A hamburger (or burger) is a sandwich consisting of a cooked ground meat patty, usually beef, placed in a sliced bun or between pieces of bread or toast. Hamburgers are often served with various condiments, such as ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, relish etc. as well as lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and cheese.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the term "hamburger" comes from Hamburg steak, which was first recorded in English in 1884 but was probably used much earlier. A form of pounded beef called "Hamburg Steak" was common in Hamburg in the middle of the 19th century. The recipe was brought to North America by the large numbers of people emigrating from Germany at the time, many of whom passed through the port of Hamburg. There is indirect evidence for its use on an American menu in 1836. The form hamburger steak first appeared in a Washington state newspaper in 1889. The first recipe close to the current idea of a hamburger, using ground beef mixed with onion and pepper, dates from 1902. The Oxford English Dictionary of 1802, on the other hand, defines "Hamburg Steak" simply as cured beef. In a time without refrigerators, when it took weeks to travel from Europe to the USA, cured meat was a standard food for poor US immigrants, who often started from Hamburg (which was and is the biggest German seaport and one of the biggest in the world). In a tween deck, where cooking is nearly impossible, cutting tough cured beef into pieces and putting it between slices of bread may suggest itself.
In 1906, Upton Sinclair published his book: "The Jungle" which exposed the lack of sanitation in the meat packing industry. As a result, many Americans developed a fear of eating processed beef. In the 1920s, Billy Ingram, (one of the founders of White Castle), began a public relations campaign to remake the image of the hamburgers sold in restaurants and to help make the burger a favorite food. In his book: "Selling them by the Sack: White Castle and the Creation of the American Food", David Gerald Hogan credits Billy Ingram and White Castle for making the hamburger the very popular food it is today, and leading the way for McDonald's and other franchises to follow.
The "cheese hamburger," now simply the cheeseburger, is said to have first appeared in 1924, and credited to grill chef Lionel Sternberger of The Rite Spot restaurant in Pasadena, California. This kind of burger is basically the same as a regular hamburger but with a slice of cheese (cheddar, American, Swiss, Pepper jack, or processed) on top of the patty.
The term "burger" has now become generic, and may refer to sandwiches that have ground meat, chicken, fish (or even vegetarian) fillings other than a beef patty, but share the characteristic round bun. By the mid 20th century both terms were commonly shortened to "hamburger" or simply "burger." However, these "burgers" are usually referred to as "chicken burgers", "fish burgers", etc. A "hamburger" today can also be made with finely chopped beef as well as ground beef.
Hamburgers are usually a feature of fast food restaurants. However, the hamburgers prepared in major fast food establishments are mass-produced in factories and frozen for delivery to the site. These hamburgers are thin and of uniform thickness, differing from the traditional American hamburger prepared in homes and conventional restaurants, which is thicker and prepared by hand from ground beef. Generally most American hamburgers are round, but some fast-food chains, such as Wendy's, sell square-cut hamburgers. Hamburgers in fast food restaurants are usually fried, but some firms, such as Burger King use a grilling process. At conventional American restaurants, hamburgers may be ordered "rare", but normally are served well-done for food safety reasons (see below). Fast food restaurants do not offer this option.
The McDonald's fast-food chain sells a sandwich called the Big Mac that is one of the world's top selling hamburgers. Other major fast-food chains – including Burger King (also known as Hungry Jacks in Australia), A&W, Culver's,Whataburger, Carl's Jr./Hardee's chain, Wendy's (known for their square patties), Jack in the Box, Cook Out, Harvey's, In-N-Out Burger, Five Guys, Fatburger, Burgerville, Back Yard Burgers, Lick's Homeburger, Roy Rogers, and Sonic – also rely heavily on hamburger sales. Fuddruckers and Red Robin are popular hamburger chains that specialize in mid-tier "restaurant-style" variety of hamburgers. The "slider" style of mini hamburger is still popular regionally in the White Castle and Krystal chains.
