Do you remember your first burger? Was it a cheeseburger? Just a hamburger? The burger is a staple for family dinners, synonymous with BBQ. It’s an easy recipe that caters to all, no matter the age, with options for customization.

It is one of the most popular foods on our planet and if you’ve never tried one, you’re an anomaly.

Where did the burger come from?

The name hamburger came from an evolution of the original Hamburg steak. Cows from the German city of Hamburg were well-known for their quality. The meat was commonly prepared by chopping, grounding, or mincing, and mixing with onions and seasonings. But it was not a sandwich like we know it today. 

As Germans immigrated to the United States, mostly through New York and Chicago, the Hamburg steak came too. It began appearing on menus marketed towards the German immigrants who could be looking for comfort food. That version of Hamburg steak today is mostly referred to as Salisbury steak 

When did the modern burger come to be?

As the German immigrants adapted to city life in America’s biggest cities, so too did the Hamburg steak. History can’t recollect the exact person, date, or location that the sandwich version, as we now know as the burger, was created for the first time. 

Its beginnings were influenced by street carts and the desire to make eating ground beef patties possible while on the go. So the patties were sandwiched between two pieces of white bread and it evolved from there.

But there are other claims to who and where the first burgers were made. A man named “Hamburger Charlie” Nagreen sold meatballs squished between two pieces of bread in Seymour, Wisconsin in 1885. It is said that he was the one who dubbed it the hamburger.

In Hamburg, New York in the same year as Hamburger Charlie, the Menches brothers were said to create the first hamburger as well. Using the hamburger name because of the city name, coincidentally the same as the German town where the meat came from.

There are monuments and museums in Seymour, Wisconsin yet also in Tulsa, Oklahoma because of the claims to burger fruition. Eventually, it didn’t matter where it came from, but how easy it was to buy in fast-food restaurants and make at home.

How did the burger go from street food to every-day family meal?

American fast-food restaurants found their rise alongside industrialization. By the 1920s, burgers became synonymous with comfort food. They were cheap, in high demand, easy to produce, and so the first drive-thru restaurants were burger joints.

By 1950 there was a fast-food boom. Women were the homemakers, while men worked all day and came home to a meal made by their wives. It became increasingly easier to serve dinner via fast-food restaurants, and the franchising businesses grew tremendously. The burger was a quintessential part of that trend and came at the right time, right place.

In the 1970’s ground beef patties made their way into homes with easy-to-make meals. All you had to do was add the meat, and your meal was ready for family dinner. 

Today, you can find all types of burgers customized with different meats like bison burgers or turkey burgers. Plant-based burgers avoid the meat industry altogether. Some get raunchy with more fried foods toppled on top or pared down with lettuce as a bread replacement.

What is the difference between fast-food burgers and made from scratch burgers?

In the 2000s burgers had a reboot. Culinary tastes catered to individually made masterpieces, instead of burgers made by line cooks. Restaurants began distancing themselves from cheap, greasy, drive-thru food by creating craft burgers. Internationally, you can find many interpretations of the burger. Some are a stretch. But nothing replaces the standard hamburger recipe of a meat patty between two buns, with condiments, vegetables, and sometimes cheese.