The history of the hamburger: the origins of the iconic sandwich

The story of the burger is simply fascinating. The dish, which is now the most popular item in fast-food restaurants, has come a long way before it went global. The origin of the name hamburger is said to be linked to the city of Hamburg in Germany, where emigrants made a meat patty to take back to America. Although some aspects of the story are disputed, it is certain that the hamburger as a food became popular in the United States in the early 1900s.

The first officially recorded burger was served around 1900 by Louis Lassen, who ran a small diner in Connecticut. The story goes that he made the first hamburger for a customer in a hurry, looking for a quick meal that he could eat on the go.

Lassen then cut slices of meat and placed them between two pieces of bread to create the base of the hamburger. Over the decades, the hamburger has undergone many changes, as the simple meat patty has been supplemented with fresh vegetables, cheese and various sauces. Today, there are gourmet burgers with a wide variety of ingredients.

The success of the hamburger was unprecedented in the United States and by the mid-20th century it had spread to many parts of the world. Fast-food chains such as McDonald’s and Burger King helped to make the burger a global favourite, and it has become part of countless cultures. The hamburger is not just a food, but rather a symbol of modern consumerism and globalisation.

Of course, waffles are also on the Onios brunch menu.


The origin of the hamburger

The name hamburger is directly linked to the city of Hamburg in Germany, as it was already in Europe before the American meat pie.

The role of the city of Hamburg

Hamburg is a major port city in Germany, which has long played a central role in the emigration of European citizens to America. It was here that the so-called Hamburg steak, originally a roasted, spicy mince served to passengers on their way to sea, was developed.

The history of Hamburg steak

The predecessor of the Hamburg steak was a German dish with its roots in a medieval dish called klopse. In Germany, this meatball was minced and seasoned for preservation, and the resulting dish was later sold under the name Hamburg.

The American history of the hamburger

The history of the hamburger in the United States of America is closely intertwined with the recipes brought by European immigrants, especially Germans. In the late 19th century, hamburger meatballs began to be served flattened and sandwiched between bread, creating an early version of the hamburger as we know it today. The first restaurants serving hamburgers were often owned by German immigrants, but the dish quickly became popular in American culture.

Evolution and variations of burgers

The evolution of the hamburger is a series of stages. Initially made from simple ground beef, the meat patties have now been expanded to include special, local seasonings.

Classic and regional burger variations

The classic hamburger is still based on ground beef, seasoned with salt and pepper and served on a bun, often topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles. In the US, different regions offer burgers with different flavours. For example, the California burger is enriched with avocado and fresh sprouts, while the New Mexico burger is sprinkled with cheddar cheese and green chilli.

Hamburgers with special meat

For those looking for variety, lamb burgers or turkey burgers can be made with lamb or turkey. The Angus beef burger is for lovers of premium ground beef, made from Angus beef.

Vegetarian and other alternative burgers

The veggie burger can be prepared in a variety of ways, for example with lentils, chickpeas or other legumes. The fish burger is made from fish, which is a refreshing new addition to the world of meat burgers.

Angus beef burger

The Angus beef burger is truly unique because of its intense flavour and special texture. Angus beef mince offers an unrivalled experience of colour, flavour and texture compared to a traditional burger.

The impact of the hamburger on culture and society

The hamburger has become intimately intertwined with the modern fast-food world, and has had a significant impact on American and even global culture.

Fast food restaurant chains

Fast food chains have revolutionised the food industry by offering consumers affordable and readily available food. McDonald’s or Burger King, as popular fast food restaurants, have been at the forefront of this movement. The opening of the first White Castle store in 1921 is considered historic as it created the future of the fast food concept. However, the negative impact on health is a common objection to fast food chains, including burgers.

Fast food chainsTheir relevance
White CastleThe first networked burger-based fast food restaurant.
McDonald’sIt has had a significant cultural impact around the world.
Burger KingA serious competitor in the global fast food market.
Fast food restaurant chains

Hamburger in American culture

The hamburger is not just a food, it is a symbol of the American lifestyle and identity. Over the years, the hamburger has become a prominent part of American culture, appearing in films, music and many areas of the media. Its spread by fast food chains around the world reinforces the cultural influence of Americans.

  • The hamburger in pop culture: it is often featured in American films and television shows, which contributes to its popularity.
  • Health considerations: there is a lot of debate and controversy surrounding hamburgers because of their negative health effects. Moreover, most customers choose it when ordering from fast food restaurants.

Despite changing dietary habits and the rise of health-conscious eating, the hamburger continues to play a leading role in gastronomy and culture.

Key people and events

The history of the hamburger has been shaped by the people who have continually improved it, as well as the events that still influence the image of this world-famous dish today.

Players in the history of the hamburger

  • Charlie Nagreen (Hamburger Charlie) – In 1885, at the age of 15, he is said to have served the first hamburger at the Wisconsin State Fair in Seymour.
  • Louis Lassen – Known as the owner of Louis’ Lunch restaurant, where he made the first hamburger around 1900
  • Frank and Charles Menches – The brothers sold roast ground beef on buns at the Erie County Fair in 1885.
  • Fletcher Davis (Old Dave) – According to sources from the 1880s, he made hamburgers in a Texas restaurant and is said to have introduced the dish at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.
  • Oscar Weber Bilby – At his 1891 party in Oklahoma, the Bilbys reportedly served hamburgers on homemade buns for the first time.

