A sandwich might just be the perfect meal. It can hold an endless array of goodies—meats, cheeses, veggies, condiments, breads. It's portable. It can be hot or cold. And you can dress it up or down as much as you like.
But if you really want to take your sandwiches to the next level, you might want to pick up a tip or two from a pro. And who better to consult than the Sandwich King—literally?
Best known for his Food Network series Sandwich King, Jeff Mauro has eaten, explored, and extensively researched the art of how ingredients should be perfectly placed in between two slices of bread. The Feast recently caught up with Mauro to get his advice on making a mouthwatering handheld meal.
1. Quality Ingredients Are Key
Regardless of how many meats or condiments or veggies you're using, the sandwich is going to suck if the ingredients are no good. “You can have all the right pieces to put together an amazing sandwich, but if those ingredients aren’t quality, then the final dish will never be delicious,” says Mauro. “I get it, people are busy and may not have time to make homemade bread or cheese, but if that’s the case, I suggest finding an amazing bakery or deli to buy from.”
2. Don’t Let the Bread Be Overbearing
Make sure there’s a balance. This is a sandwich, after all, not a breadbasket. “There are so many varieties of sliced bread, rolls, subs, and each works differently depending on the sandwich you are creating. If you are creating a hoagie, get the rolls that have a hinge—this will help to keep the ingredients in place and ensure they aren’t falling out of the sandwich. [You] don’t want to waste one bit,” says Mauro. “Many times, sandwiches can be overly bready. You don't want one ingredient to shine more than the others. It needs to be harmonious.”
3. Dress Up the Bread
Toast it, or apply some condiments before layering the inside ingredients. “Because it’s the foundation of your sandwich, skimping on preparing the bread will keep your sandwich game from going from little leagues to pro,” says Mauro. “You want to butter and griddle those buns, or put that French bread in the oven for 5 minutes, to reactive it. If you must, buy the freshest sliced bread possible.”
4. Scooping the Bread Is OK
To scoop or not to scoop; that is the question. Some say it’s a sin, while others dig in. “I think that comes down to personal preference as well as the recipe. I don’t normally scoop out the insides of a bagel or roll,” says Mauro. “If you don’t toast it, then it becomes impossible to work with, but there are certain instances where creating a little ingredient nest is appropriate.”
5. Make Sure Meat Is Thinly Sliced
Being a social butterfly is a good idea—at least for meat’s sake. “Buying quality meat is a must,” says Mauro. “Becoming friends with the deli guy, or finding a great butcher, will always help in getting the best cuts. No matter the meat, you can improve the taste of a sandwich by making sure the butcher gives you thinly sliced meats. You want them to still have texture but not too thin that they completely disappear on the sandwich.”
6. Put the Meat at the Bottom
Although it’s important to use your imagination, there are some no-nos when it comes to sandwich building. “Making the meat the top layer” is not a good idea, Mauro says. “You want the condiments and vegetables to be within the beginning of the bite, ending everything with the meat on the bottom. If it were flip flopped, you would never taste the other ingredients, as they would be wiped out by the meat.”
7. Try a Non-Traditional Vegetable
Typically, lettuce and tomato is the go-to veggie and fruit addition. “A sandwich add-on that I recommend is one that many people don’t consider: the standard green bell pepper, which can take your typical toppings from predictable to flavorful,” says Mauro. “It adds so much to a sandwich without additional fat or calories. I always have three kinds of peppers in my fridge at all times that add flavor and also texture. If you don’t love peppers, then find a different vegetable—maybe a pickled purple onion, a cucumber, sprouts, you name it—that adds a different dimension to your go-to sandwich.”
8. Cheese, Please (as Long as It’s Melted)
This step might require a bit of patience, especially if you’re hangry. “I love to add cheese to my sandwiches, but if you are going to do that, take the time to melt it,” says Mauro. “[There’s] no use taking the time to ensure you have all the flavors correct, if you aren’t going to properly treat them. Melt that cheese, warm up those veggies! When it comes to putting cheese on a sandwich, choose one that has strong flavors that can stand up to the other bold flavors in the sandwich. A sharp cheddar, smoked gouda, and nutty provolone.”
9. Add Some Texture—But Not Too Much
For some, it’s important to enhance the sandwich with a crunchy veggie. For others, it’s putting potato chips in the mix that does the trick. “I like a little bit of crunch from a homemade chip or a pickle. Those small additions make a huge difference,” says Mauro. But don't go overboard. “Any add-on becomes too much if it makes a sandwich impossible to eat. That goes for any sandwich ingredient.”
10. Pile It High, as Long as It’s Balanced
French fries, mac and cheese, fried onions—bring it on! “No matter what, just ensure all selected add-ons are proportionate to the sandwich size. It’s fine to pile the sandwich high with delicious fixings, but it becomes impossible to eat all the ingredients if they are too thick or oversized… though that can be enjoyable at the right place and time. To create proportioned ingredients, I use the BLACK+DECKER™ MultiPrep Slice ‘N Dice, which has a variety of discs that are easily interchangeable, depending on the ingredient and the thickness you are looking for. This allows me to include a variety of fixings for any type of sandwich.”
11. Don't Forget the Sides
A sandwich is a meal in itself, but it’s good to have a snack on the side as well. “At my restaurant, Pork & Mindy’s, we offer a range,” says Mauro. “Really, anything with potatoes at its base are my favorite: fries, tots, potato salad. Since the preparations are endless, much like sandwiches, you can always create the perfect meal with the two together.”
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