Burgers: Uncovering the Etymology and Unusual Variations

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  June 1, 2022

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A hamburger (also called a beef burger, hamburger sandwich, burger or hamburg) is a sandwich consisting of one or more cooked patties of ground meat, usually beef, placed inside a sliced bun. Hamburgers are often served with lettuce, bacon, tomato, onion, pickles, cheese and condiments such as mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, relish, and green chile. The term “burger” can also be applied to the meat patty on its own, especially in the UK where the term “patty” is rarely used. The term may be prefixed with the type of meat used, as in “turkey burger”.

Let’s explore the history of the burger, how it’s made, and some of the most popular types.

What is a burger

What Makes Burgers So Popular?

A burger is a sandwich consisting of a filling, typically a patty of ground meat, placed inside a sliced bun or bread roll. The patty is usually made of beef, but there are different types of meat that can be used, such as turkey, pork, buffalo, and even fish. Vegetarian and vegan options are also available, consisting of vegetables, mushroom, or potato patties.

The Process of Making a Burger

The process of making a burger typically involves grinding the meat, adding ingredients like salt, pepper, and other seasonings, and then forming the meat into patties. The patties are then grilled or cooked on a flat surface until they are properly cooked. The buns are sliced and toasted, and then the filling is added, along with any additional ingredients like cheese, sauces, or vegetables.

The Differences Between Burgers

There are many different types of burgers, each with their own unique ingredients and preparation methods. Some of the most popular types of burgers include:

  • American burger: A typical burger consisting of a beef patty, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion.
  • Teriyaki burger: A burger with a teriyaki-flavored patty, topped with pineapple and other Asian-inspired ingredients.
  • Veggie burger: A burger made with a vegetarian or vegan patty, typically consisting of vegetables, mushroom, or potato.
  • Cheeseburger: A burger with cheese added to the patty or on top of the filling.
  • Pizza burger: A burger with pizza sauce and cheese added to the filling.
  • Mushroom burger: A burger with sautéed mushrooms added to the filling.

The Similarities and Differences Between Burgers and Hamburgers

Burgers and hamburgers are often used interchangeably, but there are some differences between the two:

  • Burgers can refer to any type of sandwich consisting of a filling inside a bun or bread roll, while hamburgers (here’s how to grill frozen patties) specifically refer to a sandwich consisting of a beef patty inside a bun or bread roll.
  • Hamburgers are typically made with ground beef, while burgers can be made with a variety of meats or vegetarian options.
  • Hamburgers are often considered to be a more basic type of burger, while other types of burgers can include a wider range of ingredients and flavors.

The Different Fillings and Slices That Can Be Added to a Burger

Burgers can be customized with a wide range of fillings and slices, depending on personal preference and availability. Some popular options include:

  • Cheese slices
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Onion
  • Pickles
  • Bacon
  • Avocado
  • Mushrooms
  • Jalapenos
  • Mint
  • Black beans

The Evolution of Burgers

Burgers have come a long way since they were first created, and they continue to be a popular food option around the world. Some of the ways that burgers have evolved over time include:

  • The addition of new ingredients and flavors
  • The creation of new types of burgers, such as veggie burgers and turkey burgers
  • The use of different cooking methods, such as grilling and frying
  • The availability of burgers in different settings, such as fast food restaurants and gourmet burger joints.

The Meaty History of Burger Terminology

The word “burger” is directly borrowed from the English word “burger” which came from the German city of Hamburg. The city’s name, Hammaburg, was used to describe a fortress in the area. The term “hamburger” was then used to describe a sandwich made with a patty of ground beef that was popularized in the US.

Types of Burgers

Burgers come in different types, and the following are some of the most popular ones:

  • Cheeseburger- a burger with cheese on top of the patty
  • Slider- a small burger that is usually served as an appetizer or snack
  • Sloppy Joe- a sandwich made with ground beef, tomato sauce, and spices
  • Veggie burger- a burger made with vegetables or plant-based substitutes
  • Steak burger- a burger made with steak cuts
  • Buffalo burger- a burger made with buffalo meat
  • Fish burger- a burger made with fish, such as salmon or mahi-mahi

Burger Alternatives

Not everyone eats meat, and some people choose to avoid it for ethical or health reasons. Here are some burger alternatives:

  • Veggie burger- a burger made with vegetables or plant-based substitutes
  • Black bean burger- a burger made with black beans
  • Turkey burger- a burger made with ground turkey
  • Lamb burger- a burger made with ground lamb

Burger Toppings

Burgers can be topped with a variety of ingredients, and the following are some of the most popular ones:

  • Cheese
  • Bacon
  • Egg
  • Pork roll or ham
  • Smoked salmon
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Marinated mushrooms
  • Corned beef
  • Meatball
  • Sausage
  • Kebab
  • Francesinha

Burger Ethics

The consumption of meat has been associated with certain ethical concerns, and some people choose to avoid it altogether. Restaurants and food factories are now offering more vegan and vegetarian options to help cater to these concerns.

The Juicy History of America’s Favorite Fast Food: The Burger

In the early 1870s, a dish called hamburger steak began appearing on American menus. This inexpensive dish was a meat patty served on bread and was named after the German city of Hamburg. While it was not yet known as a burger, it was the true precursor to the burger we know and love today.

The Early Popularity of the Hamburger

By the postwar period, hamburgers had become a common dish in the United States. They were sold at fast food chains and served to customers all over the country. The resulting popularity of the hamburger led to the launching of new chains and a number of related food items.

The Rise of Fast Food Chains

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, fast food chains began to appear all over the world. The most prominent of these chains was McDonald’s, which sold its first hamburger in 1948. The chain’s success led to the opening of new locations and the introduction of new menu items.

