For Better Sandwiches Start Smoking Your Deli Meat

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Foodies have been gleefully entangled in a centuries-long love affair with cold cuts: Early versions of the modern-day deli began cropping up in Germany during the 1700s, reports Statista. However, the story changes depending on who you ask. The beloved dish is rumored to have been invented by John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, per National Today. But before that, foodies in Greece and Turkey were said to have been making sandwiches. From cheesesteaks to meatball subs to open-faced tuna melts, the sandwich is as familiar as it is unknowable — a paradoxical compatriot. As James Beard himself once put it, "Too few people understand a really good sandwich."

Believe it or not, the secret ingredient to the elusive "really good sandwich" isn't a particular type of cheese or condiment — it's a smoker. Smoking can elevate pretty much any deli meat, but for more flavorful varieties, it's probably unnecessary. Per The Spruce Eats, plainer, "less-desirable" meats are ideal for smoking because the smoker imparts all the flavor you'll want. It gives deli meats like bologna, unseasoned turkey, and chicken breast an unexpected facelift. If you're working with pepper-crusted pastrami or Lebanon Bologna (a type of spiced, fermented sausage) for instance, smoking could make the flavors too intense or cause them to clash. With other basic deli meats, though, a smoker could be your new sandwich-time hero.

A smoky touch for already-salted meat

According to Grill Simply, the process of smoking food started as a method of preservation. But, today, processed deli meats like bologna come cured and infused with a few (or more) preservatives, explains MasterClass. As a result, they're imparted with a characteristic saltiness. By simply throwing deli meats in a smoker, says the outlet, the smoky wood chip flavor compliments the salty flavor, resulting in a next-level sandwich. Sliced turkey, chicken breast, salami, ham, and roast beef never looked so good. And for a finishing touch worthy of a chef's kiss, you could toss some green beans in the smoker as a side dish.

Field & Stream lauds the Traeger Pro Series 575 as the best wood pellet smoker of 2023. Indeed, there's no doubt that a smoker like this one can take your meat to the next level, but it also costs around $900. Luckily, if an appliance like this isn't exactly a part of your cooking budget, you can slam together an effective DIY smoker with supplies you probably already have lying around the house. 

Foodist Alton Brown shows home cooks how to assemble a quick smoker using a cardboard box. According to Smoked BBQ Source, you can also make a smoker out of a terra cotta flower pot and a few bricks. However you choose to do it, whip out that smoker so you can do as iconic musician Warren Zevon prescribed in a David Letterman interview: "Enjoy every sandwich."