Some American establishments offer a unique take on the hamburger beyond what is offered in the fast food restaurants. Notable is Father's Office in Santa Monica, California. The patty is composed of dry-aged sirloin mixed with New York Strip ends topped with applewood-smoked bacon compote. It is topped with maytag blue and Gruyère cheeses, caramelized onions, and arugula on a French roll. In lieu of ketchup, Father's Office serves a blue cheese aioli in a ramekin. Dyer's Burgers in Memphis Tennessee is famous for a deep-fried burger. The proprietors claim that they recycle and re-use the same grease used when the restaurant opened in 1912. The casual dining chain Ruby Tuesday claims to have many different varieties of hamburgers on its menu of various shapes, meat compositions, or grades of beef.
Often, hamburgers are served as a common picnic and party food, cooked outdoors on barbecue grills. Hamburgers are also very good for backyard grilling and for home use. Hamburger patties are raw when first bought and may contain harmful bacteria that can produce food-borne illness such as H7, so caution is needed when handling them. Hamburger patties can be cooked rare, medium rare, medium, medium well, or well done. These terms refer to how thoroughly the meat is cooked, ranging from having a little bit of pink coloring to being dark brown, cooked almost to a crisp. However because of the potential for food-borne illness, it is recommended that hamburgers should be cooked to an internal temperature of 170°F (80°C). If cooked to this temperature, they will be well done. In certain places and restaurants around the world, restaurants add their own sauces.
After cooking the patty and placing it on a bun, other ingredients are placed on top of the patty as toppings. The most popular include ketchup, mustard, iceberg lettuce, mayonnaise, tomatoes, white onions and pickles, though other ingredients, such as sauerkraut and guacamole are not uncommon.
Recent years have seen the increasing popularity of new types of "burgers" in which alternatives to ground beef are used as the primary ingredient. For example, a turkey burger uses ground turkey meat, a chicken burger uses either ground chicken meat or chicken filets. A buffalo burger uses ground meat from a bison and some mix cow and buffalo meat, thus creating a "Beefalo burger" and an ostrich burger is made from ground seasoned ostrich meat. A deer burger uses ground venison from deer.
However the high carbohydrate content in some veggie burgers may mean that the overall calorie count is not significantly less than a comparably sized beef burger.
A cheeseburger is a hamburger with cheese in addition to the meat. In 1924, Lionel Sternberger is considered to have grilled the first cheeseburger in Pasadena, California. When Sternberger died in 1964, Time magazine noted in its February 7 issue that:
"...at the hungry age of 16, [Sternberger] experimentally dropped a slab of American cheese on a sizzling hamburger while helping out at his father's sandwich shop in Pasadena, thereby inventing the cheeseburger..."
In North America burgers can be divided into two main types: fast food hamburgers and individually-prepared ones made in homes and sit down restaurants. The latter are traditionally prepared "with everything" (or "all the way," "deluxe," "the works," "through the garden," or in some regions "all dressed"), which includes lettuce, tomato, onion, and often sliced pickles (or pickle relish). Cheese (usually processed cheese slices but often cheddar, Swiss, or blue, either melted on the meat patty or crumbled on top), is generally an option. Condiments are usually added to the hamburger, but they may be offered separately ("on the side"), with the two most common condiments being mustard and tomato ketchup. However, mayonnaise, other salad dressings, and barbecue sauce are also popular. Traditional "Texas" hamburgers and cheeseburgers usually omit other liquid condiments besides mustard. Other popular toppings include bacon, avocado or guacamole, sliced sautéed mushrooms, cheese sauce and/or chili (usually without beans). Heinz 57 sauce is popular among burger enthusiasts. Somewhat less common additions/ingredients include fried egg, scrambled egg, feta cheese, blue cheese, salsa, Jalapenos and other kinds of chile peppers, anchovies, slices of ham, pastrami or teriyaki-seasoned beef, tartar sauce, french fries or potato chips.
Standard toppings on hamburgers can vary by geographical region, particularly at restaurants that are not national or regional franchises. In the Upper Midwest, particularly Wisconsin, burgers are often made with a buttered bun, butter as one of the ingredients of the patty or with a pat of butter on top of the burger patty. This is called a "Butter Burger." In portions of the Carolinas, for instance, a Carolina-style hamburger "with everything" may be served with cheese, chili, onions, mustard, and cole slaw and national chain Wendy's sells a "Carolina Classic" burger with these toppings in these areas. In Hawaii hamburgers are often topped with teriyaki sauce, derived from the Japanese-American culture, and locally grown pineapple. Waffle House claims on its menus and website to offer 70,778,880 different ways of serving a hamburger. In portions of the Midwest and East coast, a hamburger served with lettuce, tomato, and onion is referred to as a "California burger." This usage is sufficiently widespread to appear on the menus of fast-food restaurants, most notably in locations of the Dairy Queen franchise. However in the Western U.S., a "California" burger most often consists of a normal cheeseburger, with the addition of guacamole and bacon.
