Why are Hamburgers Called Hamburgers?

If there’s one thing that people associate with American cuisine, it’s hamburgers. But there are many people don’t know the history behind its name. So, why are hamburgers called hamburgers? 

The word is not inspired by the ingredient ham, but because of its city of origin: Hamburg. Immigrants from Hamburg brought Hamburger steaks to America, which Americans started using as patty for burgers. Soon, this evolved to become the famous hamburgers we know today.

Learn more about the origins of this word and other fun facts in this article below.

Why are Hamburgers Called Hamburgers?

You might be surprised, but hamburgers don’t really have anything to do with ham. This dish takes its name not from the ingredients but from the city of origin: Hamburg, Germany.

It is unclear who originally used the term “hamburger,” but in the late 19th/early 20th century, Americans began marketing ground beef patties as “hamburger steak” or “hamburger sausage.” A large number of German immigrants brought this dish with them to America from the region around Hamburg, Germany. 

Over the course of time, the name was eventually shortened to “hamburger,” and then later even to “burger,” although “hamburger” is still valid. Most of the subsequent changes to the name were based on the original “burger” concept.

If you add cheese to a hamburger, you have a cheeseburger, and so on. Many non-Americans use the term “burger” without knowing its origins because it has spread so widely around the globe as the United States has exported its culture and cuisine.

Interesting fact: the word “hamburger” literally means “from Hamburg.” Thus, a person from Hamburg is called a Hamburger. Languages like English and German have a knack for creating a demonym (i.e., the title used for a group of residents of a specific place) using a toponym (i.e., the name of a place) through the addition of the suffix -er to the toponym. However, this characteristic is more common and more widely used in German than it is in English. 

People from London are called Londoners, those from Berlin are called Berliners, and those from Hamburg are called Hamburgers.

In English, we add an -s to words like “Hamburger” and “Frankfurter” to produce the plural (the Hamburger becomes “the Hamburgers,” and “Frankfurters” becomes “the Frankfurters”). But this is not the case in German, wherein demonyms ending in -er always retain their singular form when used in the plural.

Was Hamburger Invented in Germany?

Hamburg is recognized for placing foods on buns, but the most well-known savory Rundstück from Hamburg is the Fischbrötchen, which can be filled with (salted or pickled) herring, mackerel, and sometimes shrimp. Additionally, they have something similar to Danish pastries called Franzbrotchen, which are sweet buns that generally have cinnamon and preserves.

Hamburger, signifying a meat patty on a bun, didn’t become widely used in Germany before the previous half century, while the combination of wheat bread and minced beef (Frikadelle) with sauces had been around for much longer. 

The history of the Hamburg steak sandwich is disputed among writers, with some saying it was created on emigrant ships traveling from Hamburg to New York and others saying it was created elsewhere in the United States and given the name hamburger because it sounded like frankfurter or wiener.

The Best Hamburger Meats

When it comes to cooking burgers, ground chuck is the type of beef that comes out on top as the superior option. The beef used to make ground chuck originates from the cow’s shoulders. The combination of lean meat and fat in it creates the ideal harmony of flavor and juiciness in the finished product.

The fat content of ground chuck, at around 20%, is ideal for producing juicy and tasty hamburgers. Burgers made with ground chuck are less likely to come apart when grilling thanks to the meat’s high fat content. Hamburgers benefit greatly from the flavor and tenderness of ground chuck because it contains a reasonable amount of marbling.

Ground sirloin is another excellent choice for burgers. When compared to ground chuck, ground sirloin is both leaner and contains less fat, making it a more nutritious choice. Trimmed from the cow’s lower back portion, this cut of beef is very lean and delicate. In comparison to ground chuck, ground sirloin is slightly more costly but still a fantastic choice for preparing burgers.

When shopping for hamburger meat, it’s best to select ground or finely ground beef rather than coarse ground beef. Burger patties made with finely ground beef will have a smoother texture and better binding properties.

Make sure the beef you use hasn’t been sitting around for too long. If you want to make sure you’re getting the most fresh ground beef, look at the expiration date on the package or ask your local butcher. Beef color is another thing to keep an eye out for. The color of ground beef should be uniformly red, with no brown or gray areas.

In short, ground chuck and ground sirloin serve as the superior choices for preparing hamburgers. Both of these cuts of beef have just the right amount of fat to create for juicy, delicious burgers. Ground chuck is the ideal choice for people who prefer a more classic, juicy burger, whereas ground sirloin is the preferred option for people who want a more nutritious option.

Why is it Called Hamburger and Not Just Burger?

The term “burger” is an just a shortened form of “hamburger” used in America. Hamburg steak was the precursor to the American hamburger, which had its beginnings in the late 19th century. It was named after the city of Hamburg, Germany, where pounded beef was becoming an increasingly common main course at the time, and it was brought to the United States by German immigrants.

After some time had passed, the working class, blue collar Americans grabbed this pounded steak and put it between two buns, for the sake of eating it on-the go, right out of hand. This immediately followed the development of ground beef into the form of patties. 

Burgers have been the hallmark of American food culture ever since their introduction in the early 1920s, and there is some controversy as to whether White Castle was the company that was first to develop a chain exclusively focused around this type of food.

Americans now have a plethora of options that they love to tuck between soft buns, like fish burgers, bean burgers, turkey burgers, and mushroom burgers. Cover with lettuce, then top with tomatoes from the garden and the preferred dressing. 

But for the most majority of consumers, nothing but a beef patty will do when it comes to a hamburger. Ground beef is seasoned with salt and pepper and occasionally enhanced with cooked onion that has been sliced into small pieces before being formed into patties.


Hamburgers are a hallmark of the American cuisine, so if you’re a fan of them, it might be interesting to learn about their history and how their name came to be. After all, every food we eat has a rich history that dates to different populations and origins; in this case, it is the city of Hamburg.

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