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CLARA MOSCHINI

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Hamburger, here is the World Day

From “Hamburg steak” to the Italian “svizzera”: etymology of the myth

According to a recent Doxa research, nearly one out of three Italians confirm that they eat “American-style” sandwiches every day, and 80% declare to have one at least once every month. The most expensive hamburger in the world costs 1,400 euros - made of Kobe meat savoured with foie gras and slivers of truffle, you can find it in Las Vegas.

Today 28th May is world hamburger day - the original meat made, not the fake like Beyond Burger or Impossible Burger - that famous medallion of meat, emblem of food made in the USA, which today appears quite happily on our tables. To celebrate the event Carni Sostenibili, an Italian nonprofit association whose scope is to support meat production, has gathered some facts and advice on the most famous sandwich ever.

The American sandwich par excellence has German roots. Hamburger, in fact, derives from “Hamburg”, the second largest city in Germany and the birthplace of the succulent meat-based dish. Hamburger steak, which then became just hamburger, appeared in American culinary chronicles from the first half of the 19th century, and it was the chef Charles Ranhofer who served it in his New York restaurant for the first time in 1873. The etymology of the Italian term “svizzera” (from Switzerland), the popular name for this medallion of meat that was used in Italy until just a few decades ago, has similar origins. Svizzera, in fact, derives from a dish imported from the German canton of the Helvetic state.

Hamburger enthusiasts have their own slang, and they use it to define the variations: a “slopper” is a hamburger covered with chilli sauce, a “patty melt”, has fried onions and cheese between two slices of rye bread and is fried in butter, while a “Slider” is a small, square-shaped hamburger served in the classic round bun covered with sesame seeds.

Thumbs up to heated hotplates, grills or pans, but not everyone knows that to cook hamburgers perfectly you should not use oil, and you should leave the meat for 10 minutes at room temperature before cooking it to stop the centre from staying cold. Hamburgers should be cooked calmly, and even if the flavour is the only thing that guides the choice of well done or rare, the cooking method cannot be compromised: the meat must not be turned over continually, but left to cook for from 2 to 4 minutes on each side. A chef’s trick for centring the turning moment? Observe the edge: when half of the thickness has changed colour, it’s time to cook the other side. Finally, piercing the meat with a fork is totally forbidden – if you do this the precious internal juices will escape. One extremely valid suggestion: try not to burn the surfaces of your medallion.

If there is no doubt that a real hamburger is only made from beef, during these last years numerous variations have started spreading. The favourites? Chicken and pork, often flavoured with other ingredients. But let’s take a look at which cuts are to be preferred for a sandwich that is always tasty. Beef hamburgers par excellence come from shoulder cuts with the addition of belly subcuts to enrich the flavour with some fat. Remember that the tastiest, softest hamburgers contain from 12 to 15% fat, which disperses partly during cooking. For those who want a lighter choice, prefer cuts from the rear, with a lipid content that does not exceed 5%.

 



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