Is a hotdog a sandwich?


Full disclosure: I haven't always shown proper respect for hot dogs. There was a dark time between ages 4 and 8 where I would ask my mother to remove the "hot dog skin" (a horrific kid term for casings) before I would eat one. She would do this for me at parties and social events, where friends and family could marvel at my freakish preference for skinless hot dogs. My mother must have loved me very much despite the fact that I was a monster.

As I've grown I've developed a fondness for this tubed meat, hot dog skin and all. But my beloved hot dogs are now under attack by something far more sinister than my childhood food preferences: the sandwich police. It’s time that I defend the truth about my favorite form of processed pork. Frankly, a hot dog is a sandwich (and yes, that pun was intended).

Exhibit A: The Sandwich Artist

Sandwich purists will argue that sandwiches must include two separate pieces of bread. This is what most commonly excludes the hot dog from the pantheon of sandwiches. The fact that the two sides of the hot dog bun are most often conjoined is the major disqualifying factor for most doubters. But wouldn't this also disqualify a submarine sandwich from its firmly held sandwich-status? If so, should Subway change the names of its store employees to "meat-veggies-cheese-on-bread-roll artists?" The mere fact that Subway sandwich artists exist shows that the hot dog is rightfully a sandwich.

Exhibit B: Social Friction

Just watch how people respond  when you order a “hot dog sandwich.” It’s fun to cause a little chaos.

Exhibit C: The Freakin’ Dictionary

The definition of sandwich is probably the most important factor in deciding the fate of the hot dog. Merriam-Webster weighs in with two definitions of “sandwich,” the first being "two pieces of bread with something (such as meat, peanut butter, etc.) between them." At first glance, this may look like Webster’s definition supports the argument that a hot dog is not a sandwich.

But wait, there's more.

Merriam-Webster has another definition of sandwich: "two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between." Please note the, somewhat passive aggressively highlighted in bold and italicized, phrase "or a split roll.” Even the dictionary agrees that hot dogs are sandwiches. Case closed.

So, to all the haters out there, you don’t have to love hot dogs. You can think they’re gross, avoid them, or even eat them “skinless” (eww). But don’t say they aren’t sandwiches. That’s just not kosher.


I am here to tell you, a hot dog is not a sandwich.  Hot dogs are a category unto themselves.  This is not an attack on hot dogs. Far from it!  It is a note of distinction that a hot dog is no ordinary thing.  

There is no swell of patriotism and nostalgia in the thought of watching a baseball game and getting a ballpark sandwich. No one every shouted “Sandwiches! Sandwiches! Get your sandwiches here!” Families on camping trips don’t pack their coolers full of sandwich meats to skewer and roast over an open fire.  Sandwiches aren’t an American pastime.  Hot dogs are.

Exhibit A: Vertical Loading

The clearest sign that a hot dog is not a sandwich is simple construction.  A sandwich has a piece of bread on the bottom and one on the top, and you can view its contents from the side.  Hot dogs have one bun that wraps around either side, and the frank and fixins are viewed from the top.  Case and point: one winter when I was growing up an ice storm knocked out all of our power, and my mom was trying to use up all the food in our refrigerator before it went bad.  We had eaten all of our hot dogs but still had buns. So, she decided to use the buns to make sandwiches by ripping them apart, and stacking one on top of the other with peanut butter and jelly in between.  Sandwiches lie flat and stack.  Hot dogs do not.

Exhibit B: Clarity of Communication

Why complicate something  by confounding it with another name?  My favorite hot dog joint of my youth is Yum Yum Better Ice Cream and Hot Dogs in Greensboro, NC.  They serve ice cream and hot dogs, and that’s it.  Would you have them call themselves Yum Yum Better Ice Cream and Sandwiches?  It is less clear, specific, and useful language.  So is tacking “sandwich” on the end of “hot dog.”  Just try ordering a “hot dog sandwich” and see how everyone looks at you like you are doddering and bizarre.

Exhibit C: The Half Sandwich

We are not the first to ask and argue this question.  Others have wrestled with this important issue, and I now defer to someone with wisdom beyond my own.  In November 2015 on the Sporkful Podcast, the distinguished comedian, storyteller, and internet judge John Hodgman argued that a sandwich is a thing that might be cut in half. And, of course, he is correct!  Lunch menus throughout the country offer soups or salads with half a sandwich.  It is completely acceptable for a sub sandwich to be cut in the middle or a grilled cheese to be divided from corner to corner.  But, never have I ever encountered a hot dog cut in half.  To quote Mr. Hodgman: “A hot dog is an indivisible unique thing.”

So, I ask you, why not be specific? Why strip hot dogs of their individuality?  Why try to fit a hot dog shaped peg into a sandwich shaped hole?  Why not admit what we have all always known?  A hot dog is not a sandwich.  A hot dog is a hot dog.