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Chicken sandwich vs chicken burger
November 23, 2012 1:38 AM   Subscribe

I have a question about burger terminology. Why is it that Americans have a cheeseburger, a veggie burger, a turkey burger -- but call a chicken burger a "chicken sandwich" (when it's in a burger bun, not made with sandwich bread)?

In Australia we simply use "chicken burger" for a piece of chicken in a burger bun. Same for "fish burger".
posted by peter1982peter to Food & Drink (51 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and turkey burgers are all made with ground meat. A chicken sandwich is made with a whole piece of chicken (or at least something that's supposed to resemble a whole piece of chicken in the case of McDonald's and similar fast food chicken sandwiches). I'd expect a chicken burger to be made with ground chicken.

Related, a turkey sandwich is definitely different than a turkey burger. The sandwich usually has sliced turkey breast or other whole pieces of turkey.
posted by 6550 at 1:43 AM on November 23, 2012 [63 favorites]


In the midwest, burger means "hamburger" aka ground beef. I guess veggieburger is just the easiest way to describe a pattie imitating beef.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:43 AM on November 23, 2012


I'd expect a chicken burger to be made with ground chicken.

Optimist.

I think the difference is that while Americans might accept that a hamburger contains ground beef and a turkey burger contains ground turkey, only a very few would go along with the idea that a chicken burger would actually contain ground chicken.

A chicken sandwich sounds like wholesome goodness on bread.

A chicken burger sounds like mystery meat on a bun.
posted by three blind mice at 1:55 AM on November 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


My father thinks a "chili burger" is simply a bunch of chili slopped between two burger buns, and he's from Kansas, so the idea that anything on a bun is a burger is not exclusive to Aussies.

But ... what do you call roast beef on a bun like at Arby's? Roast beef burger?

Incidentally, the hamburger was originally known as a "hamburger sandwich," so ...
posted by ronofthedead at 2:02 AM on November 23, 2012


That'd probably be a "roast beef and gravy roll". The roast pork and gravy roll (usually with crackling!), and the chicken and gravy roll are both things, but both usually on a long roll, I think. If it was served on a round roll, the server person would apologise that they were out of long rolls.
posted by thylacinthine at 3:22 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


To corroborate what TBM said, in the UK "chicken burger" and "turkey burger" refer to a breaded patty of ground meat, either when talking about only the patty itself, or the whole shebang in a burger bun.

Higher-end places will serve a chicken breast in a bun, and still refer to it as a "chicken burger" (though they're usually keen to explain that proper meat is involved) - a chicken sandwich here will be a sandwich, not a burger.
posted by ominous_paws at 3:49 AM on November 23, 2012


Yep, we (my family, people I know) call it a chicken burger if it's made out of ground chicken, but that's not very common and it's easier to just slap a whole piece of chicken on a bun and call it a sandwich. For some reason, ground turkey is much more common so there's your turkey burger, but so is sliced turkey and that's when it's a sandwich.
posted by Kimberly at 4:52 AM on November 23, 2012


In Nicaragua, I actually ate a hamburguesa with a whole piece of steak, because I didn't specify that I wanted ground beef.
posted by empath at 6:02 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


In America, a burger is specifically a ground meat patty on a bun. A breaded patty doesn't count. It's not that chicken burgers don't exist, it's just that they're not common compared to the beef and turkey versions.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 6:08 AM on November 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


As said above, "burger" means ground meat in America. Usually, they are things trying to simulate a hamburger; a chicken sandwhich is it's own thing. I've never had a ground chicken sandwich, but I could see that being called a chicken burger.
posted by spaltavian at 6:25 AM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Anyhow, calling it a chicken sandwich is a smallish pretention.
posted by mule98J at 6:31 AM on November 23, 2012


Yeah, I have actually had chicken burgers made of ground chicken meat before- they weren't bad, but they were a very different food item from a breaded, fried, single chunk of chicken on a hamburger bun.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:36 AM on November 23, 2012


I think of a chicken burger as being something made with ground chicken, as opposed to ground beef.

