Burgers or hamburgers are considered among the most favorite foods in America. They can be bought in hole-in-the-wall diners, at drive-thru fast-food chains, and even on the menus of Michelin-starred restaurants. No wonder they occupy a unique place in the American mind, and there’s a good reason behind it. This deliciousness includes perfectly seared meat, gooey cheese, fresh buns, and tasty whatever toppings you like. Plus, burgers are affordable, portable, and just really good.
If you also love burgers, you’ll likely love this post, too. In this article, we are going to give you more information about burgers, including their history, different types, what they are made of, and the different toppings that can be incorporated into them. In addition to that, we are also giving you some data and statistics about burgers, such as the biggest burger chains and the burger market in the United States. Also included in this post are some of the most interesting facts about burgers that you need to know.
It is quite unclear who the true inventor of the burger is. There is a common misconception that the first hamburger was made in Hamburg, Germany. The inspiration for the hamburger may have come from Hamburg, but the sandwich concept was invented much later.
Hamburg became popular for its beef, which came from cows that were raised in the regional countryside during the 19th century. This type of beef was commonly chopped, seasoned, and molded into patties. Back then, refrigeration was not yet available, and it had to be cooked immediately. It also came with a hefty price tag outside of its native land and was usually substituted with less expensive varieties of beef.
Origin of Burger in America
In the 19th century, groups of German immigrants started to arrive in America. A lot of them earned their livelihood by operating restaurants in large cities, including New York and Chicago. It was not long before their menus began featuring an Americanized version of the Hamburg steak, which was beef minced or chopped and mixed with salt, onions, pepper, and garlic, then fried or grilled.
Delmonico’s restaurant in New York offered a Hamburg steak on its first menu in 1937. It was priced at ten cents, which was the most expensive item on the menu, twice the price of pork chops, roast beef, and veal cutlets. In 1876, Hamburg steaks were served to thousands of customers at Philadelphia’s Centennial Exposition. After that, it became sought after and could be found in non-German restaurants. This is where the connection between Hamburg, Germany, and America’s classic hamburger ends.
In the mid-1800s, two simple pieces of bread made the Hamburg steak became popular nationwide. It was during the time when a lot of Americans found industrial jobs in factories, and steam-powered factories began operating through the night hours. There were food carts that offered coffee and small food items outside the factories. Workers would order food from them through a window and eat them quickly before heading back to work again.
After a few years, when food carts came equipped with gas grills, Hamburg steak began to be included on their menus. It was liked by customers, but they found it quite challenging to eat while standing. What solved this problem was placing the patty between two slices of bread, which started the hamburger sandwich. You might be wondering who was the first one to serve the Hamburg steak as a sandwich. Unfortunately, the details about it have been lost to history. By the turn of the century, the hamburger was considered an American classic.
The Popularity of Burgers
The first fast-food hamburger establishment was opened in 1921 by Billy Ingram and Walter Anderson. It was called White Castle and was located in Wichita, Kansas. They offered a 5-cent hamburger and encouraged customers to purchase their hamburgers “by the sack.”
During those times, a lot of Americans were concerned with the sanitary practices of the meat industry due to Upton Sinclair’s novel “The Jungle.” But this concern was addressed by White Castle by furnishing their restaurants with stainless steel countertops that could be cleaned easily. Also, their hamburger meat was ground in plain sight to ensure customers that they were paying for clean and high-quality meals.
Around the same time, burgers became a popular menu item at roadside diners and soda shops. Most of the time, they were served alongside milkshakes and French fries. Its popularity continued to grow in the following decades. However, it suffered from food shortages and meat rationing during World War II. American soldiers, however, brought hamburgers overseas with them during the war as they were easy to make and also helped cure the homesickness felt by the troops.
In the 1940s, the McDonald brothers opened their Burger Bar Drive-In in San Bernardino, California, and the hamburger debuted in the suburbs. By the late 1950s, McDonald’s had sold more than 100 million hamburgers.
At the present time, hamburgers can be enjoyed in nearly every part of the world. Its concept has evolved over time. There are now endless varieties of meat patties and delicious toppings. A lot of fast-food establishments that serve burgers have emerged, and they have also become more adventurous with their burger patties. In every country, the country’s cultures are reflected in the burgers that they serve. For example, in Japan, you can buy a rice burger, and in India, there is a McAloo Tikki Burger in McDonald’s, which is made from fried potatoes and peas.