A hamburger with two patties is a "double decker" or simply a "double," of which the Big Boy claims to be the first commercially sold, while a hamburger with three patties is a "triple," with the Wendy's restaurant chain being among the first to offer this as a regular product. Doubles and triples are often combined with cheese and occasionally with bacon as well, yielding a "double cheeseburger" or a "triple bacon cheeseburger," or alternatively, a "bacon double/triple cheeseburger." A hamburger with one patty, bacon, and cheese is a "bacon cheeseburger" or a "Banquet Burger"; hamburgers with bacon but no cheese are often called "bacon-burger"s. The Hardee's restaurant chain gained extensive publicity within the United States following its introduction of the Monster Thickburger, with two meat patties, three slices of cheese, six strips of bacon, 1,420 calories and 107 grams of fat. Other restaurants, such as In-N-Out, offer multiple patties and cheese on a burger (for example, 4 X 4 which is 4 meat patties and 4 slices of cheese). One could order as many meat patties as desired. The largest ordered was a 100X100 at the cost of about $400 for a special occasion.
To decrease cooking and serving time, fast food hamburgers have thinner patties than their fancier counterparts. The Carl's Jr. restaurant chain acknowledged this with the introduction of the "Six Dollar Burger," featuring a patty the same size as those served by sit-down restaurants for a lower price. Hamburgers also tend to be described by their combined uncooked weight, with a single uncooked burger a nominal four ounces (a "quarter pounder" [113.5 grams]); so, instead of a "double hamburger" one might encounter a third- or half-pounder (i.e. eight ounces [227 grams].) Burger patties are nearly always specified in fractions of a pound.
Fast-food hamburgers are usually dressed with a variety of condiments, and in order to get a fast-food hamburger without one of these standard condiments a special order may be required.
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. Another purveyor of the slider is Krystal.
In the continental U.S. it is uncommon to hear a chicken patty or breast on a hamburger bun referred to as a "chicken burger". This is almost always called a chicken sandwich except for rare exceptions, such as with the Red Robin chain of restaurants. In Canada, chicken burgers generally refer to patties and when using a chicken breast, to chicken sandwiches. In Hawaii, small (usually marinated) pieces of chicken piled on a bun can be found, referred to as a teriyaki chicken burger, for example. This is similar to what is found in Japan, but is a local variation.
In Toronto the local eatery Dangerous Dan's Diner offers the Colossal Colon Clogger (or Quad C) 24oz burger served with a quarter pound of cheese, a quarter pound of bacon, and 2 fried eggs.
In Mexico, a hamburger usually consists of actual "ham" with the meat patty along with avacado, cheese, and bacon.
An original and indigenous rival to the big two U.S. giants was the quintessentially British fast-food chain Wimpy, originally known as Wimpy Bar, which served its burgers or cheeseburgers with British-style chips, served on a plate accompanied by flatware and delivered to the customer's table. Wimpy began to die out in the late 1980s, disappearing from most UK high-streets. However, it persists in some town centers and particularly at motorway service stations, resembling much more the U.S. style system of counter-service.
Hamburgers are also available from mobile kiosks, particularly at outdoor events such as football matches. Burgers from this type of outlet are usually served without any form of salad - only fried onions and a choice of tomato ketchup or brown sauce.
Chip shops, particularly in the West Midlands, North-East and Scotland, serve battered hamburgers (along with many other battered food items). This is where the burger patty, by itself, is deep-fat-fried in batter and served with chips, but no bun.
Hamburgers and veggie burgers, usually of a better quality, served with chips and salad, are now standard pub grub menu items. Indeed, many pubs specialize in "gourmet" burgers. These are usually high quality minced steak patties, topped with items such as blue cheese, brie, avocado et cetera. Another variant is the curry burger, which seasons the meat with curry to provide a spicier alternative.