A sandwich (of which a hamburger is but one type) that is made with a whole chicken breast, or whole pieces of other parts of the chicken, is properly called a chicken sandwich.
posted by dfriedman at 6:48 AM on November 23, 2012


You can have a "hamburger" on toast or sourdough bread or whatever type of bread. It doesn't have to have a bun to be a hamburger. There is the patty melt but I still call a ground meat patty on any type of bread a hamburger. As everyone has mentioned, ground meat makes it a hamburger.

You can also have a (not ground) chicken, turkey, steak, etc. sandwich on a hamburger bun.
posted by Fairchild at 6:54 AM on November 23, 2012


Regarding your comparison of (your interpretation of) the Aussie usage of "burger", which is based on the use of a "burger bun", and the American usage of burger, which, as others have indicated, is based on the contents of the bun rather than the bun itself (which we call something like a Kaiser roll or just a bun):

If any piece of meat on a bun/roll can be called a burger, then how do you distinguish between a "hamburger" (ground beef patty on a bun) and a "ham burger", which, presumably, in Australia could be sliced ham or a piece of ham on a bun/roll?

I conclude that our way is superior.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:58 AM on November 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


A chicken sandwich is something distinct from a burger - it is prepared differently, and usually served differently. A chicken sandwich is either a grilled piece of chicken breast, or a battered and fried breast, that is served on a roll. You'd typically put mayo or barbecue sauce on the chicken sandwich; you wouldn't expect ketchup or mustard, which you'd expect on a hamburger. Cheese is optional but less likely than on a burger.

Turkey burgers and veggie burgers are typically served like hamburgers with a substitute protein. You'd expect them to use similar condiments and preparation, either grilled or fried on a skillet or flat top. Chicken sandwiches are distinctly not just a substitution. As others have indicated, I'd expect a "chicken burger" to be a patty made of ground chicken on a bun and served with burger-like condiments.
posted by graymouser at 7:00 AM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


these chicken burgers are pretty good
posted by saraindc at 7:05 AM on November 23, 2012


Came to say what 6550 said.
posted by windykites at 7:20 AM on November 23, 2012


In the USA the word "burger" seems to refer specifically to the meat pattie itself. This in Australia would correspond to say a flat "rissole".

Whereas in Australia and the UK the word "burger" seems to refer to the entire construction of something cooked and placed inside a circular bread roll with lettuce and other things.

Hence in the Uk and Australia you have such things as:
Chicken Burger = usually a whole breast of chicken fried and placed in a bun with Salad
Mushroom Burger = a whole mushroom cooked and...
Tofu Burger = a slab of Tofu
I've even seen in Australia such a thing as a Steak Burger which would be a piece of whole beef.

I can imagine a Pork Burger or a Ham Burger being made with fried Pork or Ham respectively. I don't think this presents a problem. Although no-one eats ham that way. You might call it a Gammon Burger in the UK as it would be made with a slab of Gammon Ham I imagine.


In the UK and Australia a Sandwich however can only be made with sliced bread. Anything in a bun or a roll would be called a Bun, Roll or Burger and never a Sandwich. Whereas it seems in the USA some will even call a Hamburger a type of Sandwich. I'm sure I"ve heard people in the USA call a Cheeseburger a Sandwich. That would never happen in Australia or the UK.
posted by mary8nne at 7:22 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think this is just a language thing. I believe it's a regulatory thing. There are stringent standards for meat "products" including the patties out of which burgers are made, and fresh/frozen poultry (i.e. not ground and processed) falls under an entirely different inspection regime. I suspect, though my .gov googles haven't really confirmed, that this usage is divided because of the need to conform to these separate regulatory regimes. Complicating matters is that some food inspection falls under the Food and Drug Administration, but many non-processed foods fall under the US Department of Agriculture instead.
posted by dhartung at 7:34 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whereas in Australia and the UK the word "burger" seems to refer to the entire construction of something cooked and placed inside a circular bread roll with lettuce and other things.

