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May 20, 2004

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Prairie Fare: May is National Hamburger Month

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist
NDSU Extension Service

Whenever I do research for this column, I get a little hungry for whatever my subject happens to be. This week was no different.

As soon as I arrived home after gathering my information, I informed my family the evening menu was “cook’s choice” – and we were going out for burgers. They didn’t argue.

My juicy mushroom and Swiss burger tasted especially good that evening. I had just read about the interesting history of hamburgers and reacquainted myself with some nutrition facts about beef.

May, National Hamburger Month and Beef Month, is a good time to try a few questions from the Kansas Beef Council:

1. How did the hamburger get its name?

a. From the Baltic provinces of Russia in the Middle Ages where rowdy, nomadic tribes of Tartary developed a fondness for raw beef, known today as steak Tartar.
b. From the German trading partners of the Tartars who lived in Hamburg; they developed a taste for raw beef fried with onions, called Hamburg Steak.
c. From German immigrants who brought “Hamburg Steak” to the US in the 17 and 1800s.
d. All of the above.

2. What sandwiches are America’s favorite, with 86 percent of the population ordering them in the last year?

3. In 1888, an English doctor prescribed three hamburger meals a day as a cure for various ailments. His name is remembered today as the name of a seasoned ground beef patty served with gravy.

4. How many quarter-pound hamburgers come from the ground beef of a 1,000 pound steer (from just the normal beef ground into ground beef)?

The answers are: 1) d. all of the above; 2) hamburgers or cheeseburgers; 3) Salisbury; and 4) almost 1,000 quarter-pound burgers.

Hamburgers are not only an American favorite, but beef is also a nutrient-dense food. With just 10 percent of the daily recommended calories, a 3-ounce serving of beef provides 42 percent of the daily recommendation for protein, 40 percent of B-12, 35 percent of zinc, 25 percent of selenium and 13 percent of iron.

Are you hungry for a burger now? Here are some tips to make tasty and safe burgers:

  • Thaw beef slowly and completely in the refrigerator, never on the counter. Thawing in the refrigerator preserves the safety and quality of beef by helping prevent bacterial growth and moisture loss. Plus, if the meat is not fully thawed, it may look “done” on the outside but may not be fully cooked.
  • Gently shape into patties, being careful not to over-handle.
  • Wash hands and utensils thoroughly with hot, soapy water after handling meat.
  • Grill 12 to 15 minutes, turning once. Don’t press or flatten as this can result in moisture loss. Measure the final temperature with a food thermometer. Ground beef should reach 160 degrees.
  • Don’t cross-contaminate. Place cooked burgers on a clean serving plate.

This recipe was adapted from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Board. For information and recipes featuring beef, visit their Web site:

Ranch Burgers

1-1/2 lbs lean ground beef
2 tsp sweet paprika
2 tsp dried thyme leaves, crushed
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
6 hamburger buns, split
6 leaves Romaine lettuce
6 tomato slices
1/4 cup prepared light creamy ranch dressing
2 Tbsp canned French fried onions

Combine all spices in an airtight container and shake to blend.

Shape ground beef into six patties. Press 3/4 teaspoon of the spice mix evenly into both sides of each patty. Store remaining spice mix in airtight container for future use. Grill to a final internal temperature of 160 degrees F. Line bottom of each bun with lettuce and tomato. Top with burger and spoon ranch dressing evenly over burgers. Sprinkle with French fried onions and close sandwiches.

Makes 6 servings. Each serving has 440 calories, 26 grams of fat, 25 grams carbohydrate and 25 percent of the daily iron recommendation.


Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor: Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,



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