Tag Archives: sandwich

Overthinking Sandwich Aesthetics

I love Overthinking It. They truly raise the stakes of analysis to amazing levels. Take this post on sandwiches. It opens with a rather spectacular chart of the relationship between ingredients and preparatory skill.

They also get points for knowing about coffee.

Coffee is in the top middle. The ingredients do matter here, some, but not nearly as much as the preparation. It’s very easy to take some high-end small-batch free-trade shade-grown hand-roasted Ethiopia Harrar, and turn it into something that tastes like cat piss by messing up the brewing process. Its opposite number is breakfast cereal. This is all but impossible to screw up: your culinary experience is determined entirely by which brand of cereal you buy…

But it’s their take on sandwiches that really deserves to be considered.

The atrocity at left [above]  is the “Bacon Whoopee,” available at the Carnegie Deli for a mere $22.  As a bacon-delivery vector, this is superlative.  As a sandwich, it is completely incompetent.  A properly calibrated sandwich is all about balance.  It is an exquisitely tuned chord.  Allow any one element to overwhelm the others, and the sandwich is ruined.  Ruined!  You need to be able to taste every component.  At the Carnegie Deli, this is not going to happen.  This is also the problem with the sandwiches at Subway.  It doesn’t really matter what you order at subway:  they basically all taste like the bread, with a little crunchiness from the lettuce.  (This is why when I have to eat at Subway, I just get the vegetarian sub.  It tastes the same, and it’s cheaper.)

The solution… summarised.

Cheese: The slices should be very, very thin, and no more than two layers… If you want more cheese, don’t put the layers next to each other. I list cheese first because it’s the sandwich’s limiting factor.

Meat: About two to three times the size (by thickness) of your cheese layer. Thin slices are important here too: this is the one thing that the standard deli sandwich gets right. But it’s not so much because of the flavor. It’s because a thick slice of meat is hard to bite through…

Lettuce, Tomatoes, Pickles, Cucumbers, and the like: The combined [vegetable] layer, though, should be exactly the same size as the meat layer. Obviously if you’re using something very strongly flavored… you want to use less…

Condiments: Less than you think… Spread thin, using just enough to moisten the surface of both slices of bread, and let it go. Grinding a some fresh black pepper onto the bread after you apply the condiments is often a nice touch.

Bread: …firm enough to hold the sandwich together… not be so coarse as to scratch the roof of your mouth. The two slices, together, should be about the same thickness as the meat layer…


Sandwiches are great. Bread + Filling = Great idea. They’re great. They’re the reason the expression “the best thing since sliced bread” was coined. Why else (other than toast) would you slice bread?

Well. Now you can figure out if you’re being ripped off by that cafe that wants you to pay $14 for a BLT with this sandwich calculator.

From BoingBoing.

And then, since we’re in the mood, why don’t you check out the winner of a recent “BLT from scratch” competition… here’s the post that set the rules

“From scratch means: You grow your tomato, you grow your lettuce, you cure your own bacon or pancetta, you bake your own bread (wild yeast preferred and gets higher marks but is not required), you make your own mayo. All other embellishments, creative interpretations of the BLT welcome.”

The winner was an American chef living in Sydney… here’s the concluding post from the competition.

Here’s his winning sandwich – but the best bit is the photographic flow chart he made (and the fact that he harvested his own salt from the ocean)…