Origins of ordinary things: Hamburger

The hamburger was first made in Hamburg, Germany. Net photo.

A hamburger (short: burger) is a sandwich consisting of one or more cooked patties of ground meat, usually beef, placed inside a sliced bread roll or bun. Hamburgers are sold at fast-food restaurants, diners, and specialty and high-end restaurants, as defined by Wikipedia, an encyclopedia. There are many international and regional variations of the hamburger.

According to, Hamburg, Germany is the home of the first hamburger. However, while the inspiration for the hamburger did come from Hamburg, the sandwich concept was invented much later. In the 19th century, beef from German Hamburg cows was minced and combined with garlic, onions, salt and pepper, then formed into patties (without bread or a bun) to make Hamburg steaks. These early burgers were considered gourmet and were quite pricey, given the quality of Hamburg beef. When German immigrants began arriving in New York and Chicago, many earned a living by opening restaurants. 

The Hamburger steak arrived in America around 1890’s, it’s said to have derived from European tastes. More and more restaurants started to offer ‘Hamburg-style’ steak. In 1930 the term hamburger replaced hamburger steak. With it being said that the recipe came from German chef Otto Kuasw, who was frying up fillets of beef patties in butter, placing a fried egg on top and supplementing the lot with the obligatory bread somewhere in Hamburg, around1891, according to Hallmark Hotels.

The hamburger continued to grow in popularity throughout the following decades, only suffering with the food shortages and meat rationing of World War II. During the war, American soldiers brought hamburgers overseas with them. They were easy to make and helped to cure some of the homesickness felt by the troops. When the McDonald brothers opened their Burger Bar Drive-In in San Bernardino, California in the 1940s, the hamburger made its official debut in the suburbs. By that late 1950s, McDonald’s had sold over 100 million hamburgers. Today, they sell over 75 hamburgers per second. 

Today hamburgers can be found in nearly every part of the world. Over time the concept has evolved, and meat patties are decorated with an endless variety of creative, tasty toppings. The meat patties themselves have been replaced with healthier options, including black bean, turkey and salmon burgers (though one might argue that these do not really qualify as burgers in the traditional sense). Fast food establishments have also become more adventurous with their “hamburger” patties. In Japan you can order a rice burger, and McDonald’s in India developed a McAloo Tikki Burger made from fried potatoes and peas topped with tomatoes, onions and spicy condiments, to satisfy the dietary restrictions and taste preferences of their Hindu diners. This is according to

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