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Definition of a Burger

What Makes a Burger a Burger?

We've been exploring the topic of controversial foods and so far have cracked open the arguments surrounding three of America's favorites: chili, mac and cheese, and barbecue. But we'd be remiss to overlook the importance of a good ole burger . . . and the passionate opinions around its composition.

While this popular delicacy attributes its name to Hamburg, Germany, a city that popularized the minced beef "Hamburg steak" in the 18th century, the origin of the sandwichlike hamburger is vague. Several US cities — New Haven, CT; Athens, TX; Hamburg, NY; and Seymour, WI, to name a few — claim to be the birthplace of the first hamburger, but these days, it's less about where the burger came from and increasingly about what's in it and on it.

Today, the only limit to the number of burger toppings is the imagination. But the controversy surrounding burgers usually focuses on two key areas: patty and bun. Some versions offer alternative ground meats (turkey, pork, buffalo, salmon), while others substitute meat-free ground substances (tofu, black beans, vegetables). Sometimes the patty takes on a solid form like chicken breasts, portobello mushrooms, or tomato slices. And the vehicles for these juicy delights are more often than not some type of bun or roll, but sometimes a ground beef patty shows up on slices of rye bread (as in a patty melt), is slipped into a pita, or is elongated into a hot dog bun.

So our question for you today is, at what point does a burger stop being a burger and become a sandwich?

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