Written by Alleah

Modified & Updated: 29 May 2024

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett

hamburger with fries, why is it called a hamburger

Hamburgers are sandwiches that are popular all over the world. It has a ground meat patty placed inside a bun or a sliced bread. The patties are usually from ground beef, but there are also other variations such as turkey meat. It is also served with condiments like mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, and relish. You may also find cheese, tomato, onion, lettuce, bacon, chiles, or pickles inside.

But have you ever wondered why is it called a hamburger? When was this popular sandwich first introduced to the public? And most importantly, what’s the genius behind this juicy meat in a bun? Find out as you read on and know the history behind hamburgers.

Table of Contents

Why is a hamburger called a hamburger?

According to research, the name comes from Germany’s seaport town, Hamburg. In the 19th century, sailors came to these ports and were the first ones to bring the idea of shredded beef when they barter or trade goods. The shredded beef was then mixed with spices and was either broiled or fried. It was then coined as Hamburg Steak which later became the hamburger we know now.

man holding hamburger
Image from Unsplash

What is the origin of the hamburger?

Some claim that Nomadic people introduced hamburgers to Germany. Tatars, as they were known, were horsemen. They were always on conquest and didn’t have time to stop for a meal. They eat their shredded meat raw and hide them under the saddle as they ride to their destination. Through constant riding, the meat gets tenderized and the horse’s heat would cook it. In the ports of Hamburg, Germany, they introduced the food to the people.

Germans then added salt, pepper, garlic, and onions before forming meat patties. They then fried or broiled the meat to create a unique way of serving it. German emigrants to the U.S. then brought with them the Hamburg steak. That’s how it started appearing in American restaurant menus in the 1880s.

BBQ Hamburger patties on grill
Image from Adobe Stock

Where was the hamburger invented and who invented it?

Many have claimed to have invented the hamburger. However, there is no solid evidence of who came up with it. One thing is certain, it brought national attention during the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. And below, we have assembled a list of names who people credited to have invented hamburgers.

Otto Kuase

White Castle connects the roots back to Otto Kuase. He was a cook in Hamburg, Germany who made a sandwich with beef patty cooked in butter with a fried egg on top.

Fletcher Davis

In the 1880s, Uncle Fletcher Davis came up with the name. This is according to locals. He’s from Texas and a man from Athens.

Charlie Nagreen

Known as Hamburger Charlie, some contend that he came up with it after experiencing less success in selling meatballs. They said he called it hamburger and it made its debut at the fair in Seymour, Wisconsin in 1885.

Frank and Charles Menches

In 1885, stories say they were selling pork sandwiches at the county fair in Hamburg, New York. When they ran out of pork, they switched to ground beef patties instead for their sandwiches.

Oscar Weber Bilby

His family claims that it was on Grandpa Oscar’s farm in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1891 that the first hamburger was born.

Louis Lassen

A restaurant named Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut claims to be the first one to serve burgers.

When did hamburgers become popular?

We all know that hamburgers are a staple food of many fast-food restaurants in the world. Whichever restaurant you go to, there’s a great chance you will find it on the menu. The first known popular hamburger restaurant is White Castle. Walt Anderson and Billy Ingram founded it in March 1921. It’s the oldest hamburger restaurant chain in America.

At the time of their operation, Americans did not find ground beef too interesting. Poor sanitation practices of the meatpacking industry were circulating among the public. Knowing this, Walt and Billy were eager to change the people’s minds about eating beef. They saw to it that their restaurant was spotless and clean. Staff in their restaurant also groomed well. Fortunately, Walt and Billy’s ideas became a success.

As of May 2021, there are 359 White Castle outlets across different states. Reports say that the highest number of locations are in Illinois with 63 outlets. Next is Indiana with 56 outlets, and Ohio with 50 outlets.

Image from Unsplash

How have hamburgers evolved over the years?

Hamburgers have come a long way. Today, there are many variations of hamburgers. One can find it everywhere in different countries. You can now also find hamburgers with fish, vegan, and chicken patties. Here are some different forms of hamburgers available in the market.

Pepperoni Pizza Burger

Put together pizza sauce, mozzarella, and pepperoni cheese. Voila! You get pizza quality in a burger craving.

Caesar Burger

Fancy adding more veggies in your regular burger yummies? Season it with black pepper, garlic, and caesar dressing. Top it off with avocado slices and romaine lettuce. Enjoy!

Barbecue Burger

This is one of those traditional types with hot peppers and barbeque sauce. You can never go wrong with the OG burgers!

Bistro Burger

Indulge yourself with ground beef and brie cheese, caramelized onions, and crisp bacon. Serve your burger in a walnut bun.

Cowboy Burger

Combine grilled beef patty with onion, bacon, mushrooms, and Monterey Jack cheese.

French Bistro Burger

Try the yummy french bun garnished with garlic mustard mayonnaise, Gruyère cheese, and walnuts.

Shrimpy Burgers

Try it in mini grilled burgers with chopped shrimp, cocktail sauce, and cream cheese.

Egg Burger

Lean ground beef patty with fried or scrambled egg. Enjoy it just the way you like it!

Spicy Burger

Try jack cheese on a lean ground beef burger with onions and jalapeño pepper toppings. You’d surely satisfy your spicy palettes.

Cordon Bleu Burger

Ground beef patty topped with a layer of sliced ham, Dijon mustard, and Swiss cheese.

Interesting statistics of hamburgers.

Hamburger is one of the most popular foods present in an American cookout. These cookouts are an essential part of the 4th of July celebrations. According to reports, an average American eats more than two burgers a week. Not only is it cheap, but it is also easy to eat. That’s why it is a go-to menu for on-the-go people. With that said, check out other interesting facts about hamburger statistics.

  • Fleurburger 5000 is priced at $5,000, this is the world’s most expensive burger. It consists of wagyu beef, seared foie gras, and black truffle shavings. You can find this burger at the Fleur restaurant inside Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Las Vegas.
  • Americans consume 50 billion burgers per year. Reports say that about 100 cow meats go into one burger. If that is the case, then it means you need to collect about 5 trillion cow meats for that. That is just mind-blowing.
  • Among other states in the U.S., California has the most burger joints. Did you know that there are more than 6,000 hamburger restaurants in California?
  • Almost 50,000 burger restaurants are in America, and that doesn’t stop there. Reports say it grows double every month.

Now that you know the history of hamburgers, why is it called a hamburger then? Well, it is up to you to decide where this popular comfort food came from. No matter who it was, one thing is sure, burger restaurants have done a great job capitalizing on that.

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