Many British pubs are also notable for their extreme fondness for burger patties made from more exotic meats - common examples include venison burgers (sometimes nicknamed Bambi Burgers), bison burgers, ostrich burgers and in some Australian themed pubs even kangaroo burgers can be purchased. All of these hamburgers are served in a similar way to the traditional hamburger but may come with a different condiment, redcurrant sauce, mint sauce and plum sauce being common examples.
In the early 21st century "premium" hamburger chain and independent restaurants have arisen, selling burgers produced from meat stated to be of high quality and often organic, usually served to eat on the premises rather than to take away. Chains include Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Ultimate Burger, and Hamburger Union.
In supermarkets and corner stores, customers can buy "hamburgers" (hanbao) off the bread shelf. These unrefrigerated so-called "hamburgers" are nothing more than ultra-sweet buns cut open with a thin slice of pork or ham placed inside without any condiments or vegetables. These hanbao are a half-westernised form of the traditional Cantonese "hamburgers" called "char siu Bao" (BBQ Pork Bun). The Chinese word for hamburger (hanbao) often refers to all sandwiches containing cooked meat, regardless of the meat's origin. This includes chicken burgers, as KFC is very popular in China.
In Japan, hamburgers can be served in a bun, called hanbāgā (ハンバーガー), or just the patties served without a bun, known as hanbāgu (ハンバーグ) or "hamburg", short for "hamburg steak".
Hamburg steaks (served without buns) are similar to what is known as Salisbury steaks in the USA. They are made from minced beef, pork or a blend of the two, mixed with minced onions, egg, breadcrumbs and spices. They are served with brown sauce (or demi-glace in restaurants) with vegetable or salad sides, or occasionally in Japanese curries. It is a popular item at home, and in casual, western style suburban restaurant chains known in Japan as "family restaurants". It became popular in the 1960s.
Hamburgers in buns, on the other hand, are predominantly the domain of fast food chains. As well as American chains such as McDonald's and Wendy's, Japan has a few home grown hamburger chain restaurants such as MOS Burger and First Kitchen. Local varieties of burgers served in Japan include teriyaki burgers, katsu burgers (containing tonkatsu) and burgers containing shrimp korokke. Some of the more unusual examples include the "Rice Burger", where the bun is made of rice, and the luxury 1000-yen (US $10) "Takumi Burger" (meaning "artisan taste"), featuring avocados, freshly-grated wasabi, and other rare seasonal ingredients. In terms of the actual patty, there are burgers made with the famous Kobe beef, butchered from cows that are fed with beer and massaged daily. McDonald's Japan also recently launched a McPork burger, made with U.S. pork. McDonald's has been gradually losing market share in Japan to these local hamburger chains, due in part to the preference of Japanese diners for fresh ingredients and more refined, "upscale" hamburger offerings. Burger King once retreated from Japan, but re-entered the market in Summer 2007 in a cooperation with the Japanese/Korean fast-food chain Lotteria.
Rice burgers, mentioned above, are also available in several East Asian countries such as Taiwan and South Korea. Lotteria is a big hamburger franchise in Japan owned by the South Korean Lotte group, with outlets also in China, South Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan. In addition to selling beef hamburgers, they also have hamburgers made from squid, pork, tofu, and shrimp. Variations available in Korea include bulgogi burgers and kimchi burgers.
Not surprisingly, the Philippines, with American culinary influences going back to US political influence of the islands at the beginning of the 20th Century, retains a strong bond with American trends. A wide range of major US fast-food franchises are well represented, together with local imitators, often amended to the local palate. The famous chain McDonalds (locally nicknamed "McDo"), which is immensely popular with Filipinos, have a range of burger and chicken dishes often accompanied by plain steamed rice and/or french fries. Most popular of all with locals, the Philippines boasts its own burger-chain called Jollibee - which offers credible burger meals and chicken, including a signature burger called "The Big Champ". It is perhaps ironic, but very encouraging, that Jollibee now has a number of outlets in the United States.
In India, burgers are usually made using a chicken or a vegetable patty, due to cultural taboos against eating beef. These taboos stem from the religious practices of Hindus (who are strong believers in Non Violence and believe in Vegetarianism). Because of this, the majority of fast food chains and restaurants in India do not serve beef. Likewise, McDonalds restaurants in India do not serve beef, therefore the 'Big Mac' is replaced with the 'Maharaja Mac' which substitutes the beef patties with chicken.
