Hagerstown Maryland Most Famous Dish STEAMERS


 Hagerstown Maryland has 1 dish with it’s unique name and way to prepare.  Everywhere else people call them Sloppy Joe or Beef Barbecue.  Hagerstown’s Steamers are similar but different.  What makes them uniquely different is that they have less stuff in them and a different texture.  The secret to a great Steamer is to soak the ground beef in water until it is as fine as possible.  You can’t have a good steamer if there are clumps in the ground beef.


2 lb of ground beef
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1/2 cup of ketchup
In pot soak ground beef for approximately 15 minutes until completly fine and no clumps.  In colander drain beef as thououghly as possible.  Add garlic powder, salt, pepper, and ketchup.  Mix well and simmer until thick and all the water has cooked out.  Serve on hamburger roll.  Steamers are great with cheese, chopped onions, and mustard on them. 

61 thoughts on “Hagerstown Maryland Most Famous Dish STEAMERS”

    1. You take the ground beef, put it in a pot, pour water over it and let it soak. It is how you get the proper texture.

    2. okay folks..don’t know where steamers/sloppy joes came from….but if you have never tried them, you are missing some good eating. I don’t soak my meat, just brown it in a skillet breaking up the meat as it cooks. Drain and then add vinegar, ketchup and brown sugar to taste. (Not too much vinegar as it goes a long way) Ready to eat, but best if it simmers for a while and definitely better as warm ups. Put on a Martin’s potato roll, some chips and enjoy.

    3. In pot soak ground beef for approximately 15 minutes until completely fine and no clumps. In colander drain beef as thoroughly as possible.

    4. I cook my burger in water slowly. Drain well . You can rinse with hot water to remove more fat. Then mix ingredients and simmer.

    1. I would not recommend putting V8 in there but I guess you could. Yes put in pot and soak the meat real good, that’s the key.

      1. This is how I do it too. I allow the water to cook out or “steam” out. I also add little mustard, A1steak sauce and Sweet Baby Rays BBQ.. I have people in Hagerstown asking for my recipe, but I don’t measure anything, I just throw it in

  1. Never heard any of this. It comes to us from the C&O Canal… they steamed the hamberger and doctored it up. My greatgrandmother, who was married to a canal boat captain told me this. If you get further then 20 mins from the canal… they dont know what you are talking about.

  2. According to an ABWA cookbook, the original steamer recipe contains, ground beef, Campbell’s tomato soup, onion, and lots of pepper. Does anyone know the original recipe?

    1. I grew up in Williamsport with the best steamers around. Ground beef (soaked) onion, tomato soup, and little brown sugar cookies on low heat stirring accationly, add salt and pepper to taste

    1. This is true! Our Grandfather use to take us ALL the time for them!! I’m 67 now, live out of State – miss him and Steamers very much!

  3. what do you do with the onion that was listed as one of the ingredients, cook it in the meat or chop it and put on steamer?

  4. Made this since I was 8 years old. Put ground beef in pot. Add minced onion, ketchup, a cup of water, and a little mustard to give it a kick. Cook on medium heat for 20 minutes to get flavor throughout. Serve on burger rolls of your choice. Never heard of anybody soaking the meat! Grew up in Wolfsville, near Hagerstown, and lived in Hagerstown for most of 45 years.

    1. Steamers are soaked then drained of most of the water. Steamed in whatever water is left for 20 mins. They are steamed..That’s why they are called steamers. Steam for 20 mins with the ingredients you just listed. I have been making these for 60 years. the ingredients you listed. My mom has been making these for 80 years.

  5. I never soaked my meat – just break up the clumps with a potato masher and cook really slow I use tomato sauce, not ketchup. Also add green pepper, onion, little garlic, and sometimes throw in a packet of mix made just for steamers. A small amount of brown sugar adds just enough sweetness. Delish!

  6. They are called steamers because you are “streaming” the raw hamburger covered with water in a large pot on med heat stirring occasionally until a fine texture and meat is no longer pink. Using a colander drain the water. Put meat back in the pan add other ingredients and let simmer. Enjoy!

    1. Sounds right. They are Hagerstown Steamers if you don’t soak or if you add all kinds of other flavors. Not saying you can’t make your own recipe, and enjoy it … just don’t call them original Hagerstown Steamers.

    2. How can you steam, when the hamburger is in the water? I thought steaming was done in a steamer with the water on the bottom and the steamed product in the top pan. Are you are saying simmer the HB in water?

  7. Does anyone have the recipe for “Jeannie’s” steamers in Williamsport? OUT OF THIS WORLD! ! ABSOLUTE BEST IN WILLIAMSPORT!

    1. Hartles haven’t been as good since original owners either died or sold their share of the business. They are okay but not the same. Some of the meat products are no longer Boers Head meats. The originals on Potomac St. pop Hattie made sure he used the best luncheon meats, at that time he was not worried about big profits but a great product. I know this from talking and knowing Barbara and Gracie. I grew up on Potomac St. and hung out there a lot.

  8. I make my steamer’s with ground beef, onion, green bell pepper, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. This is the way my mother made them, and my grandmother. I do know that steamers are a local staple in Hagerstown and Williamsport, and yes, outside of that area no one knows what a steamer sandwich is. We always just ate them on hamburger rolls.

  9. The SUBWAY bar/deli back in the 60’s and 70’s had the best steamers ever . Leonard used to make some really great steamers at Schaffers tavern on Va. Ave. also , he served them on a hot dog roll too ! Nowadays my wife makes “THE BEST” around today ?

  10. I tried this recipe and I believe 1 tablespoon of pepper and 1 tablespoon of salt for 1 lb of hamburger has to be a misprint! Can you please check – they were awkful!

  11. I remember eating Steamers when I went to Pangborn Elementary back in the 60’s. definitely going to try this recipe.

  12. I’m 66 and lived in Hagerstown till I was13 . Always got our steamers from the backdoor of bar close to the bread factory. Best thing ever! Never have been able to duplicate exactly.
    Vicky Browning

  13. I worked at Salem Way Confectionery in the early 70’s for Harold Domer. They were THE best steamers around. Recipe was passed on from when the Weavers ran the store I believe. They were truly Hagerstown steamers.

  14. The best steamers made years ago was at the carnivals, FairPlay, Clearspring and Smithsburg… Anyone have the recipes for these from years ago ?

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