How Did The Hamburger Get Its Name?


One of the most popular and loved American fast foods is the hamburger, along with French fries and a cola drink on the side. As per surveys, on average, Americans eat three hamburgers a week. That’s a national total of nearly 50 billion burgers per year. There is no doubt about the fact that the number is quite shocking!

Though hamburger is so popular, have you ever wondered why is it called so when there is no ‘ham’ in it? Ham is pork from a leg cut that has been preserved by wet or dry curing, with or without smoking. However, the hamburger, by definition, is a sandwich consisting of one or more cooked patties of ground meat, usually beef, placed inside a sliced bread roll or bun.

​Why the name?

‘Hamburg’ is the second-largest city in Germany. It is a port city along the Elbe river in northern Germany and is now a tourist destination known for its museums, architecture, and markets. Back in the late 18th century, Germans immigrated to America on the Hamburg-America Line and brought with them the “Hamburg” steak, consisting of minced, salted beefsteak.

In 1747, Hannah Glasse’s English cookbook ‘The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy’ mentioned a recipe of smoked sausage of minced beef that came to be known as “Hamburg” sausage. Later, in 1802, the Oxford English Dictionary included the “Hamburg” steak in its publication and defined it as a “hard slab of salted, minced beef, often slightly smoked, mixed with onions and bread crumbs.”

The conflicted history of American Hamburger

It was in the year 1873 when a steakhouse in New York City known as “Delmonico’s” opened and displayed the “Hamburg” steak in its menu for a price of ten cents. However, there are various other claims of creating the hamburger. For instance, in 1885, at a fair in Hamburg—a town in New York—brothers Frank and Charles Menches were low on pork and decided to use beef in their sandwiches instead. In the very same year, at the Outagamie County Fair in Seymour, Wisconsin, teenager Charlie Nagreen claimed to have a similar idea.

The modern American Hamburger

In the year 1900, Louis Lassen of Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut, served what could be the modern hamburger. It included ground beef between two slices of bread. Almost after a hundred years, in 2000, the U.S. Library of Congress intervened in the debate and said that Louis Lassen in New Haven, Connecticut, had served the first American hamburger.