Why Are Hamburgers Called Hamburgers?

Why Are Hamburgers Called Hamburgers?

In what has to be one of the weirdest food names since head cheese, which is about as far away from cheese as you can get, is the world-famous hamburger. Seriously, they are not ham. They are not even from a pig! Instead, we grill up ground beef patties straight from the cow, serve it on a bun with some condiments, and call it a hamburger. So why is that? Why are hamburgers called hamburgers? Are the hamburger, hot dog, and all other grilled meat served between a bun destined to be labeled with misleading names?

Well here is a little history to explain just how we got to calling these delicious creations hamburgers.

Why Are Hamburgers Called Hamburgers?

To get to the bottom of this mystery we have to go back to late 18th century Germany. It is here in the well-known town of Hamburg that sailors would often purchase slabs of salted mincemeat which would appropriately be called Hamburg steak. Although not nearly as appetizing as our modern steaks, these hard slabs of meat were able to withstand the journey to North America, which is the only quality the food during this time needed in order to be a hot ticket item for sailors.

These Germans that were regularly traveling to the US were bringing along their tasty meat treats. When some of these Germans eventually began permanently migrating across the water, they made sure to bring along some of the foods that they knew and loved. Which of course meant plenty of Hamburg steak to go around. As Americans began to get more and more accustomed to this form of meat patty, it paved the way for modern-day hamburgers to come along.

History of the Hamburger

So where did the modern hamburger come from? Well, frankly your guess is about as good as ours. There are numerous whispers and mumbles out there in the world as to where they originated, but honestly, documentation was not very good a hundred years ago and people are known to tell tall tales. Some of the most famous origin stories are that hamburgers originated in a small Athens, Texas cafe in 1880 or a New Haven food wagon in 1900.

Regardless of who invented the concept of the hamburger, there is one vital component to the food that we do know for certain of its true creator. The genuine inventor of the hamburger bun was fry cook Walter Anderson in 1916, who elevated the hamburger game through his ingenious creation of the White Castle fast-food chain.

From there we all know the important American icon that hamburgers turned into. So back to the original question of why we call them hamburgers when they are not made of ham. Well, the pretty basic explanation is that they appeared to be a variation of the famous Hamburg steak to turn-of-the-century Americans, so they paid homage to the German city food by calling them hamburgers.


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