The Impact of Germany on the Development of the Hamburger

The Hamburger lies on the list of the world’s most popular foods. America alone is known to sell 50 billion hamburgers annually. However, the humble beef-patty-on-the-bun is not more than 100 years old. It is associated with World War II soldiers, American businessmen, medieval traders, German political refugees, and Neolithic farmers.

Hamburgers are known to be America’s favorite food. Hamburgers can be commonly discovered at the drive-through windows of the fast-food chains, in hole-in-all-walls diners, and on the menus of Michelin-starred restaurants. The flavors of Hamburger steak originated from casseroles, and burger lovers even dip their burgers in peanut butter, which is another favorite food in America. 

Worldwide, McDonald’s sells around 75 hamburgers every second. In contrast, 4,500 hamburgers are sold in a minute.  So, what is the origin of hamburgers? 

It may not sound astonishing, but the world’s most famous burger originated in Hamburg, Germany. During the 19th century, Hamburg steaks earned fame among Americans. All thanks to the quality beef mince from German Hamburg cows. It was the evolution of the burger!

What is the origin of the Hamburger?

You might have come across the fact that the Hamburger got its name from Hamburg, Germany.  Most of the evidence believes Hamburg to be the first country to combine two slices of bread and a Hamburg steak to develop a “hamburger sandwich.” Although the idea of hamburgers did come from Hamburg, the concept of the sandwich popped up much later. 

In fact, according to some people,  the idea of minced beef existed before the idea of hamburgers. It is known that the Mongol horsemen first consumed a similar style of beef, steak tartare, in the 12th century. The fashion came around via the trade routes of Russia before coming to Germany.

Soon after the 19th century, beef gained from German Hamburg cows was grounded and added with garlic, onion, salt, and pepper. It is then turned into patties (without bun or sandwich) to make beef Hamburg steaks. These Hamburg steaks were known to be quite expensive, given the style of Hamburg beef.

How did ground beef come to America?

The preparation of ground beef was placed with the domestication of cattle and the development of Hamburg, Germany, as an independent trading city in the 12th century. 

Speaking of the era of 1848, when political riot shook 39 states of the German confederation, which resulted in the immigration of Germans to the United States. German people came with German cuisines; beer gardens were made in American cities, while butchers adopted the ultimate style of beef preparation. 

Hamburg was considered an important city because of its high-quality beef; restaurants made “Hamburg-style” beef steak. In the middle of the 19th century in America, preparations of raw beef that were chopped, chipped, and ground became a usual prescription for digestive issues. 

Where was the Hamburger invented?

As soon as the German immigrants arrived in New York and Chicago, many of them opened restaurants for a living. Menus of those restaurants frequently mentioned Hamburg steaks, an Americanized version of the German offering. At that time, it was one of the most expensive dishes. 

At the time of the industrial revolution, factory workers were served with Hamburg steaks. Hamburg steaks alone were quite difficult to eat, so one creative chef put the Hamburg steak between two slices of bread. (the name of the inventor was lost from history). Hence, the Hamburger sandwich came into being, an innovation that took over and enhanced the food’s popularity in America.

Who invented the Hamburger?

Although the name of the actual inventor is lost to history, yet few characters can be considered for the title. Those names include Louis Lassen (in New Haven, Connecticut), Charlie and Frank Menches (Hamburg, New York), and Hamburger Charlie (Nagreen in Seymour, Wisconsin).

Hamburger and America

The migration of the Germans to the United States began in the 18th century. It increased in the first half of the 19th century. In New York, Hamburg food was extremely famous. Steaks and minced meats such as steak tartare were part of those Hamburg cuisines. 

So, what was the history of the Hamburger in America?

Along with industrialized meat processing, Hamburg steak began to get more fame in America. In that era, when wealth was increased, beef also became economical for more people, and beef-related cuisines such as beef steaks were preferred over other foods. 

“Hamburger” is undoubtedly an origin from Hamburg-style food. Yet, the title of “inventor of the Hamburger sandwich” is claimed by multiple people. One is “Charlie Nagreen” (1871-1951) from Wisconsin, a midwestern state of the US from those various people. 

While he was vending his beef steaks on the stalls of the annual Outagamie County fair and customers complained about how hard it is to eat Hamburg steak on the go. He might be one of the earliest vendors who introduced the concept of hamburgers. He flattened the beefsteak and used bread slices as a source of holding the steak and consumed it. 

Charlie Nagreen belonged to the town of Seymour, Wisconsin. People of this town still celebrate this victory and have set his nickname as “Hamburger Charlie.”

What are the controversial origins of the Hamburger?

The exact origin of the Hamburger may not be known with certainty. Most of the historiographers think that it was introduced by a cook who placed a Hamburg steak in bread slices in the town of Texas. In contrast, some believe that the founder of White Castle invented it. However, the evidence for this origin is scarce.

The first “birth of the burger” stories belong to Canton, Ohio, natives Frank and Charles Menches, known as food vendors in the 1885 County Fair outside Buffalo.  Another name that came around was that Charlie Nagreen belonged to Seymore, Wisconsin. At the age of 15, he sold Hamburg steaks in the street stalls of the annual Outagamie County Fair. 

Fletcher Davis (known as Old Dave) was the cook who was considered another inventor of Hamburger. He had this idea of placing Hamburg steak in between two slices of bread when one of the customers was in a hurry to sit for this meal. 

There are other additional claims too, as to the origin of the Hamburger. Some fanatics believe that hamburgers could have originated in Sao Goncalo, a state located in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro. 

Ingredients of the Hamburger

Hamburg steaks that were previously served with slices of bread afterward started to be made with different ingredients. These ingredients were either added to the sandwich or served with the Hamburger additionally on the plate. 

One of those ingredients is Ketchup, a sauce made from tomatoes mixed with sour and sweet flavors. It was first invented by chef Henry John Heinz in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1869. Other ingredients were counted in Vegetables, one of which was onion (sliced in rings). Other than onion, lettuce, coleslaw and pickle were also introduced later.

Final Word

Hamburgers are undoubtedly one of the most popular foods in the world. They are most popular among Americans. It is believed that hamburgers have originated in Hamburg, Germany, as most Germans during the 18th century migrated to America and their traditional foods, including Hamburg steaks. By then, hamburgers were introduced as some vendors started to keep Hamburg steaks in bread buns.