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What is the difference between a meatloaf and a hamburger?

Recently, my friends, Dustin and Dinsey had me and couple other friends over for dinner. They had made some really tasty meatloaf with a side of salad. As we exchanged ideas for how to make our meatloafs, there was a discrepancy between what was actually a meatloaf and what would fall as a hamburger, salisberry steak etc.

My question to you all : what makes meatloaf a meatloaf and a hamburger a hamburge?

To my understanding, I've always thought the setting ingredient that makes a meatloaf was the egg binder.

Is hamburger the same thing as meat loaf but just different shape? If you made your hamburger in a loaf shape would it become meat loaf? If you took your meat loaf and shaped it in to patties could you call it hamburger ? Is it the way its cooked or there an ingredient tha changes the dish? Granted, the ingrient in each of the foods are the same, but there are also variations among burgers and loafs. What is the deciding factor that makes this meat dish fall into its respectable categories?

I'm curious what you guys think and would be obliged if someone could shed some light into this debate. Looking through McGee's book didn't help much.

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  1. I'd say the only difference is a hamburger is grilled and a meatloaf is baked and their shape (loaf or patty).
    Ingredients for both can be inifinite to the imaginition.

    4 Replies
    1. re: monku

      Then again I've taken leftover meatloaf and put it in a pan to grill and make a sandwich...does it become a hamburger?

      1. re: monku

        No, it's a meatloaf sandwich, silly!!

        1. re: Phurstluv

          One of my favorite sandwiches as a kid was a grilled meatloaf and American cheese sandwich....sounds almost like a cheeseburger?

      2. re: monku

        I have heard of some making meatloaf, successfully, on the grill. Will have to try it some day.

      3. I think of hamburger as ground meat w/ some seasonings but meatloaf has fillers like egg, bread/crackers/etc. Salisbury steak, not that I've made it, is like meatloaf in a patty shape. Hamburger meat made in a loaf pan would be a loaf of meat but not a meatloaf.

        3 Replies
        1. re: chowser

          You've never had a Hawaiian hamburger....made with bread crumbs or panko maybe an egg and seasonings like meatloaf.

          1. re: monku

            Here in socal, they advertise a Hawaiian burger as a hamburger topped with teriyaki sauce and a grilled pineapple ring..... and not just the fast food places, either, I see it all over town. Would love to see what you're advertising!

            1. re: Phurstluv

              Not always pineapple and teriyaki sauce. Google up Hawaiian Hamburger recipes.

              Southern California: Go to Bruddah's in Gardena and they have a Hawaiian hamburger with mushroom gravy......it's a mix of hamburger, bread crumbs/panko and who knows what else, but no pineapple ring or teriyaki sauce.
              TnT Aloha Cafe or Gardena Bowl... Hawaiian hamburger with gravy.
              Curry House...they have a hamburger curry...hamburger is made with panko and ?...no pineapple or teriyaki sauce.....maybe it's a Japanese hamburger.

        2. These discussions have occured recently for several versions and you can search for those. It comes down to the fact that some of US (I'm one of those!) put nothing in a burger except the meat. Anything added and it becomes meatloaf shaped like a burger. But there are other who vehemently disagree.

          5 Replies
          1. re: c oliver

            Thank you, c o! I cannot even imagine using my meatloaf recipe, which has egg, bread crumbs, onion soup mix, ketchup & water in it, and then shaping into rounds and calling them hamburgers! Heresy!!

            My hamburgers have nothing in them except ground beef, spices like salt pepper, maybe some steak seasoning, and a splash of Worcestershire. That's it. I am not one of those who would wreck a completely good hamburger by putting bread crumbs or egg in it!

            1. re: Phurstluv

              Phurstluv, thats my thoughts exactly. I don't know who else reads the spirits forum, but I feel like this somewhat borders the debate between using vodka in a martini and calling it a vodka martini.

              1. re: Phurstluv

                How about a Japanese hamburger recipe? Sounds like a meatloaf recipe to me.
                http://japanesefood.about.com/od/beef...

                1. re: Phurstluv

                  Those familiar with German cooking will recognize a meatloaf mixture sauteed as patties as Frikadellen. It has to be done on lower heat and for longer than a pan-seared hamburger, because it needs to be thoroughly cooked while maintaining a tender exterior. Salisbury steak is tougher. Frikadellen are quicker-cooking than meatloaf and convenient in that they are the perfect shape for sandwiches on buns.