Throughout the years, burgers have insinuated themselves to many food lovers. Today, restaurants are competing for the most unique burgers, and culinarians are writing books about the best burgers from different places. That’s why in the years to come, it’s likely that there will be more innovations to be introduced when it comes to burgers.
The Anatomy of a Burger
Burgers are always included in backyard barbecue parties, summer birthdays, and rooftop soirees. They are best paired with French fries, wine, cheese, and a variety of other snacks. There are indeed many different kinds and styles of burgers out there, but most of them are composed of similar ingredients. Sometimes it’s not about the artisanal bread used or a special sauce added. Sometimes it’s more about the quality ingredients and ideal proportions of staple burger items. To give you some ideas, here are the common ingredients that go into and onto a burger.
Burgers are not complete without fresh and delicious buns. There are actually tons of bun varieties to choose from when it comes to hamburgers. Here are some examples:
- Plain Bun
This is the simplest type of burger bun that you can find. There are no frills with this kind, but it gets the job done. It is perfect if you are looking for a simple burger with only the main ingredients. It may not hold up if you are going to put multiple patties, condiments, and toppings all at once.
- Sesame Seed Bun
This is similar to a plain bun with added sesame seeds. The seeds add a touch of crunch to the bun and a bit of flavor. They also make the bun look a bit better. However, the sesame seeds do not always match up with the taste of the burger.
- Potato Bun
There are also burger buns that are made of potato bread. In making this bun, potato flour is used instead of wheat flour. It is similar to standard white bread, but it is a bit yellow in color and has a denser texture. There are times when a potato bun has a faint potato taste, too. It is a sturdier bun option for multiple patties and condiments. However, they run the risk of being a bit too starchy.
- English Muffin
This is a favorite type of bread when it comes to breakfast sandwiches. They offer a crunchier bite to a burger when toasted. It is not that popularly used for burgers, but it is great if you want to try something different.
Due to the craft burger craze, the ciabatta roll became popular. It is best when it comes to withstanding juicy meat and condiments that may drip down the bun. It is hard on the outside but very absorbent on the inside. However, some people find it challenging to bite and might have a backslider effect when you eat.
For many people, the best bun for a burger is a brioche bread bun. It is a French bun that offers more flavor due to its higher egg and butter content. Its flavor also does not overpower the flavors of the burger. However, brioche buns are a bit smaller than other types of burger buns.
Another important part of a burger is the sauce. Ketchup and mustard are among the classic sauce combinations. But aside from that, there are many other sauces out there, such as cheese sauce, maple sauce, chili sauce, and more. A new sauce is sometimes the secret of most restaurants when they are introducing new and unique burger flavors.
Burgers are also the best with lettuce. These add some crunch to your burger. Sometimes, lettuce is used as a healthy bun replacement, too, for those who are trying to reduce their carb intake.
Tomato is something that can add some juiciness to the burger. Some onion slices, pickles, and peppers also complement tomatoes.
There are many different types of cheeses that can be used in burgers. But most of the time, American cheese is used due to its salty flavor and creamy consistency. Some also spice their burgers up with a slice of Pepper Jack. It is best to melt the cheese well for a more flavorful experience.
Of course, a burger is not complete without the patty. A patty can be store-bought, homemade, beef, or veggie. It is also usually seasoned with salt, pepper, and some garlic powder. To achieve a delicious grilled flavor, it is directly grilled over charcoal to the desired doneness.
When you put all of these together, you will be able to make a fresh and delicious hamburger. Of course, you can also choose to leave off any of the items on the patty and still have a wonderful burger.
Different Kinds of Hamburger Meat
The most critical ingredient when it comes to burgers is meat. You may think that all burgers are the same, but there are different types of meats used in making them. Here are the four most common types of hamburger meat:
- Ground Round
When using ground round meat, butchers cut the meat from the upper leg and rump of the cow. This type of hamburger meat has a fat content of around 10 to 15%. It is also described by a lot of people as one of the toughest cuts of meat.
