What is a Burger Made Of?

Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on July 08, 2022
4 min read

A hamburger is a popular meal made by placing a grilled ground beef patty inside a bun. 

The origins of the hamburger are hotly debated, with conflicting claims made by Wisconsin; Hamburg, Germany; Hamburg, New York; and Athens, Texas, among others. Regardless, it is quite certain that hamburgers have been around since the late nineteenth century.

Hamburgers are quickly served and easily eaten. This convenience has made them a favorite food for generations of Americans. If not obtained from a grocer, it is served at diners and fast-food outlets and also sold in stalls at games, beaches, and other outdoor locales.

A burger is a patty of ground beef grilled and placed between two halves of a bun. Slices of raw onion, lettuce, bacon, mayonnaise, and other ingredients add flavor.  

Burgers are considered an American food but are popular around the world. In Japan, teriyaki burgers are popular. In India, vegetarian burgers are created using potato and mint instead of a meat patty. 

Regardless of its content, a burger should always be properly cooked to be safe. Rare burgers carry the risk of bacterial infection and food poisoning.

First of all, typical hamburgers contain no ham. The patty is often made from ground beef. If you order a buffalo burger in the U.S., there's no buffalo in there, either. The patty is made from bison meat, which is generally considered healthier. Other options to make a burger are ground turkey or chicken meat. Vegetarian and vegan options include patties made of potatoes, black beans, or chickpeas.

Most burgers at restaurants or fast food outlets contain beef. The beef is ground and shaped into a patty. This patty is grilled and placed between the halves of a sesame seed bun. The process for making a burger from bison or turkey meat is similar.

Burgers are available in many types and sizes. The nutritional values are different depending on weight and type of ingredients. As an example, a McDonald's hamburger 100-gram portion contains: 

  • 263 calories
  • 13.3 grams protein
  • 10.2 grams fat
  • 29.6 grams carbohydrates
  • 1.8 grams fiber
  • 5.95 grams sugar

Burgers are often available, though, with options like a double patty and quarter-pound patties. These will have more calories and other nutritional values. 

Though burgers provide protein and other nutrients, they're not seen as a healthy food option. That's because they're high in saturated fat and cholesterol. They're also often bundled with sodas and french fries, which contain large amounts of sugar and saturated fats. 

Commercially sold hamburgers often contain a 4-ounce (120 grams) or 6-ounce (180 grams) patty of ground beef or other meat. Current recommendations are for adults to eat 70 grams or less of red meat a day. Beef, lamb, mutton, venison, pork, bison, and veal are all red meat, so a single burger exceeds this recommendation. 

The type of meat also affects how healthy your burger is. Most beef available is from corn-fed cows. Even lean cuts of beef have 7 grams or more of fat per 100 grams. 

Bison meat is healthier. Lean cuts of bison meat contain less than 2 grams of fat per 100-gram portions.

The accompaniments included with many burgers are significant, too. Cheese and bacon slices, mayonnaise-based sauces, and ketchup with high-fructose corn syrup can add a lot of calories and lipids to your meal.

Burgers that are available commercially make compromises on the health front to make their product tasty and commercially successful. If you want to have truly healthy burgers, make them yourself. You can choose the ingredients and cooking medium for your family's good health.

The bun is an important constituent. You can choose whole grain wheat buns for additional fiber and other nutrients like thiamine (vitamin B1) and manganese. You can reduce carbohydrate consumption by choosing mini-pita or sandwich-thin buns. If you have a large bun, slice it into three and put away the middle piece for toast. 

The meat you buy is perhaps the most important ingredient. Ground beef is available in many ratios. If you buy 80/20, for example, it is 80% lean meat and 20% fat. A better alternative is 93/7, which has just enough fat for some flavor. A 100-gram portion of 93/7 ground beef has about 9 grams of fat and 26 grams of protein when cooked. If you're buying ready-made patties, look for smaller (4-ounce) patties. 

If you want to reduce your fat intake, you could opt for some meat other than beef. Low-fat options include bison and elk venison. Turkey and chicken are also options if you want to reduce your red meat consumption.

Cooking meat well is crucial to destroying any disease-causing bacteria. Ensure the meat reaches a temperature of at least 160 °F (71 °C). Use a fresh plate for the cooked patties.

You have limited options if you are eating at a restaurant or ordering take-away. Most burgers are made with ground beef that has enough fat to make it flavorsome. The option to choose leaner meat may not be available, but you can always opt for a burger with a smaller patty. Look for the children's menu or a junior burger — these are usually smaller. Avoid mayonnaise-based sauces and toppings like bacon and cheese. If you need additional flavor, look for avocado or guacamole.

The bun is important, too. More than the type of bun, size matters. A large bun can have as much as 37 grams of carbohydrates and 250 calories. If faced with such a monster, avoid eating all of it.

Restaurants often have meal packages. These include a glass or can of soda and french fries with your burger. Such add-ons put a lot of sugars and saturated fats into your meal. If you want to add some variety, look for a fruit salad or vegetable side dish.