The Burger in Popular Culture

The burger has become a prominent part of American social and cultural history. It has been referenced in countless works of fiction, including television shows, comic books, and cartoons. Characters like Popeye the Sailor Man even gained strength from eating burgers and spinach.

The Burger Today

Today, the burger remains a beloved dish all over the world. It has evolved into a number of different variations, including veggie burgers and gourmet burgers. Despite its humble beginnings as an inexpensive dish, the burger has become a symbol of American culture and cuisine.

The Burger World Tour: Exploring the Best Burger Variations from Around the Globe

French chefs have taken the humble burger to new heights by adding their own gourmet twist to it. Some of the best French burger variations include:

  • Burgers with foie gras and truffle sauce
  • Burgers with brie cheese and caramelized onions
  • Burgers with blue cheese and red wine sauce

The Italian Job: Bringing the Flavors of Italy to Your Burger

Italian cuisine is all about bold flavors and fresh ingredients, and Italian chefs have found a way to incorporate these elements into their burgers. Some of the best Italian burger variations include:

  • Burgers with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce
  • Burgers with pesto and sun-dried tomatoes
  • Burgers with parmesan cheese and prosciutto

The Spanish Inquisition: Spicing Up Your Burger Game

Spanish cuisine is known for its bold and spicy flavors, and Spanish chefs have brought this same philosophy to their burgers. Some of the best Spanish burger variations include:

  • Burgers with chorizo and manchego cheese
  • Burgers with serrano ham and roasted peppers
  • Burgers with aioli and paprika

Unusual Burgers: A Culinary Adventure

Have you ever heard of a burger with pickled toppings? Well, this burger features not one, but two types of pickled veggies- cabbage and tomato. The slightly sweet and sour taste of the pickles pairs perfectly with the juicy meat and creamy cheese. This unique burger is usually found in Asian fusion restaurants and is a must-try for those who love a complex taste.

The Crab Cocktail Burger

If you love seafood, this burger is for you. Featuring a juicy crab patty, this burger is topped with a creamy cocktail sauce and slices of fresh tomato. The combination of savory and sweet flavors is simply delicious. This burger is usually found in coastal restaurants and is a perfect pair with a tropical view.

The Pineapple and Bacon Burger

This burger is a classic combination of sweet and savory. The juicy meat is grilled to perfection and topped with crispy bacon and thick slices of sweet pineapple. The garnish of coleslaw adds a slightly tangy taste to the burger. This burger is usually found in American restaurants and is a favorite among those who love a tropical twist.

The Kimchi Burger

For those who love spicy food, this burger is a test of your taste buds. The kimchi topping adds a strong kick to the juicy meat, and the creamy sauce balances out the spiciness. This burger is usually found in Korean restaurants and is a must-try for those who love a fusion of different cultures.

The Goat Cheese and Honey Burger

This burger is a unique combination of sweet and tangy flavors. The juicy meat is topped with creamy goat cheese and drizzled with honey. The garnish of green veggies adds a slightly fresh taste to the burger. This burger is usually found in gourmet restaurants and is a perfect pair with a glass of red wine.

The Nutritional Value of America’s Favorite Classic Burger

  • A single hamburger patty typically contains around 250-300 calories, depending on the size and type of meat used.
  • A quarter-pound burger, yielding about 4 ounces of cooked beef, contains around 400-500 calories.
  • The USDA recommends limiting daily calorie consumption to 2,000-2,500 calories for most adults.
  • A typical hamburger patty consists of ground beef, which is a good source of protein, providing about 20-25 grams per serving.
  • Hamburger meat is also a source of fats, including both saturated and unsaturated fats, which are crucial for energy production and the production of various compounds in the body.
  • A single hamburger patty contains around 10-15 grams of total fat, with about 4-6 grams being saturated fat.
  • Leaner cuts of beef, such as sirloin or round, can be used to make a healthier burger with less fat.

Carbohydrates and Fiber

  • A classic hamburger typically comes inside a sliced bun or bread roll, which adds carbohydrates to the meal.
  • A typical hamburger bun contains around 20-30 grams of carbs, with little to no fiber.
  • Adding condiments, such as ketchup or mustard, can also add additional carbs to the meal.
  • While carbs are an important source of energy, it’s important to consume them in moderation and to choose whole grain options when possible.

Vitamins and Minerals

  • Hamburger meat contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc, and vitamin B12.
  • These nutrients are crucial for general health and well-being, and can help support the body’s immune system, energy production, and more.
  • Consuming a variety of nutrient-rich foods, including lean meats like hamburger (here are some great pellet smoker ones), can help ensure that your body is getting all the vitamins and minerals it needs to function properly.

Carnitine and Amino Acids

  • Hamburger meat is also a good source of carnitine, a nutrient that transports fatty acids to the mitochondria, where they can be used for energy production.
  • Additionally, hamburger meat contains a variety of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein.
  • Consuming adequate amounts of protein and amino acids is crucial for maintaining muscle mass, supporting the immune system, and more.

Fats and Heart Health

  • While hamburger meat does contain some saturated fat, it also contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can have positive effects on heart health.
  • Consuming these healthier fats in moderation can help reduce the risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions.
  • When choosing hamburger meat, look for leaner cuts and try to limit consumption of high-fat condiments, such as cheese or bacon.


Burgers are a popular sandwich consisting of a ground meat patty inside a sliced bun. They’re considered a basic type of burger but there are many different types of burgers with unique ingredients and preparation methods.

I hope this guide has helped you learn all you need to know about burgers and their history.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.