Another version of the Indian vegetarian burger is the Wada Pav consisting deep-fried potato patty dipped in gramflour batter. It is usually served with mint chutney and fried green chili.
In Pakistan apart from American Fast food chains, burgers can be found on stalls near shopping areas. The most famous and inexpensive being 'Shami Burger' made from 'Shami Kebab'. It is a Kebab made by mixing lentil and Minced lamb meat. Onions, scrambled egg and ketchup are the most common toppings.
In Malaysia there are 300 McDonald's restaurants. The menu in Malaysia also includes eggs and fried chicken on top of the regular burgers. Burgers are also easily found at nearby mobile kiosks especially Ramly Burger.
In South Africa a mixture of hot mustard and mayonnaise is standard fare for a burger. Usually the mixture will be out, already mixed for partakers.
In Mexico, burgers can be accompanied by ham, and avocado. They also usually have shredded lettuce, onions, tomatoes, bacon, which can be fried or grilled along with the meat patty, cheese, and condiments. Some restaurant's burgers also have barbecue sauce, and others also replace the ground patty with sirloin, meat "al pastor", barbacoa, and other "guisados", a fried chicken breast is also common. In the city of Puebla, the hamburger is often served without the bun, only the meat and the rest of the ingredients, all accompanied by corn "tortillas". Many burger chains from the United States can be found all over Mexico, some are Carl's Jr, Sonic, and the already globalized, Mc Donald's and Burger King.
In Kuwait, burgers had usually been served in franchised operations such as McDonald's, Burger King, Hardee's, Johnny Rockets etc. In 2003, gourmet burgers made an entry with B+F Burger Boutique opened in 2003, which is considered the first Middle Eastern gourmet burger joint. This has started a wave of burger joints entering the market lured by the extreme popularity of fresh made to order burgers. By introducing sliders in the market by B+F Burger Boutique, sliders became extremely popular which in turn called for a restaurant specializing in sliders. Slider Station , which is the world's first conveyor belt slider joint in the world became an instant hit.
In the movie Pulp Fiction, the two assassins played by John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson discuss with amusement the titles given to their beloved burgers in Europe. For instance they marvel that a McDonald's quarter pounder with cheese in France is known as a "Royale with cheese". Samuel L. Jackson's character gives a highly amusing speech to his soon-to-be victims (tucking into burgers before they are blown away) about the burger being "the cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast".
Another character associated with the hamburger is Jughead of Archie Comics. He would often beg his best friend Archie Andrews to buy him a hamburger and was constantly seen hanging out at Pop Tate's restaurant. At one point in the series, Jughead even entered a hamburger eating contest. After defeating his opponent, his only thoughts were to eat more hamburgers.
In 1984, Wendy's aired a series of TV advertisements for its hamburgers in which an elderly woman (played by Clara Peller) commented, "Where's the beef?" when examining competitors' burgers. The quip became a national catchphrase in the United States.
In the mid-1990s, some American fast food restaurants such as Hardee's and Burger King began intensely marketing eating "large hamburgers" (of one half pounds [227 grams] of beef or more) as a sign of masculinity. Using scantily clad women and images of construction workers eating hamburgers, they introduced the notion that eating large hamburgers is a sign of manliness.
The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., as part of its running gag of showing the "true" origins of many turn-of-the-century inventions, features a waitress who comes up with the idea of serving a ground beef patty between two slices of bread as it is easier to eat than steak. She calls them cow pies, much to the cowboy heroes' discomfort.
The video game and anime character Viewtiful Joe loves to eat cheeseburgers, which are his favorite food. Every time he sees a Hamburger Stand or Restaurant he says "Cheeseburger, please!" Another game, the 1982 arcade game Burgertime, features a chef named Peter Pepper trying to make hamburgers while being chased by hot-dogs, pickles and eggs.
Pop performer Jimmy Buffett wrote the song "Cheeseburger in Paradise" in 1978. He was inspired to write it after discovering, to his surprise, a restaurant in the British Virgin Islands serving American cheeseburgers.
Floridian band The Monsters In The Morning made a song about a hamburger and the contents called "Mr. Hamburger".