- Ground Sirloin
This type of meat is from the posterior of the cow, which is near the hip. It usually has 10% fat. It is the spot that is famously tender and expensive when it comes to steak cuts. However, it is a bit drier compared to other meats as it has a lower fat content.
- Ground Chuck
When the meat is ground chuck, it means it came from the cow’s shoulder. This type of meat usually has around 20% fat. Its high-fat content makes it a more popular choice when it comes to flavorful burgers.
- Ground Beef
When the meat product is called ground beef, it could contain any mixture of meat from the cow. The ratios of lean-to-fat differ depending on what cuts go into the ground meat mix. But there is a USDA cutoff limit of 30% fat.
Also, in addition to beef, some people use other kinds of meat, such as chicken, lamb, pork, and even vegetables that taste like real meat. Choosing the ideal type of meat for burgers depends on the taste preference of each person, as well as health goals. Those who are looking for maximum flavor should choose hamburger meats that have higher fat content, like ground chuck. But if you want to limit your fat intake without sacrificing the flavor, ground sirloin is a perfect choice.
Burger in Numbers
When you travel to different parts of the world, you will be able to find many local and international restaurants and fast-food chains that offer burgers on their menus. But burgers are more popular in the fast-food chain sector as they are considered among the best snacks on the go out there.
In this section, we are going to give you different data and statistics about burgers. This includes the biggest burger chains in the world and in the United States, the top states with the most burger joints, the most popular burger toppings in the U.S., and the U.S. burger restaurant sector market size.
Biggest Burger Chains in the World
Fast food restaurants emerged in 1912 and have become more popular than ever over the years. At the present time, the fast-food industry is worth more than $200 billion in the United States alone. And among the most popular fast-food chains in the world, hamburgers are classic staples. Many burger chains found great success in selling hamburgers since their cost of production is fairly low.
Did you know that the top-earning burger chains make billions of dollars each year? If you are curious what burger chains these are, then check out the graph below:
When it comes to burger chains, McDonald’s is the leading fast-food restaurant in the world, and it is also the overall second-largest fast-food chain. The very first McDonald’s opened in San Bernardino, California, in 1940. Its signature burger is the Big Mac, which has been a primary menu item since 1968. In 2019, it was reported to have generated $21.08 billion, which is twenty times more revenue compared to the second-biggest burger chain. As of 2019, there were 38,695 McDonald’s restaurants in different countries all over the world.
2. Burger King
Burger King is the second-biggest burger chain in the world and the fifth-largest fast-food chain. It was founded in 1953 in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1957, its signature Whopper burger was added to its menu. Even 50 years later, the Whopper is still its most popular menu item. In 2019, Burger King was reported to have made $1.78 billion in revenue, which was 7% bigger than its revenue in 2018. In 2019, there were 18,838 Burger King restaurants all over the world. 
The third biggest burger chain in the world is Wendy’s. It started in 1969 in Columbus, Ohio, through its square burgers and malt milkshakes. When 1976 came, 100 Wendy’s locations were opened in the United States. Its signature burger is the Dave’s Hot n’ Juicy Single, which is a ¼ pound cheeseburger. Compared to Burger King and McDonald’s, Wendy’s is a bit expensive. In 2019, it earned a total of $1.7 billion. The burger chain has around 6,788 locations in 30 countries in the world as of 2019. 
4. Sonic Drive-In
The fourth-largest burger chain in the world is an American fast-food chain popular for its classic diner-style menu and milkshakes. Sonic Drive-In or commonly called Sonic, was founded in 1953. Its signature burger is the Sonic Cheeseburger. In 2019, it earned $423.59 billion. It is reported to have experienced a decline in revenue from 2009 to 2018. As of 2020, there are around 3,450 Sonic Drive-In locations in 46 states in the U.S. 
5. Dairy Queen
In many parts of the world, Dairy Queen is popular for its ice cream. It started as a single restaurant in Joliet, Illinois, back in 1940. By 1946, it grew continuously and had 100 locations. When 1955 came, it expanded with over 2,600 locations, adding an expansive lunch and dinner menu. Included in that is the “GrillBurger,” which is considered Dairy Queen’s classic burger. It is a ¼ pound burger with cheese. In 2019, the annual revenue of Dairy Queen was $94.37 million. There are also more than 6,800 Dairy Queen locations in the U.S. and 30 more countries in the world. 
