What’s a Patty Melt?

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The hamburger originated in Hamburg, Germany, but is now considered uniquely American. The patty melt, a variation of the cheeseburger served on grilled rye bread, is a popular diner dish that can be made with low-fat ingredients. It inspired the tuna melt.

The hamburger originates from the tradition of placing pork between two slices of bread in Hamburg, Germany. Yet now hamburgers in all their variations are considered uniquely American. The first American burgers were probably sold in Seymour, Wisconsin in the late 19th century. The embellishment of the hamburger soon became a common choice and the first cheeseburgers, a hamburger with a slice of melted cheese, were probably invented in 1924 in Pasadena, California by Lionel Sternberger.

It is unclear when the actual patty melt was invented, but records exist of them being served as early as the 1940s. They embellish the traditional cheeseburger and further take the burger back to its roots by being served on bread against a bun. Usually the patty is served between two slices of grilled rye bread, just as early burgers were served between two pieces of bread.

The classic patty melt is a really wonderful thing if you’re a fan of burgers and onions. Traditionally the sandwich includes a hamburger patty, which is topped with Swiss cheese. Grilled onions are added and the whole burger with included rye bread is grilled to completely melt the cheese. The result is a hot, flavorful burger that differs from your regular burger patty. Substitutions for rye bread include sandwiches, Texas toast, or any type of white bread, and some burgers can be made from turkey.

Typically the patties come with lettuce, tomato and pickles on the side and have no toppings on the bread. Some restaurants serving this popular diner smear the inside of the bread with a thousand island dressings, but this is not usual. You can certainly request toppings on the patty, but the flavor of the onions often makes them unnecessary.

The patty melt has come and gone in fashion depending on the culinary trends. You’ll find them often in diners, especially those that are styled after 1950s diners or have been in business since the 1950s. In the 1990s, the patty melt got a boost in popularity when several chain fast food restaurants began offering the sandwiches. To keep this burger style manageable and easy to eat on the go, many fast food restaurants use round, bun-like bread without leavening. However, if it’s not made with rye bread, regardless of shape, many people consider it a variation of the patty and not authentic.

The patty melt is said to have inspired the tuna melt, which uses tuna instead of the hamburger patty. Otherwise, they’re pretty much the same; they are grilled to melt the cheese and may include grilled onions. Tuna melts became popular in the late 1940s and many people preferred them due to the lower fat content in tuna.

You can actually make a low-fat patty, especially if you use low-fat, low-fat cheese. Instead of using beef, substitute ground turkey or chicken for the patty. When grilling onions, use low-fat cooking spray or a small amount of low-fat oil. Instead of frying the bun in oil or margarine, simply toast the bread and let the cheese melt right on the burger a minute or two before the burger is fully cooked. This will give you a low-fat version of the restaurant classic and a tempting sandwich for your taste.

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