Remember when we talked about Why Is Corned Beef Called ‘Corned Beef’ When It Contains No Corn? Inspired by that article, Anthony C. from Milwaukee sent the following question to our inbox*: “Why a hamburger is called a hamburger when it contains no ham?”.
Here’s the interesting story behind the name of one of America’s signature foods.
During the 12th century, a nomadic group called Tartars was living in Central Asia. One of the tribe’s favorite food was raw beef. But because raw meat is hard to chew, they would put a slab of beef under their saddles and allow the up-and-down movement of the horse to turn the meat into bits. When they reached their destination, this minced beef was seasoned with salt, pepper and onion juice and enjoyed after a long day of riding. If the name Tartars sounds familiar, it’s because this food is what we today call Tartare steak. (the article continues after the ad)
This Tartar’s recipe was discovered by a merchant from Hamburg, Germany who happened to meet the nomads during one of his journeys. This merchant introduced this technique to his hometown and soon enough people from nearby regions started referring to it as the Hamburg steak (the steak the way they do it in Hamburg, Germany).
When during the 19th century a cook decided to boil this concoction instead of serving it raw, the name changed to hamburger to distinguish raw beef (hamburg steak) from cooked meat (hamburger).
So, how did it end up in the United States?
It’s believed that it was brought there by the early German immigrants during the 1800s. It’s modern form (served in buns) was first appeared during the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904 and since then it was just called hamburger.
* You can send your own questions at hello[at]theuijunkie.com.
If you like what you read, then you will definitely love this one: Why Is Corned Beef Called ‘Corned Beef’ When It Contains No Corn?
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Sources: Why is it called a hamburger when it’s not made of ham? | Ever Wonder Why?: Here Are the Answers!