Whether you are stopping at a drive-thru window, at a mom-and-pop diner, or even a fine dining restaurant, the chances of being able to get a hamburger to eat are pretty high. Americans love hamburgers, whether they prefer a beef, turkey, or even soy-based version. Restaurant owners often include a burger or two on their menu to appeal to a broad swath of people.
This relatively simple dish can be cooked any number of ways, from grilled to broiled to deep fried. There are also seemingly endless variations on the humble hamburger, whether that means using fancy ingredients, adding fillers, or making them in a miniature size. We have rounded up some of the most common AND the most unusual types of burgers so you can have a better understanding of what type of burger should be on your restaurant’s menu.
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A History of the Hamburger
There is some controversy over the history of the hamburger. The combination of a beef patty and two slices of bread could be found in the United States and Germany long before it was claimed to be invented in one of the two countries between the late 1800s and early 1900s. In fact, there is even evidence that ancient Romans ate a hamburger-like dish known as isicia omentata.
When it comes to the modern hamburger, there are several competing origin stories. According to lore, brothers Frank and Charles Menches were food vendors who sold hamburgers at the 1885 Erie County Fair outside of Buffalo, New York – also known as the Hamburg Fair. The brothers allegedly ran out of their pork sausage sandwiches, and their butcher suggested substituting ground beef. The brothers added spices and other ingredients to the meat and served it on a bun – naming it the hamburger after the fair.
Another origin story comes from Wisconsin, where a young man named Charlie Nagreen sold “Hamburg steaks” at his street stall at the Outagamie County Fair in 1885. Because people didn’t want to stop and eat the steaks, he decided to flatten it and put it between two slices of bread. This became known as the Hamburger Charlie.
In Germany, there is a claim that a man named Otto Kuase created a sandwich for sailors in 1891 that consisted of a beef patty fried in butter, topped with a fried egg, and served between toasted buns. Because Otto sold these sandwiches in Hamburg, Germany, many sailors would request a “Hamburg sandwich” when they arrived at their ports.
There are many other claims to the discovery of the hamburger, including Texas, Rio de Janeiro, and Connecticut. Regardless of the true origins of the hamburger, it is now widely considered an American staple. You can find them everywhere from fast food joints to pubs and breweries to more upscale steakhouses. There are even many variations on the type of meat, including turkey, chicken, lamb, and meat substitutes.
A Guide to the Different Types of Hamburgers
If you run a restaurant, putting a burger on the menu is a great option. There are lots of ways to dress a burger up or down or to customize it to your unique style of patrons’ preferences. With so many styles to choose from, there truly is a burger for everyone. Below, we have put together a list of the main types of burgers to help you plan your menu.
A pub-style burger is usually more substantial than a typical burger, weighing in at 10 ounces or more. They tend to be more rounded in shape than a standard flat burger. These burgers are often broiled or fried in a pan instead of being cooked on a grill.
Sliders aren’t just small burgers – they are a specific type of burger. It is made from a very thin strip of ground beef that is steam-cooked on a griddle with onions on top. Buns are then placed on top of the onions, giving it an extra savory flavor
Fast Food Burgers
Fast food burgers are something that we are all familiar with – thin, flat burgers with standard toppings like ketchup, mustard, lettuce, pickle, and onion. The meat usually comes frozen in pre-formed patties, which are then cooked on a griddle and kept warm. Many fast food restaurants also include vegetarian options now, whether it’s a bean-based burger or a meat substitute like the Impossible Burger.
Some fast food restaurants like Shake Shack and In ‘n Out offer an elevated fast food style burger. These burgers are typically made with fresh beef (instead of frozen) and have higher-quality fresh produce to complement the burgers. You can find these burgers at the higher-end burger chains as well as local burger joints and diners.
Mini hamburgers aren’t the same thing as sliders. They can be any small hamburger that is grilled or broiled (instead of steam griddled), typically without the bed of onions. A mini burger is usually a thicker beef patty and can include a range of components such as cheese, lettuce, mayo, and more.
Steakhouse burgers are mostly defined by where they are served: at steakhouses. However, they are usually made from higher quality beef that is trimmed from the steaks that are being served at the restaurant. They are usually large burgers and are typically broiled rather than grilled or cooked on a griddle.
Some restaurants offer hamburgers made from expensive, high-end cuts of beef like Kobe or Wagyu. While it may be tempting to order a burger made from a premium cut of meat, these burgers often aren’t as delicious as ones made from less expensive cuts.
Another way that some restaurants offer fancy burgers is through extras – like artisanal cheeses, house-made ketchup, brioche buns, or dry-aged beef. Offering these options can be a great way to offer something a bit more upscale without springing for Kobe or Wagyu beef.
Stacked burgers are exactly what they sound like: a burger that is stacked with goodness. Typically, this involves 2 or more patties, like Wendy’s Double. Some stacked burgers add extra buns in between the patties, such as the Big Mac.
Smashed burgers – or smash burgers – are a Midwestern specialty. These burgers are cooked on a hot griddle, with the beef smashed down as it cooks. This results in a burger with an irregular shape, a crispy crunch, and more surface area for the yummy browned bits of a burger.
Butter really does make everything taste better…including burgers. In Wisconsin, you’ll find burgers cooked in butter for a bit of extra yumminess. Once the patty hits the bun, it’s topped with even more butter for more flavor and juiciness.
You may not have ever heard of a Guberburger if you don’t live in Missouri – but you may still want to try it! This burger is a standard hamburger but served with a dollop of melted peanut butter on top. It may be unusual, but by all accounts, it’s delicious.
Green Chile Cheeseburgers
In New Mexico, green chiles are a staple food. You can find almost anything topped with Hatch green chiles in the state – including burgers. Green chile burgers are hamburger patties topped with roasted green chiles and cheese.
In Connecticut, steamed burgers are popular – although they might be an acquired taste. These burgers are made by layering patties in trays inside of a steaming chamber. Once cooked, a melted white cheddar (also steamed) is poured on top.
Typically, when you get a cheeseburger, the cheese itself is melted on top of the patty. However, in Minnesota, the Juicy Lucy burger involves stuffing American cheese inside of a burger patty before cooking it on a griddle.
In Oklahoma, onion burgers are a common variation of a smashed burger. Just like a smash burger, the beef is placed on a griddle and smashed down – but on top of rings of sliced onions. The onions caramelize and fuse to the burger, creating a delicious medley of flavor.
Pimento Cheese Burgers
Pimento cheese is incredibly popular in the South, often spread onto crackers or served on biscuits. Made from shredded cheddar cheese, pimentos, mayonnaise, and spices, this cheese spread can also be placed on top of a burger. In fact, a pimento cheeseburger is a Southern specialty!
During the Depression, many cooks had to learn to make do with less. Slug burgers – common in parts of the South – are a good example of that principle. With a slug burger, the ground meat is extended with fillers like potatoes, bread, flour, or crackers, and then pan-fried.
Despite its name, the bean burger is not made from beans. Instead, it’s a San Antonio specialty. A burger patty is topped with canned refried beans, Cheese Whiz, and crushed Fritos.
Running a Burger Joint? Give Us a Call!
Burgers might be a staple in American cuisine, but that doesn’t mean that they have to be basic. A burger can be almost anything you want it to be, from basic to bougie. Putting at least one type of burger on your menu can be a great way to help your business thrive.
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