5 Best Sandwich Upgrades for the Ultimate Sammie

Love sandwiches? Join the club.

The sandwich seems like a simple dish. But look closer at the equation—and think about your favorite sandwiches and how good they are next to the not-so-great—and their complexity comes into focus.

When making a sandwich, there are so many opportunities to make it better—whether it's a hoagie, sub, Reuben, burger, or a breakfast sandwich. Flavor and texture and how the two meld matter. Heed a few simple tips, and learn how to make a great sandwich that will never be a measly two bread slices and a layer of meat again.

Use Better Bread

In most sandwiches, bread is the component that takes up the most physical space, so start with good bread. Investing in a $5 loaf (or baking one yourself) and slicing it right before you make the sandwich gives you a huge flavor and freshness boost relative to pre-sliced bread or a low-quality loaf.

Keeping that bread out of the fridge and sealing will prolong the life of its flavor and bite. On top of good fresh bread, think about your bread-to-filling ratio. Ensure your filling components—like lettuce, tomato, or a spread—adds moisture to counter bread's dryness, especially if you're packing away a sandwich to eat later in the day.

Incorporate Acidic Ingredients

An overlooked trick in the sandwich toolbox is harnessing the powers of acidic ingredients—and they've been right in front of your eyes the whole time. Think about pickles on a cheeseburger; how their zing can lighten the heft of the meat and lend a nice counterpoint to the oozy cheese.

Acidic foods lift sandwiches, especially those like banh mi, chicken cutlet, or any that leans on fatty or meaty components. Pickled vegetables do a great job here, whether simple red onions or heirloom cauliflower in a fancier giardiniera. A sprinkling of vinegar goes a long way, too.

Aim for Contrasting Textures

Some sandwiches thrive on pure softness, like pulled pork, but most benefit from several distinct textures. Adding textures brings complexity, like the crave-worthy combinations of crisp-soft or melty-toasty. Think about the crunch that onion rings add to a sandwich or the subtle pop of seeds.

There are all kinds of ways you can build contrasting textures. One is to toast bread separate from the fillings, creating a thin crisp sheath around the outside. Or incorporate a fried egg, snappy vegetables (like carrots), thick cuts of cheese, crisp lettuce, or creamy aioli. Even slight variations between textures make a huge difference.

Try Jarred Products for Dimension

When it comes to layering a great sandwich, the pantry is a gold mine. Twist open a jar of roasted peppers, marinated artichokes, or spicy relish to jazz your sandwich in just a few spoonfuls.

Jarred goods add dimension to sandwiches, and with almost no added work. Pile on favorites like sundried tomatoes, sauces (like sambal), kimchi, and even jarred pesto. Keeping a well-stocked pantry (or even a pantry with a handful of useful items) is foundational to good eating—and even more important to good eating in a pinch.

Get Creative With Toppings

One of the best things you can do when making sandwiches is experiment with creative toppings. Here are some ideas.

  • Sambal: This goes great on an egg sandwich.
  • Jalapeño Pepper Jelly: This jelly lends coolness, sweetness, and spice to a brisket sandwich.
  • Ricotta or Mascarpone: A smear of either dusted with black pepper can go a long way.
  • Oils: High-quality olive oil, chile oil, or oil infused with garlic and herbs adds flavor.
  • Herbs: Even herbs alone can significantly upgrade a sandwich. Though not highly creative, a quick tearing of basil or oregano can provide that kind of accent that, together with a few other thoughtful moves, takes a sandwich from blah to rah!
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