Are Burgers And Hot Dogs Sandwiches?

The type of person who lays awake at night agonizing over whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable might also have strong opinions about whether or not hot dogs and hamburgers should be classified as sandwiches. Concerning the former, many of us have come to accept that tomatoes are technically a fruit. But how do technical classifications square against more practical ones? Britannica puts it in fittingly paradoxical terms: "Tomatoes are fruits that are considered vegetables by nutritionists."

The sandwich debate presents a similarly vexing duality. As Merriam-Webster has it, sandwiches are defined as "two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between" and "one slice of bread covered with food," also known as an open-faced sandwich. By those standards, listing hot dogs and hamburgers as sandwiches on a menu wouldn't be wrong. Of course, age-old debates are never that simple.

What is a sandwich?

You wouldn't think there would be much harm in opening up the metaphorical sandwich gates to include all manner of foods wrapped in other foods. But the broad definition of the word has caused a lot of paperwork. In a 2006 lawsuit involving New York State's tax on sandwiches, one judge did Qdoba a solid by ruling that a burrito is not a sandwich, despite arguments to the contrary. "I know of no chef or culinary historian who would call a burrito a sandwich," a former USDA official said in an affidavit. 

In response to this and other sandwich quandaries, The Atlantic came up with its own definition. "A sandwich must, first structurally, consist of two exterior pieces that are separate or mostly separate. Those pieces must be primarily carbohydrate-based, so made of bread or bread-like products." 

The filling can be anything you want, so long as it's not just a condiment. Finally, "the whole concoction must have a primarily horizontal orientation," and it must be portable, just as the Earl of Sandwich intended. Based on this updated definition, which we think aligns well with the picture that comes into our mind when we hear the word "sandwich," let's reevaluate hot dogs and hamburgers.

Is a burger a sandwich?

Based on both official and unofficial definitions, one could make a convincing argument that a burger is a sandwich. It's arranged horizontally and includes a substantial filling — one or more patties, usually accompanied by condiments and other fixings — between two slices of buns, a bread-like product. 

One tenet of sandwichery that doesn't quite count, at least as far as The Atlantic is concerned, is that not all burgers are easily portable. Sure, you can carry a single-patty burger across a room, but if you try to pack a triple-decker in your lunchbox or hold it in one hand, things might get messy. However, considering both the portability of the average burger and the non-portability of, say, a towering Reuben spilling over with corned beef and sauerkraut, we don't think every sandwich needs to fit in the same camp as your coffee tumbler. 

We believe all burgers can be considered sandwiches. The same goes for burgers, whose buns have been replaced by ramen noodles or donuts, as both contain carbohydrates. We may not enter sandwich-tax law anytime soon, but we stand by our views. 

Is a hot dog a sandwich?

When nestled in a split bun, a hot dog meets several sandwich criteria. Namely, it contains more than condiments and fills a bread-like product. But by the standards we used to classify burgers, it is our duty to declare that a hot dog is not a sandwich; a hot dog is a hot dog. 

We're willing to overlook its bun, which is similar to some submarine sandwiches (think Philly cheesesteaks and meatball subs). What we can't accept, however, is its shape; the buns are on the sides as opposed to the top and bottom, missing the mark for the horizontal orientation by which we abide. As for those who might attest that a hot dog is an open-faced sandwich, we would again draw their attention to the shape of the bun, which does not lie flat. On the other hand, a hot dog burger is a sandwich through and through, as it consists of a sausage fastened into a ring and placed flat on a hamburger bun. 

So, there you have it: When and how a hamburger or hot dog is and is not a sandwich. Here are a few takeaways: Ketchup between slices of bread is not a sandwich, donuts can be vehicles for burgers, and semantics are fun.