The Fried Bologna Sandwich Is A Southern Classic

Classic Southern dishes are some of the best food America has to offer. The term evokes thoughts of crispy fried chicken, cornbread, berry cobbler, grits, greens, and sweet potato pie. True Southerners will also include the fried bologna sandwich as part of the prestigious group. If you're a proud member of the Baby Boomer, Generation X, or Millennial generations, you likely had cold bologna sandwiches waiting for you in the lunchbox mom packed for you. In truth, you probably either loved it or hated it. If nothing else, it became a part of your childhood memories, and even the haters might look back at them with fondness. Southern kids, though, had their bologna sandwiches hot from the school cafeteria or local roadside diner.

It is widely believed that bologna came to the New World with German immigrants who settled in the Midwest, Pennsylvania, and the Appalachian states, which encompass the American South. Bologna and bologna sandwiches themselves have a rich history in the U.S., but the fried bologna sandwich is an inherently Southern creation, one that much of the country prefers over its cold counterpart.

A simple assembly

A fried bologna sandwich is not difficult to make. With a handful of ingredients and a hot skillet, you'll have yourself a classic, delicious lunch in no time. You'll need two slices of soft, white sandwich bread, a slice or two of packaged bologna, a slice of cheese, and mustard. Some will argue that mayonnaise is also necessary, so condiments are a matter of preference. Truth be told, lots of people use ketchup to kick things up. Melt some butter in a skillet and place the bologna slice in the hot butter. You'll want it to brown nicely on one side before flipping it over to brown on the other.

When it's done, you can place the cheese slice on top while you assemble the bread. Spread mustard on both slices of bread and place the bologna and cheese atop one of the bread slices. Top with the remaining bread slice, and that's a fried bologna sandwich. Unimpressive? Maybe by sight, but looks can be deceiving. The heat brings out the full pork flavor of the bologna for an unmatched flavor (not to mention those glorious, caramelized edges), and the mustard gives a sharp, tangy contrast to the rich pork fat.

Make it your own

When you fry your bologna, there is one unusual but critical step you'll want to take before the meat hits the hot skillet. Take your bologna slice and carve a one-inch "x" in the middle. If you skip this step, the bologna will curl up when it touches the hot pan, leaving the edges crispy, the middle ungriddled, and the whole slice curled up and wonky. By making this small incision, the bologna will lie flat on the pan while it cooks. To get the cheese super-melty, place a lid on the pan after you place the cheese on the meat. Even if the heat is off, the residual heat will get trapped in the pan and melt the cheese.

Some folks will fry multiple slices of bologna to put on their sandwiches, while some, like Alton Brown, like to alternate fried and cold slices, so it's up to you to find your perfect fried bologna sandwich. Similarly, when it comes to toppings, you do you. Sure, the traditional version is pretty sparse, but it's not unheard of for people to add lettuce, tomato, pickles, potato chips (yum), and tangy chow-chow relish. You can play around, too, with the cheeses. Cheddar and American are the go-to's, but Colby, Swiss, and Pepper Jack can also give it a nice twist. 

In a nutshell, take all you know about a bologna sandwich and toss it out because the fried version is in a class of its own.