Regional Burgers of America
June 13, 2022
6 min. read
Ahhh yes, the humble burger. This simple combination of meat and cheese between two buns is possibly our favorite food. And as we explained in the blog last week, we’ve got a spotlight on burgers all June long! Last week, we kicked off the month with an overview of burger cooking methods and a summary of the grilling prize we’re giving away – a Weber Charcoal grill! Enter to win at www.MartinsSummerFun.com!
Okay, back to burgers. This uncomplicated dish can take on many forms, and that is most obvious when you look at the popular regional styles around the country. From smash burgers to smokehouse burgers, we’re breaking it all down for you this week.
Plus—check out our quiz at the end to find out how much you’ve learned!
How It Started
It’s common to think of hamburgers as a relatively recent invention, but as you’ll soon learn, culinary relatives of the modern hamburger date back much further than you might expect. Starting in Ancient Rome, leftover meat (usually pork) was commonly ground up and formed into patties to be cooked. At the time, it was enjoyed without a bun. In the 1700s, meatballs and other variations on meat patties were a common part of British cuisine.
Fast forward to America in the 1870s. Restaurants began importing beef from Hamburg, Germany, and selling what they called “hamburg steaks,” which were flattened and fried meatballs made from the leftover parts of the high-quality cuts of steak. Two decades later, Americans started putting these flattened meatballs inside bread rolls, thus presenting the first version of what we know today as a hamburger.
Over the next several decades, hamburgers increased in popularity due to their convenience and economic benefits. Enter: fast food chains. In the 1920s, the first burger fast food restaurant was founded and quickly faced competition from other chains. Of course, today, we know hamburgers (or, burgers, as they would soon become known) are one of the most popular fast food meals.
In recent years, burgers have evolved into much more than just a forgettable, cheap dinner. It’s now more common to find high quality cuts of beef ground up into patties and made into a burger. Plus, you can find an enormous variety of toppings, cheeses, and buns—many of which are much higher quality than their cheap predecessors.
How It’s Going
Naturally, as burgers have seeped into our everyday American diet, they have taken on a number of different forms. From steamed to smashed, restaurants and burger chefs have started to create their own version of the basic meat-bun-cheese combo.
However, unlike the regional styles of barbecue we discussed a few weeks ago, the regional burger variations are less like exclusive “cults” where folks in that area are only loyal to that style. Rather, these regional burger styles are just unique and specific variations that have cropped up over time around the country. You’ll also notice that most of these regional styles are much less about toppings and condiments and more about the method used to prepare them.
Smash Burger – Great Lakes Region
|Now a widely-used term, smash burgers first originated in the Great Lakes region and referred simply to the cooking method of forming small balls of beef, placing them on a piping hot flattop grill, and then smashing thin to cook. This style now contains innumerable variations, like the “Lacy Edge Burger” found in central Illinois.
Check out our take on the Double Smash Burger, made with special sauce, here!
Jucy Lucy – Minnesota
|Popularized in Minnesota (namely Minneapolis), the Jucy Lucy is a simple concept: two burger patties pinched around one or two folded slices of cheese.
Try making this burger for yourself using our Jucy Lucy recipe that is served inside a Martin’s Sandwich Potato Roll.
Steamed Cheeseburger – Connecticut
|Perhaps one of the most unique styles of burger preparation, this Northeastern creation is made by using a special steaming device shown in this video. In separate trays, ground beef and melty cheese are steamed and stacked on top of fresh lettuce, tomato, and onion.
Photo Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdvZC91YpMs&t=102s
Deep Fried Burger – Tennessee
|Decadent and juicy, this burger style originated in restaurants in Tennessee. As the name implies, this burger is simply prepared by cooking a thin beef patty in a shallow pool of oil in a skillet. While still hot, it is topped with cheese and placed on the roll with a few simple toppings like pickles and onion.
Photo Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdvZC91YpMs&t=102s
Cuban Frita – Miami
|The Cuban Frita originated in Cuba and was brought to Miami by Cuban immigrants. Plenty of thought goes into this creation before the patty even hits the heat. You’ll start by adding onion, garlic, paprika, and cumin to beef. Once the meat hits the grill, these burgers are smashed down and then drizzled with the frita’s “secret sauce” which contains a distinctly bold flavor. Lastly, the burger is topped with diced onion and then thin and crispy potato fries.
Photo Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/CbIYogyLYNw/
Oklahoma Onion Burger – Oklahoma
|You could consider this burger a “sub type” of the smash burger mentioned above. Tons of chefs around the country (and now the globe!) are cooking up this particular burger, known for its abundance of finely-sliced white onion. Though incredibly simple to make, the flavor packed inside this burger does not disappoint.
Check out our smash burger blog for more ideas! https://potatorolls.com/blog/smash-burger-showcase
Loose Meat Sandwich – Iowa
|Arguably, this sandwich might not technically be considered a burger (depending on your definition), but it’s iconic enough to make it on our list! This creation is simply seasoned and cooked ground beef topped with mustard and piled on a bun!
Try it yourself! https://potatorolls.com/recipes/iowa-loosemeat-sandwich
Think you know your burger history and regional styles? Test your knowledge with our quiz below. Answers at the end of the blog!
- Where were Hamburg steaks (predecessor to the modern hamburger) first served between a roll?
- United States
- Ancient Rome
- In which state was the Jucy Lucy invented?
- True or False: The Cuban Frita Burger was invented in Florida.
- The Oklahoma Onion Burger is ____________.
- Made with brisket
- Served on brioche
- A smash burger
- True or False: The Connecticut Steamed Burger was given its name because the buns are steamed before serving.
Check out our website www.martinssummerfun.com for more burger recipes and inspiration. Plus, enter to win a grill while you’re there!
- “The Ancient History of the Modern Hamburger” Video by BBC Ideas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcoJI1OHfwU
- “Binging with Babish Taste-Tests Regional Burger Styles” Video by First We Feast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yC8fvt-CxP0
- “A Burger Scholar Breaks Down Classic Regional Burger Styles” Video by First We Feast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdvZC91YpMs&t=102s
Quiz Answers: 1. B | 2. D | 3. False | 4. D | 5. False
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