Difference between a Burger and a Sandwich??

Joined Oct 16, 2008
I have been in a long running discussion with some fellow Chefs and Food Scientists about the difference between a Hamburger and a Sandwich. I was wondering if any of you wanted to throw your hat in the mix and offer a definition between the two and clearly label the differences.

It is my opinion that they are different, a sandwich is served on sliced bread, a burger on a sliced bun. If you look on any restaurant menu they are listed in seperate sections and labeled differently.

Now your turn.....
Joined Feb 1, 2007
I'd have to disagree. If we accept your definition, then any sandwich-like meal would be excluded. Tuna salad on a roll; cold cuts on a hogie bun; mufalatta (sp?), filled gougere, pulled pork & cole slaw on a bun, etc. None of these would be sandwiches.

To me, a sandwich is anything that's served as a filling between two pieces of breadstuff, no matter what form the bread takes.

As to hamburgers being listed separately: That's because hamburgers are treated as the Great American sandwich, and restaurants have a menu of them. If there was only one hamburger served in a particular place, instead of a selection of them, there's no doubt in my mind that it would be listed with the other sandwiches.
Joined Nov 27, 2008
I agree, in todays terms a sandwich comes on a slice of bread, and a burger comes with a bun.

But if you look at the origins of the word 'hamburger' it comes from Hamburg steak, which originated in the German city of Hamburg. Contrary to what folk etymology might lead one to believe, there is no actual 'ham' in a hamburger.

The word sandwich may have come from one who was in a sandwich for time and wanted something quick to eat so he asked for some meat to be brought between two slices of bread.

So yes, they both have different meanings, but in today's understanding the bun and the slice of bread are all the difference.
Joined Oct 16, 2008
But KYHeirloomer, would you then call a Tuna salad on a roll a Tuna Burger or would it be a Tuna Salad Sandwich? In the opposite would you call ground beef grilled served on two pieces of sliced white bread a ground beef or hamburger sandwich? COld cuts on a hoagie depending upon where you are may be a grinder, a hoagie or a sub. A Muffaletta is a specific type of sandwich that is served on a specific type of bread and any deviation from that is no longer a Mufalleta.


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
The burger is a sandwich. I See it listed with sandwiches on menus frequently. Dictionaries define hamburger as a particular form of sandwich.

Many classic sandwiches are served on rolls or buns rather than just "bread". Consider the entire class of submarine sandwiches and the buns used rather than just bread.

Go into a grocery store. Stroll down the bread aisle. You'll find sandwich buns labeled as such.

While meat between bread has ancient origins, the term sandwich originates with the Earl of Sandwich who was a devout gambler and hated interrupting his games for meals.
Joined Oct 16, 2008
Based on the definition you have given a Porpoise is then a fish and not a mammal since it lives in the ocean with "fish".
Joined Nov 1, 2008
A hamburger is the meat between the bun or the bread. As phatch said, it's often described as a hamburger sandwich.

I've seen hamburgers served between slices of rye bread, on baguettes, white bread, challah rolls, and many other types of bread.

Some restaurants here serve a "hamburger steak" or platter. It's a large amount of meat - 1/2-lb, served on a plate, not between slices of bread, along with vegetables, salad, etc. But it's still a hamburger.


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
The perils of analogy.

The discussion here is conflating a couple of different things and treating them as one thing. Language and food are not the same things.

It is useful to use language to describe and define food but they both exist separate of each other and so there are times when one is poorly served by the other.

Outside of English, this discussion would be rather different as sandwich is distinctly English. Rather other difficulties would arise.

Returning to the porpoise and fish, let us consider it this way:


Porpoise and trout are in the same kingdom, probably the same phylum, but I think they separate in Class (my Biology class was a long time ago).

Anyway, to bring this analogy to food, Sandwich is a fairly high level category and hamburger is way down in that category probably at the genus level with the variations at the species level. Muffeleta is a completely different genus and species while all being sandwiches.
Joined Apr 3, 2008
I like patty melts.

Nobody calls them hamburgers anymore. Now they're called burgers.

I think from now on I will refer to them as hamburgerwiches.
Joined Feb 1, 2007
>Based on the definition you have given a Porpoise is then a fish and not a mammal since it lives in the ocean with "fish". <

All analogies are falacious, Chefhow. But that one is a particularly long stretch.

Phil didn't say the buns made a sandwich because they lived with the bread. He said they were called sandwich buns, right on the package. And so they are. Hamburger buns are identified that way because they are a sandwich bun whose dough type is most often used to make hamburger sandwiches. In other words, "hamburger bun" is a subset of the general population "sandwich bun."

