A Brief History of the Hamburger and Standardizing the Production of My Burger Candles

hand cranked meat grinder

Prior to the invention of the hand cranked meat grinder, ground beef did not exist. Although it’s known that the ancient Romans ate small meatballs which were typically added to soup, these meatballs were made using meat that had been laboriously minced by hand.

During the late 1830’s, a inventor in Germany named Karl Freiherr Drais devised a hand cranked meat grinder that could be used to create ground beef. These machines are thought to have first been used in Hamburg, Germany.

German cooks used the meat grinder to create hamburger patties that were seasoned, fried, and served with fried onions and bread crumbs. In time, German merchant ships brought the concept of the hamburger patty to the Port of New York. By 1873, New York restaurants were serving Hamburg steak with all the trimmings for 11 cents. Throughout the next 31 years, these steaks were sold as far west as Wisconsin and as far south as Texas. Although no one really knows who created the first hamburger sandwich, a May 28, 2021 article, “The Hamburger’s Origin Story,” by Erik Ofang of the Washington Post reported that the first known reference to a hamburger sandwich was found in a July 25, 1893 issue of the Reno Gazette-Journal. According to the post reporter, the article in the Reno-Gazette Journal mentioned that Tom Fraker had taken charge of the lunch counter of a local saloon. Mr. Fraker is said to have prided himself on his “ability to make hamburger sandwiches.”

For many years the hamburger sandwich was the food of the working poor. It was sold in saloons and through food stalls and carts to factory workers who needed a quick meal that was also cheap and portable.

It wasn’t until 1904 that the hamburger sandwich came to the attention of the middle class. At the St. Louis World’s Fair, 1,272 acres were set aside for what was then the largest exposition in the world. Sixty-two countries and 42 American states (out of the 45 which then existed), had exhibitions at this fair. The fair was open for seven months and was visited by 19.7 million people.

California introduced visitors to the kumquat while also displaying crates of lemons and oranges. Cuba and Brazil included bananas and other tropical fruits as part of their exhibition. The Borden Company temporarily set up and ran what was then the largest condensed milk factory in the world. Pillsbury demonstrated their grinding techniques and offered samples of their flour along with bread made from this product. Ketchup which was first invented in 1812 was available through 42 different brands.

New food items such as the ice cream waffle cone, cotton candy, hot dogs, peanut butter, and Dr. Pepper were available through vendors. While none of these foods were actually invented at this fair, savvy retailers took advantage of this opportunity to broaden their markets by setting up booths and pavilions.

Although food lore claims that a man named Fletcher Davis set up a booth to sell his newly developed hamburger sandwich, the reality is that there were several vendors at the fair who were selling this product. Hamburgers, hot dogs, and the newly created club sandwich were all conveniently portable foods that allowed visitors to eat while strolling through the fair.

The first chain restaurant devoted to selling hamburgers was opened by White Castle in Kansas in 1921. Other chains eventually followed. McDonald’s and In-N-Out were established in 1948. Burger King opened in 1954. Wendy’s debuted in 1969.

According to Mashed.com, “4,500 burgers are sold every minute, 270,000 every hour, 6.48 million every day, and 2.36 billion burgers every year. Other estimates have put McDonald’s burger sales at 50 million a day.”

components for my burger candles

Having created all of the components for several burger candles, today I standardized my technique for assembling these parts into a hamburger candle. Although the process is still laborious, assuming I have all of the parts available, it takes me 15 minutes to assemble each candle. This is far less than the hour that was spent assembling the first production test model.

The silicone molds for the hamburger bun and patty were made by yours truly. I used plastic molds purchased from Etsy vendors to create the pickles and sliced tomatoes. The ketchup and mustard were made using cooled wax that was literally spooned into place before it cooled and set.

My burger candles

As you can see from the above picture, each burger candle is slightly different depending upon how the condiments were placed. Pictured below is a close up of one of my burger candles.

These candles smell of freshly baked bread, beef, tomatoes, and a touch of garlic. Each candle features a grilled beef patty on a Kaiser bun with tomatoes, pickles, lettuce, ketchup, and mustard. Each candle weighs approximately 13.25 ounces and is a full sized burger as opposed to being a small slider.

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