It’s hard to imagine that a hamburger without cheese, bacon, ketchup or a bun would stand a chance. But more than 100 years after it was created, Salisbury Steak, which is a hamburger with none of the above, is alive and well. You just have to know how to ask for it.
At Hilltop Steakhouse, a 1,200-seat restaurant in Saugus, Mass., Salisbury Steak is not on the menu, but there is a Salisbury Steak look-alike, a bunless chopped sirloin burger with brown gravy. Go figure! At Outback Steakhouse, a national chain of steakhouses, Mum’s Chopped Steak with gravy is the featured version of Salisbury Steak. “It’s popular in the Midwest,” says an Outback spokesperson. And in the South, at Puckett’s Grocery outside Nashville, Tenn., Salisbury steak graces the steam table weekly.
Salisbury Steak was named for James Henry Salisbury, a late 19th-century English physician who prescribed “the meat cure.” Salisbury said that eating beef three times a day could treat a variety of diseases and maintain health. He insisted that the beef come from disease-free animals and be made into chopped patties seasoned with Worcestershire sauce, horseradish or lemon juice. Years later, Salisbury Steak was the name given to an oval-shape ground beef patty, served with gravy and sprinkled with parsley.
At about the same time Salisbury was recommending his diet, hamburgers were invented. Although no one seems to know when the first hamburger was served like a sandwich, it may have been in 1904 at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis.
By the 1930s, Americans were ready for more than a plain and lonely hamburger on a bun and began dressing up their burgers with a jazzy assortment of extras: ketchup, onions, pickles and American cheese.
Salisbury Steak has survived the condiment craze. Although cooks have fooled with the recipe by adding everything from green peppers to rice, we left it the way it started. Our Salisbury Steak is gently seasoned with parsley, onion and Worcestershire and has a pan gravy to go with it. It’s a delicious burger, but if you miss the bread, slide the patty onto a toasted bun and pour gravy on top.
—By Jean Kressy