Now then, if you want to get technical, the hamburger is just the meat component of the sandwich. But because the burger is most usually served on a bun, instead of with other types of bread, we often use culinary shorthand and order the hamburger sandwich by just saying, "burger." But it's a sandwich nontheless.

No, I would not call a tuna salad sandwich a tuna burger. But, in current usage, anything shaped into a patty and cooked like a hamburger carries the "burger" name: tuna burgers, vegetable burgers, etc. Are you saying they are not sandwiches?

>A Muffaletta is a specific type of sandwich that is served on a specific type of bread and any deviation from that is no longer a Mufalleta. <

You prove my point. A Muffaletta isn't served on a specific type of bread. It's served on a specific type of roll. And, according to you, that would make it different from a sandwhich, because your definition says it has to be sliced bread.

Somebody mentioned patty melts. A great addition to the discussion. Patty melts are hamburgers and other stuff between two slices of bread. So where does that leave you? I'ts no longer a hamburger, because it isn't served on a bun. But it isn't a sandwhich, either, cuz it's usually listed in the separate menu section devoted to burgers.
Joined May 29, 2006
A Hamburger is a ground meat patty usually beef served between two pieces of bread, or a roll with assorted condiments on side

A Sandwich is usually any cheese or coldcut or filling served between 2 pieces of bread or roll.

It is said sandwiches were invented so that the card players could keep playing cards and holding them while still eating ., but then again this could apply to a lot of other uses of eating with 1 hand.. Lord Montaign in the middle ages liked this method so therefore it was named sandwich. He did not invent it.

Any opinion or answer that anyone has stated could be deemed correct, as none of us were there.


Joined Jul 2, 2008
a tuna melt, in my experience, is typically served open face. there goes the whole "between the bread" theory.

"burger" aka "hamburger" as I see it refers to the meat thingie. ground meat shaped into a flat roundish "thing"

turkey burger, tofu burger (is that ground?), bison burger, ostrich burger . . .
chicken - perhaps except for McD - gets done as a chunk of non-ground breast meat - and gosh, it's usually labelled a 'sandwich' - not a 'burger'

fish anyone? again except for the fast food 'uniformity' issues, typically not a ground up reconstituted 'chunk of fish' - a fillet on a roll - and labeled "Fish Burger" - not.

when you say "Honey I'm going to grill the burgers now!" does that mean you're putting the bread - whatever shape or form - on the grill?

grinders, anyone?

the hamburger coming from Hamburg, Germany, is akin to the hotdog aka frankfurter coming from Frankfurt, Germany (am Main, anyone? there's more than one Frankfurt in Germany . . .)

so then there's the Earl of Sandwich and the Earl of Salibury - steak what?
another can of Worms - but that drags in Freedom Fries.......
Joined Aug 11, 2000
I'm with Phatch....
a hamburger, patty melt, burger are sandwiches.
not all sandwiches are burgers.

open face and finger are still types of sandwiches.
Joined Feb 13, 2008
Count me with 'shroom, KY, Phatch, Ed and Kouki.

Another unnecessary example: A barbecued (pulled) pork sandwich is properly served on a "hamburger" roll with slaw and a mustard-vinegar sauce. (Okay, some poor souls prefer a red, vinegar sauce). Setting aside for the nonce the apostasy of red sauce, the bun doesn't make it a hamburger or keep it from being a sandwich.


Tres Sophisticated MID-CAROLINAS 'Q SAUCE

3/4 cup dijon mustard
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup Chinese white rice vinegar
1/4 cup real maple syrup, or more to taste
2 tbs Louisiana or chipotle hot sauce, or more to taste
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce


Loves you some 'q.
Joined Jun 27, 2006
Me thinks this is sort of a "a splitting of hairs" and since I have nothing that even closely resembles a hair on my head.......... I've got nothing to split.:crazy:
I would add that a looooooong time a go in a land far, far away.....I had this discussion with several other culinarians and there was a very good reason or explanation made by a couple of us on why a burger was not or should not be classified as a sandwich. But since it was soooooo long ago my memory fails me on exactly why. Yet I do remember we finally had to agree to disagree.:bounce:

By the way....We have something here called a Baloney Burger. No....I don't mean being full of it but a real burger made out of a rather thick slice (almost an inch) of all beef Bologna on a grilled sesame seed bun with the works. Have yet to try one.:rolleyes:;)


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
Sort of like a pastrami burger. Is it a pastrami sandwich with a burger added or a burger with a pastrami sandwich added. :D:D

Neither of course.


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
Probably right there with the cuban as a pressed sandwich.
Joined Jan 4, 2009
laymens terms: a squished, grilled sandwich. A panini press, grills and squishes at the same time. Now this is what I understand a panini to be.
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