Everything I Know About Sandwiches

May 3, 2019 | Cooking Tips

From the humble ham and cheese to a towering clubhouse, to the glorious banh mi, I love sandwiches. I always have. What’s not to love? You take your favourite things and stuff them between two pieces of bread. What could be better than that?

There are no real rules when it comes to making sandwiches. Having said that, you pick up a few things over the years. More suggestions than rules. Suggestions, that if followed can make even the most humble sandwich, one you will never forget. That’s what I’m going to talk about today.

This post isn’t going to focus so much on different types of sandwiches, but rather sandwich theory. Ideas and techniques that take a good sandwich and make it great. Because why wouldn’t you want to know that?

This is…

Everything I know about
Sandwiches


Bread

As most of you probably know I can’t eat gluten. So, I don’t eat real bread any more. I’ve only known this for about two years so prior to that I was breading it up like you wouldn’t believe. Even though I haven’t had a slice of real bread in over two years, I still know an awful lot about it. I should say as well that gluten-free bread has come a long way. It isn’t nearly as good as the real thing but they have made a lot of progress.


Bread Categories –

Bread falls into a few different categories. You have breads with a hard crust and chewy interior like a French baguette. You have hard crust soft interior like sour dough. Then there is soft crust and soft interior like a loaf of bread you’d buy at the grocery store. Really, there are thousands of different types of breads but we will start with these three.

Some breads are better suited to some fillings. For example, a baguette with it’s hard chewy crust isn’t great for sandwiches with a lot of fillings. For example, if you make a ham, cheese, lettuce, and tomato sandwich with mayo on a baguette your first bite is going to send all the fillings flying. Those same fillings on a softer bread is no problem. You are biting into and through the bread easily which allows you to get down into the fillings rather than forcing them out of the sandwich. However, just ham, cheese, and butter will work well on a baguette, and is very classic French.


Best bread for the job –

There are some fillings that a baguette is better for. These tend to have wetter fillings, or hot fillings. For example, I would often take leftover roast beef, slice it thinly, heat it up with a bit of gravy and Dijon mustard, maybe some caramelized onions and spinach and put that on a baguette in a nice even layer. The thicker crust holds its integrity much better than a few slices of white bread would.

Using the right bread for your sandwich can completely change the eating experience. It could be the difference between all your fillings shooting out, or your sandwich disintegrating. So, as crazy as it may seem, choosing the right bread is really important.

Knowing what bread to use for what sandwich really comes down to the filling. If you are planning on loading your sandwich up and stacking it high, you want a bread that you can easily bite into. For sandwiches with wetter or hot ingredients you want bread with a dense crust that can stand up to those demands.


Other Breads –

I want to also say not to forget about flat breads. Obviously, tortillas make great wraps, but those aren’t the only option. Lebanese or pocket pita, is fantastic and Naan bread is amazing for hot sandwiches as is Greek pita. Think beyond just slices of bread.


To toast or not to toast?

As far as I’m concerned toasting comes down to personal preference and the type of sandwich. Some sandwiches feel like they just have to be toasted like a BLT or a clubhouse. One flip side of that it feels kind of strange to eat ham and cheese on toasted bread.

Toasting can help to protect the bread if there are some juicer ingredients or if the filling is a bit wet like a tuna salad. But again, it mostly comes down to personal preference. I’ll leave it up to you.


Butter that bread!

I know that this is a controversial topic. Some people hate butter on sandwiches some love it. I love it. I butter pretty much all of my sandwiches. I do this for two main reasons. I love the flavour and it helps to protect the bread. This is especially true if the bread isn’t toasted and you are using a composed salad like tuna, chicken or egg to fill your sandwich. Butter will protect the bread from going soggy.


Condiments

I’m not going to sit here and tell you what condiments you should and shouldn’t use on your sandwich. That would be crazy. What I can say is that on the mayo v. miracle whip debate, I firmly and whole heartily fall into the mayo camp. But, no matter what condiment or condiments you use, push it to the edge. Meaning, don’t leave even a millimetre of that bread dry. There is nothing worse than eating a delicious sandwich, getting to the last bite and it is just dry lonely bread.

One other thing I will say is that mayo doesn’t have to be just mayo. You can mix a little pesto into it, or a little Dijon mustard, or roasted red pepper, or horseradish. This all adds a really exciting and delicious element to your sandwich with minimal effort.

Different Spreads –

Other spreads like hummus, flavoured goat cheese, tzatziki, and even Boursin Cheese, can also be really delicious on sandwiches. It doesn’t just have to be mayo and mustard. Hell, even marinara on the right sandwich is amazing.


Sandwich Fillings

One of the beautiful things about sandwiches is that you can put whatever you want in them. They are all a universal vessel for other foods. But I do have a few tips.

Slice –

Whatever it is that you decided to put in your sandwich, slice it as thin as you can. Super thin slices of tomato for example, are much better for the structure of your sandwich than really thick slices. Even when it comes to meat, really thin slices can be folded into layers rather than just thick slices. It adds height and stability to the sandwich.

Meat –

Speaking of meat, cold cuts and deli meats are good, but left over roast beef, ham, roast lamb, chicken or turkey, these are better, hot or cold. Think beyond what you buy at the deli counter. Those meats are usually loaded with nitrates and salt. They also generally aren’t nearly as delicious as home cooked stuff.

Whatever you want to put in your sandwich just remember the better quality the ingredients, the better quality the sandwich.

Lettuce –

Just like deli meats are good, so to is iceberg lettuce. But it isn’t the only option when it comes to adding greens to your sandwich. Spinach and arugula are great additions, especially for a hot roast beef or roast lamb sandwiches. Also, mixed salad greens that you can buy in the grocery store are fantastic on sandwiches and add a lot of colour.

If you want to get really deep into it, different greens have different flavours that pair well with different things. Arugula, to use that again, is peppery and nutty. This goes really well with red meat. The more you taste the more you know.

Also, they aren’t really lettuce, but sprouts like alpha alpha are delicious on sandwiches and there are loads of different varieties out there now. They are worth checking out.

Vegetables –

There is no limit to the vegetables that you can put on a sandwich. Like everything else, slice them thin.

Cheese –

The better the cheese, the better the sandwich. What else do you need to know?

Conclusion –

This is probably way more than you wanted to think about when it comes to sandwiches. But really, that little bit of extra thought goes a long way. Turning something that is already good into something that is amazing takes that little bit of extra thought and effort, absolutely it does. But, it pays off when you take that first bite and realize just how good a sandwich can be.

Have a great weekend everybody!

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