I think that in the US, people will also refer to the ground beef itself (raw, without the bun and fixings) as "hamburger". I know I always used to and this caused confusion when I first moved to the UK and asked someone at the grocery store where they kept the "hamburger", when I should have asked where they kept the "mince".
posted by triggerfinger at 7:39 AM on November 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


I largely agree with the answers about US use of the word "burger" and "hamburger", but I will point out that, because language is contradictory and hates to follow rules, we do refer to a whole mushroom in a bun as a "mushroom burger", and not a mushroom sandwich. But I think that has a lot to do with the politics of vegetarianism.
posted by muddgirl at 7:41 AM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


As said above, "burger" means ground meat in America.

For meat sandwiches (as opposed to veggie burgers or mushrooms burgers), this usage is very common in the U.S. --- so much so that last week when my niece, mother, and I all wanted to order the fried-fish on a bun at a fish shack, we agreed with some amusement that the sandwich's name ("fish burger platter") was the only thing that made us hesitate. Though we knew the sandwich would consist of a breaded and fried filet on a bun, the name conjured up an image of ground fish reconstituted into a round patty.
posted by Elsa at 8:48 AM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think that in the US, people will also refer to the ground beef itself (raw, without the bun and fixings) as "hamburger".

Ah, yes we do! See Hamburger Helper, a line of 'just add ground beef' meal-in-a-box kits which are a staple of trashy American cuisine, and which have absolutely nothing to do with patties of meat on a bun. I imagine the UK equivalent would have to be called Mince Mate or something
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:06 AM on November 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


Seconding saraindc, my experience with chicken burgers is Trader Joe's chile lime chicken burgers, sold right next to (and resembling) their turkey burgers.
posted by PussKillian at 9:26 AM on November 23, 2012


In the US a "chicken sandwich" can mean a couple of things, so I share your confusion. Note that a certain demographic here might identify your Chicken Burger as a McChicken (I wouldn't know if they still sell 'em). However just as a "tuna sandwich" really means a tuna salad sandwich; to many, a "chicken sandwich" means a chicken salad sandwich. Both of these are served on regular sliced bread, and the 'salad' is constructed by blending mayo and small pieces of celery with the tuna or chicken.
posted by Rash at 9:48 AM on November 23, 2012


Many people above have noted that people associate burger with ground beef. However, I venture that there is also another reason that the restaurant industry calls it a sandwich. It creates an option for health conscious diners, particularly women. That's not to say that it is actually all that much healthier. But it sets it apart from the red meat, ground meat, meat substitute and deep-fried and breaded ground chicken slime patty options. It also sounds lower calorie. People who count calories, again, particularly women, have been conditioned to think that "bun" (roll) has more calories than "bread" - and that thus sandwiches are lower calorie. So, even though chicken sandwiches are frequently served on Kaiser buns and the like, people still think that they are lower calorie - and that the contents, not being as previously described, should also be lower calorie and healthier too.

Disclaimer: I am Canadian and, at least in BC, we say bun, as a roll is this tiny little bun you get with dinner. Please substitute roll, bap or what-have-you as needed.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:20 AM on November 23, 2012


It's because veggie burger and turkey burger are designed to be inferior approximation of the real thing, whereas " CHICKEN SANDWICH " is standalone product.
posted by pravit at 10:22 AM on November 23, 2012


It really boils down to regional culture and ever-changing language, to which there often isn't any real rhyme or reason.

Note that the word hamburger came from Hamburg steak, which is like a cooked steak tartare, i.e. minced meat. Slapping it between slices of bread is an early 20th century American invention.

