Delving into Sandwich Meats: A Glossary

There’s no denying that we Brits love a good sandwich! 

This seemingly simple culinary concept has evolved from humble beginnings into a perennially popular meal of choice, enjoyed by many of us on a daily basis. The true aficionado knows that a great sandwich makes a great meal morning, noon, and night – from hearty bacon and egg breakfast rolls to convenient working lunches ‘al desko’, kids’ lunchbox butties, afternoon teas, and late-night supper snacks. 

Cured and cooked meats, often referred to as lunch meats, deli meats, and cold cuts, are a staple for many when it comes to crafting the perfect sandwich. But do you know your pancetta from your prosciutto, your bresaola from your brisket, and your salami from your pastrami? Let’s delve deeper into the different meats you could choose to be the star of your sandwich show…


Ham is one of the UK’s most popular and versatile sandwich meats, made from pork that has been preserved by salting, smoking, or wet curing. Often paired with cheese, salad, mustard, or pickles, ham works equally well on hot and cold sandwiches. Whilst honey-roast ham is a classic option, here are some other varieties you may be less familiar with.

Black Forest Ham: dry-cured smoked ham from the Black Forest region of Germany, which is boneless and contains around one-fifth fat. Black Forest ham pairs particularly well with rye bread.

Pancetta: Italian salt-cured pork belly meat, best sliced thinly for sandwiches and eaten raw.

Prosciutto: an uncooked, unsmoked, and dry-cured Italian ham that works well with tomato, mozzarella, and fresh basil on a panini.

Serrano Ham: dry-cured Spanish ham famous for its rich, salty flavour and deep colour. 

York Ham: a dry-cured ham that is eaten cooked, unlike many other hams of this type. Originally hailing from Yorkshire, it’s widely considered one of the finest ham varieties.


Chicken is also up there as one of our favourite sandwich fillings – great with bacon, stuffing, avocado, salad, or mayo, to name a few classic pairings.

Chicken Breast: sliced or shredded chicken breast fillets are one of the most versatile sandwich meats as they can be flavoured or seasoned to suit different tastes and preferences, whether with an Asian, Indian, Mexican, or Mediterranean twist.

Roast / Rotisserie Chicken: the perfect meat for flavourful and juicy hot sandwiches. It’s also a great source of lean protein.


Bresaola: air-dried, salted beef aged up to three months to give its dark red colour. Lean and tender, bresaola is usually thinly sliced and complemented by other classic Italian flavours like olive oil, rocket, parmesan, and balsamic vinegar.

Brisket: a cut of beef that’s best cooked long and slow to tenderise it, resulting in a juicy sandwich exploding with flavour. Brisket pairs well on a sandwich with anything that conjures up a barbecue – think crunchy coleslaw, onions, cheese, or potato salad.

Corned Beef: salt-cured beef brisket, traditionally served with mustard and pickle. The tinned variety is made by mincing the corned beef with gelatine and was often found in British army ration packs during both world wars. Corned beef can be found on the famous grilled Reuben Sandwich, along with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing.

Pastrami: originally from Romania, pastrami is usually made from beef brisket that has been salted, dried, and seasoned before being smoked for extra flavour. Pastrami was introduced to the US by Jewish immigrants in the second half of the 19th century and is still incredibly popular as a sandwich filling today, often served as a ‘pastrami on rye’.


Bologna / Baloney: a finely ground pork sausage derived from Mortadella and named after the Italian city of Bologna.

Chorizo: a cured pork sausage flavoured with garlic, black pepper, and smoked paprika, which gives it a deep red colour and smoky flavour. Originating from the Iberian Peninsula, chorizo has a strong taste and firm texture and can be eaten hot or cold.

Mortadella: a type of cooked salami made from finely minced pork and pork fat, often studded with peppercorns, small cubes of pork fat, and pistachio nuts.

Pepperoni: a spicy red sausage made from cured pork and beef seasoned with chilli peppers and paprika to give a smoky flavour; pepperoni generally has a slightly softer texture than salami. The name derives from the Italian word for sweet or bell pepper, peperone.

Salami: a dry-cured sausage made from fermented pork, beef, or veal and flavoured with garlic, herbs, and spices. Various stages of salting and drying give it a slightly hard texture. The name comes from the Italian word for salt, sale, with popular varieties including Genoa salami, Milano salami, soppressata and the spreadable ‘Nduja.

Whatever sandwich meat you choose for your next culinary creation – we hope you enjoy it!