Sandwich Science: More Than the Sum of its Parts

Many of us have been making our lunches at home for years, and whilst some have perfected their sandwich-making skills, many will also have had some epic sandwich fails.

Have we been making subpar sandwiches for years? To find out more, let’s dive into the science behind building the perfect sandwich…

The Filling

Whatever your tastes and preferences, balance is key when it comes to sandwich fillings. Choose a range of textures, from silky and creamy to crunchy and dense, and flavour profiles, from spicy and rich to fresh and tart, and you’ll be off to a good start.

Most sandwiches typically include a combination of ingredients, from cooked or cold meats to cheese, vegetables, salad, other carbs such as crisps or chips, sauces, pickles, relishes, and, of course, either butter, mayonnaise, or similar for your bread covering.

There are no strict rules regarding the combination of ingredients you choose for your sandwich; however, here are a few tips for creating texture and flavour harmony:

  • Start with high-quality ingredients – use tasty components that you would be happy to eat on their own.
  • When it comes to sandwich fillings, less can sometimes be more. If you’re using a hero ingredient, allow it to shine.
  • Choose ingredients that complement one another. Certain combinations – such as cheese and pickle, roast beef and horseradish, or tuna and cucumber – are classics for a reason!
  • Combine contrasting textures and flavours so you can differentiate between each individual component.
  • Take it to the next level with some seasoning – a touch of salt and pepper can make a world of difference to your creation. Or why not try a dusting of paprika, a sprinkling of dried herbs, some chilli flakes, or a squeeze of lemon juice.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment!

The Bread

The next step in creating the perfect sandwich is to choose a carrier that works with your filling. For example, it can be difficult to eat a sandwich composed of a very soft filling like egg mayonnaise and dense or crispy bread without the filling shooting out all over the place. And using soft bread for harder fillings can result in an equally disharmonious eating experience. You ideally want to ensure that each bite has an equal amount of every element and that your sandwich keeps its structure until the very last bite.

Of course, there is no magic answer here. It all comes down to a variety of factors: what fillings you choose, whether you want the sandwich hot or cold, and what textures and flavours you prefer. White sandwich bread generally works well with savoury flavours due to its slight sweetness, which is also the perfect complement to sweeter fillings like jam and peanut butter. Thick sliced bread or slightly stiffer rolls, on the other hand, are ideal for supporting wetter or juicier fillings such as pulled pork or tomatoes – they’ll soak up the delicious liquid without losing their structural integrity. Wholegrain bread and rolls are perfect for bringing extra texture and a hint of nutty flavour to stronger-tasting fillings – think egg salad or chicken, avocado and pesto.

The Cutting

Over the years, there has been much debate on the best way to slice your sarnie – triangles, rectangles, squares, or even the Y-Cut – the nation is completely divided!

From a purely logical point of view, a sandwich cut into triangles delivers more butty per bite due to the optimum crust-to-filling ratio. The best way to cut, however, will depend on the bread you have chosen. A panini should always be cut right down the centre to create two perfectly symmetrical halves, whilst a wrap cut at an angle through the middle gives an aesthetically pleasing finishing touch.

Building the perfect sandwich has many elements and stages, requiring a great deal of thought, but one thing always stays the same – we all love a good sandwich!