All sizzle and no steak

Photo of author


All sizzle and no steak is an idiom with roots in the 1930s. We will examine the meaning of the idiom all sizzle and no steak, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

All sizzle and no steak means someone or something does not live up to its reputation, that someone or something is touted as being bigger, better, more important, more talented, or superior in some way but in reality, is not. The phrase all sizzle and no steak seems to have come into use during the mid-1900s and comes from a 1937 book about salesmanship called Tested Sentences that Sell, written by American Elmer Wheeler: “Don’t sell the steak — sell the sizzle.” Wheeler meant a salesman should describe what a product can do for a buyer, not simply what the product is.


Within twenty minutes of the interview, it became apparent to me that my guy was all sizzle and no steak. (Forbes Magazine)

I hate to burst this trial balloon, but is it possible Silver is all sizzle and no steak? (The Washington Post)

Many Democrats worry that, documentaries and magazine covers aside, O’Rourke is all sizzle and no steak. (The Houston Chronicle)

Burns’ inimitable visual style is sometimes mocked, but the filmmaker isn’t in a rush to embrace flashy special effects, something he calls “all sizzle and no steak.” (AP News)

Enjoyed reading about this idiom? Check out some others we covered: