Why Subs Taste Better From A Deli Than At Home

Is there anything more satisfying than a well-made sandwich? From the moment your teeth sink into the crusty bread, your taste buds delight in the salty cold cuts and the refreshing tang of vinegar-splashed veggies, aided by a smooth oil-based condiment that blends the flavors together.

According to science, sandwiches do taste better when someone else makes them. Writing in The New York Times, noted psychologist Daniel Kahneman points to research done at Carnegie Mellon that showed the process of thinking about specific food — like you would when making a sandwich — actually satiates hunger, leading to less enjoyment when it's time to eat. While it's hard to argue with science, this primer for the sandwich obsessed will help break down the deli-made deliciousness. Maybe you can even replicate it at home.

A great sandwich starts with good ingredients

Like any good build, it begins with proper construction. According to food vlogger Ethan Chlebowski, a great sandwich starts with great bread: soft but chewy and able to withstand moisture from the vegetables and any sauces added. Delis have access to loads of different breads for their diverse menus of Dagwoods and pick it based on the type sandwich. Think about it: sub rolls for hearty constructions, rye bread for a classic pastrami, or simple white bread for PB&J (via Eater). Megan Sanchez and Alec Morrison, chefs at Güero in Portland, tell Bon Appetit they hollow out the bread a little bit, because no one wants a bread sandwich.

According to Chlebowski, some sort of fat-based spread is typically used on top of the bread slices that book end the sandwich. This could be mayo, or a coating of olive oil, or even butter. Using fat as a base protects the bread from any watery items, like wet vegetables or soggy meats such as tuna, while also adding important lubrication (via Di Lusso Deli). While fats aren't as flavorful as something sweet or bitter, they amp the flavors of herbs, acids, and meats, EarthSky explains. According to Bon Appetit, restaurant sandwiches feature mayo mixed with things like herbs, a splash of citrus, and even soft and spreadable cheeses.

Deli sandwiches have a solid construction

When considering meat combinations, delis go with ones that taste great together, claims vlogger Ethan Chlebowski. A more delicate flavored meat like turkey can get lost by the robust flavor of something like salami. Di Lusso Deli pays attention to how meat is sliced as well. Items like a flavorful capocollo are cut thin, while more muted meats like roasted chicken breast can be thicker. To really bring your at-home sandwich game to deli levels, Bon Appetit recommends investing in a meat slicer.

Similarly to matching meats, the flavor profile of the cheese is also important. A spice of pepper jack will liven up boring cold cuts, while American or Swiss cheese is great for heated sammies because of their excellent melting properties.

Deli sandwiches are well seasoned

Enhancing the flavor of the veggies with salt and pepper is also a solid deli hack (per Bon Appetit). Under seasoning things like lettuce, tomato, and onions does a disservice to the sandwich, no matter how salty the meat. Vlogger Ethan Chlebowski suggests adding a layer of chips to sandwiches to get that salt, and People Magazine agrees, saying the crunch adds an irresistible texture.

According to Connect2Local, delis ensure that the lettuce, tomato, onions, and so forth are as fresh as the bread they're layered on. Chlebowski dresses the vegetables in a vinaigrette before layering on the hero because the vinegar adds a nice tang, noting this flavor profile can be replicated with items like pickles. When stacking the veggies, eateries keep sandwich construction in mind. Slippery items like cut tomatoes or cucumbers can cause the sandwich to literally slide apart. Di Lussio Deli layers those in with more textured greens like arugula. Once the sandwich is made, Chlebowski points out that restaurants wrap it tightly in parchment or wax paper before slicing it in half. The paper not only holds the sandwich together but also helps marry the flavors.

While science dictates deli-made will always taste better, maybe these hacks can help up the ante on homemade sandwiches, whether constructing a classic Italian sub or an innovative banh mi.