                2. For me, a burger is must be shaped into some sort of patty form and cooked individually with direct hear and not baked in an oven for a long period of time. As for fillers and egg....it can still be a burger .....unless the filler is something like bread crumbs, crackers or oatmeal. The it instantly becomes a meat loaf to me, regardless of shape or cooking method.

                  FWIW...the 21 Club Burger, arguably the most famous and best burger for many who have had it, does contain eggs in the ingredients.

                  http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: fourunder

                    Here's a Hamburger Steak recipe that has no Asian influence. Seems like meatloaf to me.
                    http://southernfood.about.com/od/burg...

                  2. Here in Connecticut, it is against the law for a restaurant to call anything a hamburger that has any ingredients besides ground/chopped beef and spices. If it has extenders, fillers or other meat it is NOT a hamburger!

                    I agree with this standard. Meatloaf has extenders and fillers such as bread crumbs, vegetables, egg, ketchup etc. and is baked in a mass, not in individual servings.

                    Salisbury steak is usually individual sized meatloaf type portions, but may be made of tenderized cheap beef (rather than ground) cooked/simmered /served in a brown mushroom gravy. A 'good' salisbury steak requires a knife to cut unlike meatloaf or hamburger

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: bagelman01

                      A Law?? Typical state legislators!! I only say that bc I am from CT as well!!!

                      Meatloaf can also be made into individual servings, loaves, and they freeze beautifully. And I always remembered Salisbury steak as being made from cube steaks, one of the cheap cuts that were popularized in the '70s. I don't know what they use now, I don't eat that cut.

                      1. re: Phurstluv

                        A very good consumer protection law at that. When you order a hamburger in a restaurant in CT you are assured of 100% beef.
                        Years ago, one of my employees also owned a Duchess 'fast food' franchise (they are all in New Haven and Fairfiled counties for you out of staters). He explained to be that they liusted their burgers on the menu as 'Big D Burgers' NOT Bid D HAMburgers because at that time they were using fillers to cut costs. They had been previously fined by the state for violating the statute.

                        So a restaurant advertising 100% beef hamburgers in CT is no big deal, every commercially sold hamburger must be 100% beef.

                        The 'cube steak' you refer to as a cut, really wasn't a cut of beef, merely a slice of inferior beef that had been mechanically tenderized with lots of slits.

                        1. re: bagelman01

                          Sounds like a "hamburger steak" would be illegal in CT ?

                          1. re: bagelman01

                            My only point is don't they have better things to legislate than semantics?!

                            And yes, I know cube steak is not a cut of beef, but rather a tough piece that has been pierced mechanically. Either way, I'm not eating it.

                            1. re: Phurstluv

                              Actually the country/chicken-fried steak that I ate growing up was that same "cube steak."

                              And I agree with you - as usual. What BS that CT residents PAID for their legislatures to deal with this (not that any of the other states are any better). Argh.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                Actually, it's quite an old regulation. From back when we actually had citizen legisltors. The CT legislature was not only part-time, paid about $4,000, NUT only met every other year and passed a two year budget.

                                I've lots of complaints about governement, I do business in CT, NY, FL and MA. BUT Connecticut is the only state I've lived in and conducted business in where taxes from the state have been reduced when not needed>>>>Sales tax was 8% in the early 1980s and has been 6 % for the last 20+ years. The tolls were eliminated on our roads more than 20 years ago as well. The tolls could only be used to pay the road bonds, when the debt was paid, the tolls were gone.

                                How many thousnads of times has the George Washington Bridge been paid for?

                                Sometimes consumer PROTECTION laws and reegulations PROTECT the consumer. I think it's a good thing to know that if you order a hamburger in CT it will be 100% beef and not a mix with soy or other filler.

                                BTW>>>I wish more restaurant related regulations were standardized throughout the state.

                                In some cities in CT one is required to use a clean plate for every trip to a buffet or salad bar. My ex-wife was refused a clean plate at a restaurant in New Haven in the early 90s. The manager told her: 'The New Haven Health Dept. doesn't require it, so we won't provide it." My ex walked out.
                                t that time we lived in Hamden, and the Quinnipiac Valley Health District which served our town required the use of a clean plate.

                                I'd like to see government make sure consumers are protected. If we are eating at restaurants we are DOUBLE consumers. We purchase and eat/imbine that which we purchase.