6. Jack In The Box
Jack In The Box started as a hamburger stand in 1951 in San Diego, California. It was very popular due to its clown mascot. It was also the first-ever drive-thru restaurant with a two-way intercom system. The company is also popular for its Classic Buttery Jack hamburger. In 2019, it earned $950.11 million. It has around 2,200 locations in 21 states in North America. 
Whataburger is popular in the southern United States. It started in 1950 in Corpus Christi, Texas. It was a family-owned company until 2019. It is a budget-friendly burger chain that serves delicious burgers, particularly its “Whataburger” signature burger. In 2019, it was reported to have earned $2.4 billion. As of 2018, it has 824 locations in the Southern U.S., including Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. 
The eighth biggest burger chain in the world is Hardee’s, which was founded in 1960. It has the famous Thickburger as an iconic menu staple. It is a 1/3-pound burger. In 2019, it was reported to have earned $571.55 million. In the United States and 14 other countries, there are 1,800 Hardee’s restaurants. 
9. Carl’s Jr.
The ninth biggest burger chain in the world is Carl’s Jr. It started in 1941 in Los Angeles, California. Its most popular burger is called Famous Star, which is a hamburger with cheese. Based on reports, the annual revenue of Carl’s Jr. is $530,532. There are more than 1,500 Carl’s Jr. locations in the U.S. and 30 other countries in the world. Most of them are in Mexico and California. 
10. Five Guys
Five Guys is the tenth biggest burger chain in the world. It was first launched in 1986 in Arlington, Virginia, and Maryland. Its signature burger is a regular hamburger. Based on reports, its annual revenue in 2019 was $1.6 billion. As of 2016, it has 1,500 locations throughout Asia, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States, and many more additional locations in development. 
Most Favorite Burger Chains in the United States
In 2019, Market Force Information, a customer experience management company, did a survey with 7,600 American participants in order to find out their favorite fast-food restaurants in the burger category. The participants were asked about their levels of satisfaction with their most recent visit to certain restaurants. Only the burger chains that reached at least 100 customer responses were included in the analysis. Check out the graph for the result:
Out of the 14 burger chains, the least favorite was Jack in the Box, Wendy’s, Carl’s Jr, Burger King, and surprisingly, McDonald’s, which was in last place. Most of the participants were satisfied with their burger experience at In-N-Out Burger, Five Guys, Culver’s, Whataburger, and SmashBurger, which are the top five on the list.
Most Popular Burger Toppings in the United States
For Americans who like burgers, it is only as good as what’s placed between the buns and the patty. With this, in 2020, YouGov America conducted a survey about the most favorite burger toppings among Americans. Check out the graph below for the results:
About 74% of Americans say that they usually use cheese as a burger topping, and this is followed by ketchup, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, and mustard. At least one person out of five says they like bacon, mayo/aioli, mushrooms, and fries on their burgers.
Top 10 Burger Chains in the United States
In 2018, QSR Magazine ranked the top 50 fast-food chains in the United States. From the result, we got the list of the top 10 burger chains in America. Check it out on the graph below:
In terms of sales in 2018, McDonald’s tops the list with a total of $38,524.05 million in total sales. It was followed by Wendy’s, Burger King, Sonic Drive-In, and Jack in the Box. It’s quite interesting to see that even though these fast-food restaurants are the least favorite based on the survey done by Market Information, they are still the top-earning among the burger chains in the United States.
U.S. Burger Restaurant Sector Market Size
The burger is indeed one of the most popular foods in the United States. In 2021, Statista released some data on the market size of the burger restaurant sector in America. This includes the market size from 2011 to 2019, as well as a forecast for 2020 and 2021. Check out the graph below for reference.
In 2019, the burger restaurant sector in the United States was estimated to be around $119.54 billion, which reflected an increase of $3.76 million from 2018. However, the burger restaurant industry in the United States was forecast to decrease in 2020 due to the global coronavirus pandemic but was expected to increase the following year again.
Burger Consumption in the United States
According to Yahoo! Life, the burger is truly a very popular food in the United States. Based on their research, around 64% of adults in the U.S. own a grill or smoker for making burgers. In the world, the United States is the top consumer of burgers.