Major inventions and turning points

  • 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair – This event is linked to the explosion in popularity of the hamburger, where Fletcher Davis introduced this new type of food and gave people the opportunity to try it
  • White Castle – In 1921, the first fast food chain opened in Kansas, revolutionising the mass production of burgers and introducing the product to the hospitality industry

Ingredients and preparation of burgers

The burger is a tasty and popular fast food, with the basic ingredients of a bun and meat patty, enriched with vegetables, cheese and different sauces. The specific ingredients and preparation techniques are varied, so everyone can find an alternative to suit their tastes.

The ingredients of a hamburger

The base of the burger is the bun, which can be white or wholemeal, or flavoured, for example with sesame seeds.  The meat patty is usually beef, and the meat can be grilled or put on a griddle, usually seasoned with salt and pepper. Other elements of the sandwich may include cheese, which goes particularly well with meatballs when melted, and onions, which may be raw, grilled or caramelised. Other popular ingredients include lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, sauces and many other delicacies.

  • Bread/Bread rolls: white flour, wholemeal, sesame seed
  • Meat: beef meatballs
  • Seasoning: salt, pepper
  • Cheese: cheddar, gouda, etc.
  • Onions: raw, grilled, caramelized

The ingredients of a hamburger

Hamburger recipes and preparation techniques

When putting together a burger, it is important to prepare the meat properly, whether on the grill or on a griddle. The perfect texture and flavour is achieved by cooking the meat at high temperatures, so that the crust is crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The buns are often toasted so that they are firmer and less likely to get soggy. Creativity plays a big part in burger making, so it can be very varied. However, it is a classic combination of fried meatballs, cheddar cheese, mustard, ketchup, lettuce and freshly sliced tomatoes.

  • Meatball:
    • Cooking: high temperature on the grill or on an iron griddle
    • Seasoning: salt and pepper
  • Zsemle:
    • Fried
  • Compilation:
    • Layering: meatballs, cheese, sauce, vegetables
    • Variations: served with different side dishes as required

Economic and social impact of the hamburger

The hamburger has had a significant impact on the fast food market. Its role in restaurant and snack bar turnover, the development of the catering industry and the global economy is significant.

The burger and the economy

Revenues from the sale of hamburgers are an important factor in the market, representing the main source of income for many restaurants and other catering outlets. The fast food industry is a multi-billion dollar business and includes:

  • Restaurant sales: hamburger sales account for a significant proportion of restaurant and stall revenues, with customers looking for a quick and convenient meal.
  • Job creation: for many chefs and vendors, the main income comes from selling burgers
  • Sourcing of ingredients: bulk purchases of meat products, vegetables and bakery products are needed, which will facilitate the growth of different agricultural segments.

Hamburger in different parts of the world

The global presence of the hamburger contributes to the growth of the global economy. The impact on the market is different in different regions:

  • The US business model influences global gastronomic demands and eating habits
  • Adapted to different local cultures, with local flavours and ingredients, the hamburger takes on different forms in different parts of the world.
  • Competition between international franchise systems and local restaurants leads to improved quality and more variety.

The economic and social impact of hamburgers as a food is therefore remarkable, both locally and globally. The economic chain of sale and consumption extends from livestock production to the consumer meal.

Food safety and health considerations

Throughout the history and evolution of the hamburger, the safety and health impact of the food has become increasingly important, particularly with regard to fat content and alternative, healthier options.

Fat content and health effects

The high fat content of hamburgers, especially red meat rich in animal fats, is harmful to the cardiovascular system. Regular consumption of high-fat foods can lead to obesity, heart disease and other health problems.

NutrientsEffects on health
Saturated fatRise in cholesterol
Trans fatIncreased risk of heart disease

In line with the principles of a healthy diet, it is recommended to reduce the intake of saturated and trans fats and to exclude ingredients that are harmful to health from the diet.

Healthier alternatives to eating burgers

Health-conscious consumers are also constantly looking for lower-fat or vegetarian alternatives to burgers, such as chicken breast or fish-based burgers, as well as plant-based meat substitutes (such as lentil, quinoa or soy-based meat substitutes).

  • Reduced fat meat: beef or poultry meat with lower fat content
  • Vegetarian alternatives: plant-based meat substitutes that are similar in taste and texture to meat, but have a significantly lower fat content
  • Wholemeal bakery products: replacing refined carbohydrates with high-fibre, wholemeal bakery products

Preferring a healthy lifestyle involves choosing ingredients that are high in nutrients, striving to reduce intake of unhealthy fats and contributing to a healthy diet.

Accessories and drinks

Burgers are often served with different sauces, such as mayonnaise and ketchup. These sauces are not only used to enhance the flavour of the bun and meat, but also go well with the side dishes served. Mayonnaise has a piquant taste, creamy texture and light texture, while ketchup has a distinctive tomato flavour that complements the traditional flavours of a hamburger.

French fries are the most popular side dish for burgers, and are usually seasoned with salt and pepper. The crispy exterior and soft interior of the fries contrast perfectly with the burger.

The best accompaniment to a burger is a fizzy drink. Available in a variety of flavours and sugar-free versions, there’s a drink to suit everyone.

Over the years, the combination of hamburger, mayonnaise, ketchup and French fries has become a classic menu in the world of gastronomy. The wide range of complementary dishes and the huge number of refreshments available allow everyone to create a burger menu to suit their tastes.