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Saddle Burgers: The Origin of the Burger

By • Feb 16th, 2011 • Category: Burger Blog

How the hamburger came to be is a very old story and if you think about it the actual ‘first’ hamburger had to have been made from necessity rather than for taste or cuisine.

The first mention of the earliest type of hamburger was around the time of the Mongols, specifically around the Genghis Khan era. His army was followed by the people of the villages with the purpose of feeding the army and provide them with cuts of meat that were beaten to tenderize then the horsemen would then put these ‘patties’ under their saddle to soften and then simply ate it raw. The ability to eat with only one hand while still riding was made possible with this simple meal as well as providing proteins and nourishment – well as much nourishment as you can get from a lump of meat that has been pressed between your horses rump and yours.

Steak Ta-Ta

The Mongols, obviously having full stomachs and energy from the ‘saddle burger’ were able to traverse many lands and introduce this food into Russia, where it was picked up by imaginative cooks and Steak Tartare was born, still in its raw stages and not yet being piled with salads and condiments.

Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, the emergence of shipping and visitation of other countries, Steak Tartare was then introduced to more people with more ideas and finally found its way to Germany. It was here that steak tartare was converted and altered and now named Hamburg Steak and though it still didn’t resemble the hamburger we know today, it was finally a cooked product and it now had the opportunity to grow and improve and it is probable that some kind of bread was added at this time.

The Hamburgler

Once again through the movement of people traversing the world and immigrating to other countries finally Hamburg Steak was introduced to the United States and was a favorite in the German and Jewish communities. And this is where the story is a little convoluted, the late 1800’s and early 1900’s saw a number of people who claim to be the inventor of the modern hamburger in America, and although many cities or towns celebrate an annual event for this honor, it is still unclear as to who was the actual ‘first hamburgler’!

This was around the time of blossoming European restaurants, and the emergence of State Fairs, and of course fair foods have to be eaten with one hand so it is highly possible that all of those who claim to be the originator of the burger as we know it today are all deserving of the award, I think many people had the same idea at the same time and each had probably put their own twist to it with the adding of cheese, salad and condiments. I have read that one guy ‘accidentally’ dropped and piece of cheese on his cooking burger patty and consequently invented the cheeseburger.

Wrapping It Up

The official fact is that White Castle were the first fast food chain to distribute and sell the hamburger nationally in 1921, and for 5c, for this tiny little burger was probably an absolute treat at the time. In 1948, McDonalds hit the scene and well as they say the rest is history. McDonald’s is now the most known fast food restaurant in the world and the Big Mac one of the most eaten hamburgers in any given country.

And There Is Always A Moral

So the moral of the story is, next time you chow down on your favorite burger, think of White Castle’s brilliance of packaging and distributing the hamburger as we know it today, for on the go food and certainly think of the Mongols, riding hard across distant lands, conquering, pillaging, and just plain being, well, an army, with scary meat sploodge oozing out from under their saddles. Burger anyone?

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