Why Is It Called a Hamburger If There’s No Ham?

The iconic hamburger has a rich international history that's still up for debate.

There’s no clear reason as to why a hamburger is called a hamburger, but our best guess is right in the name: The origins can be traced back to Hamburg, Germany.

How did the hamburger get its name?

As Europeans began to immigrate to the United States en masse in the 18th and 19th centuries, they brought with them their favorite foods, including Hamburg steaks, or fried patties of minced beef and chopped onions that were bound together with eggs, bread crumbs, and mild spices.

The burger as we know it today evolved from Hamburg steaks. The name of the German dish was shortened to “Hamburgs” and then, when the beef was eventually sandwiched between two slices of bread, to “hamburgers.”

Some sources claim the word “hamburger” first appeared on a menu in 1873, when Delmonico’s restaurant in New York City advertised a hamburger steak. Americans later abbreviated it to “burgers.”

There is no difference! While we can’t say for sure why a hamburger is called a hamburger, beef burgers are still called hamburgers, even though there’s no ham in them.

What is the difference between a beef burger and a hamburger?

You’ve likely heard one of the other great food-centric debates of our generation: Is a hot dog a sandwich? Here’s a related and equally controversial take: Although the hamburger originated as a beef patty (or meatballs) placed between two slices of bread, a burger is not a sandwich.

Why is a burger not a sandwich?

In order to explain, we’ll refer you to the origins of the sandwich. In the 18th century, on the rainy isle known as England, the Earl of Sandwich grew frustrated with the way mealtime was constantly interrupting his day.

He ordered his cook to serve him meat placed within slices of bread so that he didn’t have to abandon his duties for a meal. And so the sandwich was born. Of course, as is the case with these things, the convenient dish became incredibly popular.