What Is a Hamburger?

Ground beef can be shaped into patties to make hamburgers.
A cheeseburger.
Many people like to top a hamburger with bacon.
Mayonnaise can be used as a topping for a hamburger.
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  • Written By: Zeus Tyrone Mendoza
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 25 March 2014
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The hamburger basically is a cooked ground beef patty that is wedged between two slices of bread. Historical origins of the hamburger stem as far back as 1209 A.D. during the reign of Genghis Khan. While he road and conquered the lands, his Mongolian army would be accompanied by wheeled carts holding sheep, goats, oxen, and horses, which would later be slaughtered for food. Warriors would then take a scrap of meat and place it under their saddles to be flattened and tenderized as they rode into battle. This allowed them to accessibly eat flattened pieces of raw meat when it was time for a meal.

From then on, the early iteration of the hamburger began to travel. Moscow was the first to have steak tartare. Hamburg, Germany, was the first to have hamburg steak. European immigrants coming to early America then began serving meat patties between slices of bread.

There are multiple variations of how the hamburger is served. The typical instance of hamburger is served with lettuce, tomato, and onion. This may be accompanied with other fixings, such as pickles, mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, or cheese, which then turns a hamburger into a cheeseburger. Other popular add-on variations include bacon, egg, pineapple, salsa, and peppers.


Due to ground beef being a primary ingredient in hamburgers, they are high in protein but are also known to be high in fat. Hamburgers can be prepared with variations and alternatives to its ground beef patties, such as lean meat or vegetarian patties. Typically, the vegetarian patties for hamburgers are made from soy, which contains protein as its ground beef counterpart but with much less fat.

While the hamburger comes with a rich history and colorful serving alternatives, it also comes with its controversies. Television personality Oprah Winfrey said on her 15 April 1996 show that she would stop eating hamburgers, and further did an expose on Mad Cow Disease. The documentary "Super Size Me" followed filmmaker Morgan Spurlock who went on a 30-day diet consisting of fast food hamburgers and similar items, which resulted in a 13-percent increase in body mass, as well as a danger of liver dysfunction.


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