Over time, people started assuming that the "ham" part of the word to refers to the kind of meat being used (which is of course strange since hamburgers are made from beef, not ham), and the rest is history.
posted by wutangclan at 12:59 PM on November 23, 2012


Burger implies it's a patty of ground meat.
posted by 2oh1 at 2:17 PM on November 23, 2012


...and/or/er/uh meat byproduct and/or/er/uh meat substitute.
posted by 2oh1 at 2:18 PM on November 23, 2012


For what it's worth, the burger/sandwich distinction came up at our department tea a few weeks back. (We were talking about sandwiches and a Chinese person thought it was weird to call some sandwiches 'burgers' and not sandwiches--to his mind they were all sandwiches.) The best we came up with was that burgers have ground meat and sandwiches don't. This pattern extends to veggie/bean burgers, which feature the ingredients mashed together in some way. I personally probably wouldn't call a portobello mushroom on a bun a 'burger' and, as a vegetarian, am actually always slightly confused when I see a 'portobello burger' on a menu because I initially read it to mean strips of mushroom on a hamburger, not a mushroom on a bun. (Mushrooms on a hamburger are a thing, I think, but they're 'normal' white mushrooms, not portobellos.)
posted by hoyland at 2:23 PM on November 23, 2012



If any piece of meat on a bun/roll can be called a burger, then how do you distinguish between a "hamburger" (ground beef patty on a bun) and a "ham burger", which, presumably, in Australia could be sliced ham or a piece of ham on a bun/roll?


Hah, actually I think this is key to the whole thing. I don't think the distinction is between "burger = ground meat" (US) and "burger = food in burger bun" (AU). I think the Australian "burger" template is based on the WHOLE THING. I think the archetype for a burger in Australia is the McDonald's hamburger, and anything that is more similar to that than it is to a sandwich is a burger.

The features that are relevant are: bun shape (round); hot contents; slicing orientation (across the bun horizontally, not a vertical slash in the top); inclusion of tomato sauce ("ketchup" to Americans).

So the slices of ham inside a hamburger bun probably wouldn't be called a ham burger, because it would be cold. It would probably be called a "ham roll". If you cut the bun vertically and stuff fillings into the gap, that would be a "filled roll". (Though that's usually on a longer bun, not a round one.)

The other piece of evidence for this "McDonald's archetype" vs the "anything in a hamburger bun" hypothesis is the "bacon burger". If the Australian "burger" was a "thing in a bun" then a bacon burger should be bacon with or without salad in a hamburger bun. But no, a bacon burger is a normal hamburger (i.e. with meat patty) in a bun, with bacon added as well. Same deal with a cheeseburger: this is not just a piece of cheese in a bun.
posted by lollusc at 5:09 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I largely agree with the answers about US use of the word "burger" and "hamburger", but I will point out that, because language is contradictory and hates to follow rules, we do refer to a whole mushroom in a bun as a "mushroom burger", and not a mushroom sandwich.

But that's only because the mushroom is percieved to be an imitation burger.
posted by spaltavian at 5:15 PM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


The turkey and veggie burgers were introduced in fast food places after the hamburger as healthy alternatives that can take the place of the hamburger.

The chicken sandwich has its own history independent of the hamburger, originally being like a ham sandwich or a turkey sandwich - whole or sliced pieces of meat, baked or deep fried rather than ground and flame-broiled.

But mainly, it's not a burger because it's not trying to be one.
posted by zippy at 5:39 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I take issue with the term "veggie burger." Sometimes it's made of veggies. But sometimes it's made of soy protein. They should call it a soy burger if it's textured soy protein. Call it a veggie burger if it's made of veggies (and oats, or whatever). I am actually at the point where I will not order "veggie" burgers because they might be soy. I always thought if I saw "black bean burger" I was good, but Au Bon Pain sells a "black bean burger" that is a textured soy patty with a few black beans sprinkled in it. It was disgusting and I have boycotted Au Bon Pain over it. Generally though, any sort of veggie burger described as being made with a "black bean patty" is usually great.

Anyway, I think people have adequately explained the chicken sandwich vs. chicken burger thing well.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:20 PM on November 23, 2012


I would expect a chicken burger to be made of ground chicken. A chicken sandwich is made of a chicken breast, and really it's short for "chicken breast sandwich."
posted by Miko at 7:29 PM on November 23, 2012


"veggie burger" is short for "vegetarian burger" , not "vegetable burger", at least in my experience.
posted by davejay at 11:23 PM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Chicken burger" and "chicken sandwich" are entirely different things in US food language. "Salmon burger" and "salmon sandwich" are entirely different things. In each case, the "burger" is ground (chicken) or flaked (salmon) meat aggregated into a patty; the "sandwich" is a section of meat that could just as easily have been served with a side of potatoes and vegetables as on bread.

