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Hamburgers: The (Almost) Weekly Grind
The great American mainstay—a big, beefy burger. Check out Groupon’s guide to learn more about the art and history between the bun.
Fourteen billion. On average, Americans eat about that many hamburgers each year—about one per week per person. Whether topped with gourmet ingredients or simply slathered in ketchup and mustard, each of those 14 billion burgers is built around the same core: a juicy patty of ground beef. To many, the key to a perfect burger lies in the type of meat—in particular, ground chuck or sirloin with a fat content of about 15%–20%. Any more fat can make the burger too greasy, and any less runs the risk of the meat drying out on the grill. For folks who like their beef on the rare side, cooking a burger is an even more delicate art. Unlike a steak, in which bacteria can only survive on the surface, hamburger meat is ground, which means heat needs to penetrate the entire patty in order for it to safely cook. This is why few burgers are ever cooked below medium—and why many chefs relish the challenge of crafting a burger without losing its juices or burning up the paper fortune inside.
Even before burgers, the grinder had been used as a way to make cuts of meat easier to prepare and enjoy. The practice can be traced back more than 5,000 years to the Mongolians, who would shred beef to make it more palatable. As for the origin of the hamburger, several parties lay claim to developing the sandwich, from a meatball vendor in small-town Wisconsin to two other vendors at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. According to the Library of Congress, however, the first hamburgers sizzled in a small lunch wagon in New Haven, Connecticut in 1895. The invention was more for economic reasons than culinary ones, though. Tired of making too many steak sandwiches to sell after the mid-day rush, the proprietor, Louis Lassen, decided to grind up his beef. In this way he was able to avoid having to waste any excess beef.