Hamburger is also called burger, or ground beef. The term is applied variously to a patty of ground beef, sometimes called ham-burg steak, Salisbury steak, or Vienna steak, a sandwich consisting of a patty of beef served within a split bread roll, with various garnishes, or the ground beef itself, which is used as a base in many sauces, and other dishes.

The origin of hamburger is obscure. An American chef from Connecticut, Louis Lassen is believed to have made and sold the first hamburgers in America in 1898. He called them hamburgers because sailors from Hamburg in Germany gave him the recipe. Students from Yale University and businessmen loved them and bought them, with time popularity of the new product expanding far outside Connecticut.

The importance of the hamburger in the 20th-century American culture is indicated by its virtually universal use at backyard barbecues as well as its availability at various types of cafes, the so-called hamburger stands and fast-food restaurants, the best known chains being McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's.

Hamburgers are usually eaten as a sandwich, between two halves of a round bun. Mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, and other condiments, along with garnishes of lettuce, onion, tomato, and cucumber are the most commonly used dressings. In the variation known as the cheeseburger, a slice of cheese is melted over the patty. The patty itself is often seasoned with chopped onions, spices, or bread crumbs before cooking.

According to the US DA standards, hamburger meat may be defined as either "hamburger", "chopped beef, or "ground beef. It must be ground from fresh beef with no by-products or nonmeat additives, but the USDA does permit the addition of some beef fat and other condiments in meat labeled "hamburger". Also, by law, hamburger and chopped or ground beef sold commercially may contain no more than 30 percent fat. Fifteen percent fat is regarded as the ideal proportion in terms of juiciness and flavour of the cooked product.


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