Now, "mushroom burger" is the outlier, because as others have said, it's a slab of mushroom,not ground mushrooms made into a patty.

I think spaltavian is right that "mushroom burger" is shorthand for "mushroom served in the style of a hamburger".

I send up the languagehat signal for "baconburger" vs. "bacon cheeseburger".

Also, my grandparents (2 US natives, one Canadian expat), all born in the 1890s, always called it "a hamburger sandwich" and "a hamburger sandwich with cheese". Hell, they may have been saying "a Hamburger sandwich" and I just didn't hear the capital letter.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:50 AM on November 24, 2012


It may be of interest to further muddy the waters in noting that referring to any sort of a sandwich as a "roll" is simply not done, to the best of my experience, in the northern midwestern US: northern Michigan, northern Wisconsin, northern Minnesota. One is aware that this seems to be common usage elsewhere, maybe particularly along the eastern seaboard and down South, but I haven't looked into it or anything.

By which I mean to say that while I agree with the general current above -- if offered a "chicken burger" I too would expect ground chicken in a patty on a bun, with whatever accouterments -- at the same I would warn against expecting Americans to be precise or "objective" in their terminology.
posted by mr. digits at 8:28 AM on November 24, 2012


Yeah, calling anything a "roll" is foreign to me, and I'm Chicago-born. Except for sushi, of course.
posted by davejay at 8:47 AM on November 24, 2012


I thought the only place people called a sandwich a roll was in Maine, where they have the Lobster roll. (And their bread is cut in a way that make it resemble a hot dog bun.)
posted by Rash at 9:13 AM on November 24, 2012


*It may be true that the "roll" appellation is more limited in scope than I believe -- I'm ignorant of the bounds of my ignorance, that is to say -- but I could swear that every five days or so I hear a sandwich described as such during Today Show banter or as a detail in a crime drama or whatever.
posted by mr. digits at 9:26 AM on November 24, 2012


I really do know better than to derail this thing as I am, but a final update: according to contacts in Maryland and Georgia, it appears that I may be totally wrong in believing that the use of roll in place of sandwich is widespread in the United States.
posted by mr. digits at 11:20 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lobster roll is the only "roll" I've heard about in Maine, and it's meant to indicate that what you're getting is lobster served on a hot dog roll. Hot dog rolls and hamburger (or hamburg, in New England) rolls are also called buns elsewhere. But they don't substitute for the name of the whole sandwich in any other case.
posted by Miko at 3:21 PM on November 24, 2012


I distinctly remember eating many, many literal chicken burgers -- ground up gray-looking chicken meat, drowned in crumbs, deep fried, and placed on a bun. I actually enjoyed it back in the day -- with plenty of ketchup. Nowadays I'm sure I'd hate it.

There's no reason to use an improper word -- even if it is less broad in scope -- if it is less accurate. "Burger" has a very defined meaning in America usage. Add to which there are plenty of sandwiches which feature burger-like rolls/buns but are not burgers. And plenty of fancy shmancy places which serve burgers (i.e. ground up patties) on decidedly non-hamburger buns (focaccia, kaiser rolls, challah rolls, and brioches are all popular choices).
posted by Deathalicious at 7:38 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


ground up gray-looking chicken meat, drowned in crumbs, deep fried, and placed on a bun

See, that I would call a chicken patty.
posted by Miko at 7:03 AM on November 25, 2012


And yet, it said "Chicken Burger" right on the school lunch menu.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:18 PM on November 25, 2012


I guess that's where we're trained; ours always said "Chicken patty."
posted by Miko at 7:32 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


A chicken patty goes on a chicken burger, just as a beef patty goes on a hamburger.
posted by muddgirl at 8:19 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess that's the way to think of it, though it's true that my lunch menu called them "chicken patties," though they were on a bun, which we as teens shortened to "chick-pats." There's an example in here.
posted by Miko at 8:45 AM on November 26, 2012


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