calif.

Enter the contest now through Sept. 3. The cook-off will be held on the grounds of the winery in May 2013.

The grand prize for the best beef burger is $100,000. If you're not a beef burger person, you can enter an alternative burger for a chance at a $15,000 prize.

Beef burger patties must have at least 75 percent beef (not veal). Alternative burgers can be made from any ground food, including some beef, but beef can't make up more than 25 percent of the patty. You can enter as many burger recipes as you like. Burgers are judged on creativity, taste and visual appeal.

For rules and to enter, go to sutterhome.com. For inspiration, check out the recipes in the Burger Base on the web site and winning recipes from previous years. Also on the site, cookbook author James McNair, head judge since the contest began, offers tips on burger making and entering the contest.


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On the flip side is the Johnsonville No Ordinary Burger Contest, held in conjunction with the release of the sausage company's new patty products: Original Bratwurst, Mild Italian Sausage, Cheddar Bratwurst and Chorizo. Create a flavor combination with add-ons and toppings.

The grand prize is $10,000 in a live cook-off in New York City in August. Enter now through July 3. This contest also will have online voting to determine a fan favorite finalist. To enter, go to johnsonville.com.

Need inspiration for turning out a great burger? Here are a few tips:
Prepare: Mix your favorite seasonings and even some shredded cheese into 1 pound of ground round, chuck or sirloin. This will be enough to make four burgers, about 4 ounces each. Sliders should be about 2 ounces each. Don't over mix. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Shape: Form mixture into ½- to ¾-inch-thick patties. Make an indentation in the center of each patty, 1 inch in diameter and ¼-inch deep. The indentation allows the burgers to rise during grilling without plumping up like a tennis ball. Do this for sliders, too, making the indentations smaller.
Grill: Heat the grill to medium-high. Oil the grates well or lightly brush the burgers with oil. Grill the burgers over direct heat for about 4 minutes, or until you get a nice crusty exterior on one side. Flip and grill on the other side for about 4 minutes, or until desired degree of doneness is reached. Never use a spatula to press down on burgers as they cook; it presses out the juices.