When it comes to grilling, the humble hamburger is one of the staple foods we toss on our grills, but have you ever spent any time thinking about where this tasty treat actually came from? The history of the hamburger is a long and interesting one and we figured it would be great to take a look at it here.
The Early Beginnings of Hamburgers
When you delve into the history of the hamburger, you will find that as far back as ancient Egypt there were people enjoying ground meat patties in various incarnations. It may not always have been known as a hamburger, but essentially that it what it was. It is believed that Genghis Khan’s armies (1121-1209) would eat ground meat patties made from scraps of mutton or lamb which had been stored under the saddle which helped to tenderize the meat. These patties could be eaten as the men road and would be consumed raw. This could be the first instance of what we now know as a hamburger! This tradition was taken to Russia by Khubilai Khan where Russians refined the dish adding onion and eggs to create what is know as steak tartare.
The history of the hamburger then moves to Germany where steak tartare was adopted and soon took on the name ‘Hamburg Steak’, a name introduced by sailors who purchased the delicacy in the port of Hamburg. The dish was popular both cooked and raw among the poor people as it consisted of the cheapest meat cuts minces and seasoned with spices. Somewhere along the line the cooked patties were served between 2 slices of bread and the hamburg we know and love today began to take shape.
The History of The Hamburger In America
It is not clear who first made the classic American hamburger and bun combination. There are many stories and much of it comes down to whether or not you count the patty served between slices of bread or not.
One of the men who claim to be the father of the hamburger we know and love today is Charlie Nagreen of Wisconsin. In 1885 a 15 year old Charlie was trying to make a living selling meatballs at the county fair. However the meatballs were not a great shape for eating on the move and people were not keen to buy them. In a flash of genius Charlie flattened his meatballs and served them on slices of bread. He return to the fair with his creations every year until 1951 and was known locally as Hamburger Charlie and his home town still holds an annual burger festival.
However, the history of the hamburger is not that cut and dried! Oscar Weber Bilby also claims to have invented the first Hamburger in America in 1891 in Oklahoma. The Bilby family concede that the sandwich version pre-dates Oscar’s, but maintain that he was the first to serve burgers on a bun as we are now familiar with. Does this make him the true father of our hamburgers?
We will leave you to decide!