History of the Hamburger

The burger or hamburger is believed to have evolved from a raw beef dish eaten by German immigrants in nineteenth century America. Hamburger style beef was a type of steak tartare and it easy to see how some of the garnishes of the modern burger, raw onion, gherkin evolved from that dish. As with many classic dishes it is very difficult to research the exact origin of the burger there are many claimants but the earliest dated records are from around the 1880’s.

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The first mass market burger chain was White Castle in 1921. The first burgers retailed at 5 cents and the business thrived. White Castle was the first company to sell a billion burgers and is still a thriving family business today. The famous holes in the burgers speed up the cooking, called steam grilling, and mean that the burgers do not need to be flipped. In 1934 the Wimpy Burger appeared. It was named after the hamburger eating friend of the cartoon character Popeye, J. Wellington Wimpy. The chain was relative upmarket and very successful, however in 1978 the 1,500 restaurants were closed after the death of the founder. The chain still operates in the UK but its style of table service saw it loose out heavily to its American rivals McDonalds and Burger King. A return to retro style cooking and the popularity of American diner food has since seen a small revival in the groups fortunes.

The 1930’s saw the development of the drive through and the late 1940’s the giant of the industry McDonald’s was born. Originally a salesman of catering equipment Ray Kroc joined the company in 1954 and would drive it worldwide dominance. Americans now eat an average 3 hamburger’s a week and McDonald’s alone has sold 12 hamburgers for every person in the world. There are now chicken burgers, fillets of fish sold in a bun, cheese stuffed burgers and vegetarian options like the spicy bean burger. The following list is a by no means exhaustive;

Australian Hamburgers – with tomato, lettuce, grilled onion, cooked beetroot and can include cheese, pineapple, a fried egg (usually with a hard yolk) and bacon.

Veggie burgers – use a meat substitute such as tofu, Quorn, beans, grains or an assortment of vegetables, ground up and mashed into patties.

Slopper – hamburger served open and topped with chilli sauce and raw chopped onion.

Cheeseburger – typically topped with Mozzarella, blue cheese, Monterey Jack or Cheddar.

Barbecue Burger – when the burger is cooking and has been turned once, barbecue sauce is spread on top and grilled until the sauce caramelizes. The bread bun is buttered and also spread with a light layer of barbecue sauce, then toasted on the grill. Anything can be added when building your sandwich -cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles or sliced onions.

Butter Burger – in the Upper Midwest, particularly Wisconsin, burgers are often served with a large pat of butter on top of the burger which melts down through the bread on to the plate. Like the Slopper best eaten with a knife and fork. Visit Culver’s for more information.

Carolina style – a Carolina style hamburger “with everything” is served with cheese, chilli, onions, mustard, and coleslaw the chain Wendy’s sells a “Carolina Classic” burger with these toppings.

Curry Burger – is a variant of the hamburger that is seasoned with curry spices. Made with minced beef, chicken, or lamb, and seasoned with cumin, fenugreek, coriander, garlic and chilli as well as onions.

Hawaii hamburgers – are topped with pineapple and with teriyaki sauce.

California Burger – a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, onion, guacamole, and bacon.

Double Decker – two burgers instead of one first commercially sold by the Big Boy chain.


Banquet Burger – one burger, bacon, and cheese is a called a bacon cheeseburger or a Banquet Burger.

Patty Melt – A patty melt is a sandwich consisting of a hamburger, sautéed onions, and cheese between two slices of rye bread. The sandwich is then grilled so that the cheese melts thoroughly. In America and Australia, the words patty and patties can be interchanged with the word burger.

Slider – Another variety of hamburger is the “slider”, which is a very small square hamburger patty sprinkled with diced onions and served on an equally small bun. This is the kind of hamburger popularized by White Castle. The name comes from their size, whereby they are considered to “slide” right down your throat in one or two bites.

Chicken Burger – is almost always called a chicken sandwich in America except for rare exceptions, such as with the Red Robin chain of restaurants.

Kubie Buger – In Alberta, Canada a kubie burger is a hamburger made with a pressed Ukrainian kubasa sausage.

Frita – is a Cuban dish with a seasoned ground beefburger often mixed with chorizo sausage on Cuban bread topped with shoestring potatoes, lettuce, onions, and a spiced ketchup sauce. This burger is very popular in South Florida, with its large Cuban community.

Mexican Hamburger – a hamburger with either ham in the mince mix or alongside the burger with avocado, cheese, and bacon.

Juicy Lucy – is a cheeseburger having the cheese inside the meat patty rather than on top. A piece of cheese is surrounded by raw meat and cooked until it melts, resulting in a molten core of cheese within the patty. This scalding hot cheese tends to gush out at the first bite, so servers frequently warn patrons to let the sandwich cool for a few minutes before consumption.

Luther Burger – a bacon cheeseburger in a glazed doughnut instead of the bun.

Pizza Burger – a pizza burger is made with Italian spices in the mince mix , then topped with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and grilled onions.

Fried Green Tomato Burger – in the southern United States, hamburgers made with fried green tomatoes.

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