Based on a study done by the United States Department of Agriculture or USDA, Americans consume 2.4 burgers a day, which is equivalent to 50 billion burgers in a year. That is enough burgers to circle the earth 32 times each year. That fact is indeed mind-blowing and also makes a lot of people crave more hamburgers.
Beef Production and Consumption in the United States
In 2021, the total beef production in the United States was estimated to reach 27.54 billion pounds according to Statista. As of 2017, beef had the highest retail sales of any fresh meat in the U.S. The retail price for 100% ground beef in the U.S. was $3.73 per round in 2018. You can check out the graph below for beef production in the United States from 2000 to 2021.
Among American consumers, ground beef is the most widely consumed beef product, and it is commonly used in making burger patties. In 2020, ground beef consumption was estimated at more than 27 pounds per capita, which was more than the total U.S. retail beef consumption. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information or NCBI, it is estimated that 57% of the beef consumed in the U.S. is in the form of ground products, which includes ground meat used in making burgers.
20 Interesting Facts About Burgers
If you want to learn more about burgers, here are some of the most interesting facts about them that you should know:
- “Burger ” is a shortened name for Hamburger. The name was derived from Hamburg steaks that were introduced by German immigrants to the United States.
- Burgers started to become popular when it was introduced at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.
- In the United States alone, 50 billion burgers are eaten in a year, which is an average of 2.4 burgers per day.
- Hamburgers account for 71% of beef served in commercial hotels in the United States.
- There are many people and cities in the U.S. that claim to have invented the hamburger, but it is widely believed that it was first made in 1900 in New Haven, Connecticut.
- Around 60% of sandwiches sold globally are burgers.
- The FleurBurger5000 was one of the most expensive burgers to be ever sold. It was made of black truffles, Kobe beef, and foie gras. It was served along with a Chateau Petrus 1990 bottle in Las Vegas’ Fleur de Lys. The price of the burger was an astounding $5,000.
- During World War I, American soldiers called hamburgers the “Liberty Sandwich” as they wanted to avoid any German name.
- In Seymour, Wisconsin, there is a “Hamburger Hall of Fame.”
- McDonald’s holds the record for selling more than 300 billion burgers. According to research, it sells more than 75 burgers every second.
- In 1982, a giant hamburger was made, and 10,000 people came to taste it. It weighed 3,591 pounds.
- If all the hamburgers eaten in America in a year are arranged in a straight line, it can circle the Earth 32 times or even more.
- The first fast-food restaurant was opened in 1921, and it sold hamburgers for only 5 cents.
- Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub, which was located in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, offered a 123-pound hamburger for sale in 2007.
- According to diet experts, one serving of meat should be about 3 ounces, which is about the thickness of one deck of cards. Therefore, you should never think of health when you eat burgers, especially in Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas, where their burger is made of 4 half-pound beef slices, 8 American cheese slices, 20 bacon slices, 20 caramelized onion slices, and a tablespoon of mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard. That is a total of 9,982 calories! In fact, it holds the Guinness World Record for being the most calorific burger in the world.
- Veggie burgers are not as healthy as you think. The reason they may not be so healthy is that they include soy which is made of hexane. It is an air pollutant that is a by-product of gasoline refining.
- Burgers in print ads and commercials look fresher and more delicious because they are usually undercooked.
- Based on a survey done in 2013, 63% of people like to have golden-brown potatoes in any form as their side dish to burgers. Next to it are onion rings with 16% votes.
- When it comes to cheese for burgers, many people prefer cheddar cheese.
- Did you know that in Australia, the fast-food joint Burger King is called Hungry Jack’s?
Hamburgers are truly among the most popular and favorite foods not just in the United States but in many parts of the world as well. No wonder there are many burger restaurants and brands emerging today. It is also surprising to learn that the burgers we love today started as a solution to how factory workers would be able to eat the Hamburg steak fast during their break time. After many years, it is still loved by many people. In fact, when you visit fast-food restaurants and even fine dining restaurants, you will often see hamburgers included on their menus. It is very likely that in the years to come, many kinds, styles, and brands of burgers will be introduced.
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