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What is a Cheeseburger?

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  • Written By: Dana Hinders
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Images By: Louella Folsom, Jasmin Merdan, Gena, Bert Folsom, Sparkia, Bert Folsom, Bro. Jeffrey Pioquinto, Sj, Viktor
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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A cheeseburger, a hamburger topped with a slice of cheese, is often considered to be part of the classic American meal. Even though this sandwich is frequently criticized as a major factor in the United States obesity epidemic, it’s an indulgence that doesn’t appear to be disappearing in the near future.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a bit of a debate as to who deserves credit for inventing the cheeseburger. According to Time magazine, Lionel Sternberger invented the cheeseburger in 1924 when he was a high school student working part-time at his father’s grill in Pasadena, California. However, Kaelin's Restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky and the Humpty Dumpty Barrel Drive-In in Denver, Colorado also claim to have invented this American favorite.

Cheeseburgers are available from a variety of sources, but finding a burger that suits your tastes can require some experimentation. The cheeseburgers served at fast food restaurants such as McDonalds® or Burger King® and the pre-cooked microwaveable burgers available at gas stations or convenience stores are convenient, but they’re in a completely different culinary class than the homemade cheeseburgers cooked up by amateur chefs at backyard barbecues or the specialty burgers served at certain upscale eating establishments across the United States.

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Although a simple cheeseburger consists of a bun, ground beef patty, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion, this sandwich leaves plenty of room for creativity. Experimenting with additions such as mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce, and mayonnaise can help add a different flavor to your burger. A bacon cheeseburger is also a popular variation, as are burgers that use mozzarella, pepper jack, or other specialty cheeses. The “Juicy Lucy” — a cheeseburger in which the cheese is placed inside the raw meat patty before cooking — is another fun alternative.

If you’re watching your weight, it’s a good idea not to make cheeseburgers a regular part of your diet. However, you don’t have to give up your favorite food completely. Using ground turkey instead of ground beef and substituting reduced-fat cheese can make your burger more nutritious. Some people even ditch the cheeseburger bun entirely to create a low-carb alternative.

Since the cheeseburger is a popular favorite with young children, enterprising parents have created a number of similar dishes in an effort to add mealtime variety. The cheeseburger casserole is a one-dish meal that combines ground beef, cream of cheddar soup, cream of mushroom soup, frozen French fries, and assorted seasonings. Cheeseburger spaghetti is another child-friendly dish that uses ground beef, tomato soup, bacon, and shredded cheddar cheese.

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