We live in a world of alphabet soup, where a constant stream of new text lingo makes it hard to keep up. But three letters will always be relevant: BLT.
It’s the sandwich of the people, and there’s just something about the way the juicy tomatoes seep into the mayo-slicked bread, and the slight give of crispy bacon. Check out our tips for how to master the perfect BLT sandwich, then get three recipes that add a twist to the classic.
Make it count. The few essential ingredients are self-explanatory—the sandwich name is a grocery checklist in itself. That means there’s nowhere to hide though, so you want them to be top-shelf. The bacon should be thick cut, the tomatoes at their bursting point and the lettuce crisp.
Spike the mayo. Creamy spread is key for a killer sandwich. It could be as simple as mixing in lemon zest like we do here, or you could make it rain garlic and olive oil for a certified aioli. Yellow Jacket Social Club in Austin uses red chile mayo to spice up its classic BLT, and the famous Pig Candy sandwich at Chicago’s Pork & Mindy’s adds a dry rub into the mix.
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Think outside the bread. Turn the sandwich on its head by making lettuce cups filled with chopped tomato and bacon, taking a hint from the kale BLT salad at Sweet Chick in New York. Or top pizza with the likely suspects for what’s essentially an open-faced BLT. While we’re talking deviations: It’s OK to make a “B”LT. At The Butcher’s Daughter in New York and L.A., adzuki bacon plays the protein role in the basil-mayo BLT. There’s a whole world of ingredients that are certified bacon-able, like zucchini, coconut and eggplant, so get creative.
Save your bacon fat. Throwing away all this flavor would be like emptying your wallet on the street. Throw a smoke show of a party with savory snack mix or use it in a roux for making gravy. Even salads and sautéed vegetables can benefit from a hint of bacon fat. Or since it’s solid at room temp, spread it onto toast like butter. We won’t tell.
Now that you’ve got the tricks down, get ready to make a BLT, ASAP.
—Make It “Healthy”—
Yes, turkey bacon is still bacon, but putting sprouts on anything automatically redeems its healthy status . . . right? And remember what we said about fancy mayo? Go with green goddess. It’s made similarly—by whisking oil into an egg yolk until the mixture emulsifies—but a full cup of herbs makes it virtuous. The dressing calls for half an avocado, but you can go ahead and add a full one to thicken the spread.
3 slices turkey bacon + 2 slices heirloom tomato + salt and pepper + ½ avocado + 2 tbsp green goddess + 2 slices multigrain bread, toasted + ¼ c sprouts
Preheat the oven to 400°. Place the bacon in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until crisp, 10 to 15 min. Meanwhile, sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and pepper. Mash the avocado into the green goddess, and spread 1 tbsp on one side of each slice of bread. To assemble, layer the bacon, tomatoes and sprouts, and top with remaining slice of bread. Then serve.
—Make It Italian—
Pancetta might as well be Italian for “bacon.” Creamy mozzarella takes the edge off the arugula, which wilts to just the right level when it hits the heat, and pesto takes the place of mayo. If you don’t have a sandwich press, just place another pan filled with a couple of heavy cans on top of the sandwich.
4 slices thick-cut pancetta + 1 Roma tomato, sliced + salt and pepper + 2 tbsp pesto + 1 ciabatta roll, sliced in half + 4 slices mozzarella + ½ c arugula
Preheat the oven to 400°. Place the pancetta in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until crisp, 10 to 15 min. Meanwhile, sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and pepper. Spread 1 tablespoon of pesto on each side of the bread. To assemble, layer the cheese, tomatoes, pancetta and arugula on the bread. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook the sandwich weighed down with a sandwich press, flipping once, until the cheese has melted and the bread is golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Then serve.
—Make It Summer—
Corn, tomatoes, smooth butter lettuce: It doesn’t get more peak picnic than that. Caramelized bacon offsets the briny corn relish, and a lemon-zested mayo makes it that much sunnier. Disclaimer: It’s messy to eat, and a few kernels will topple out, but that’s perfectly fine. You’re probably outside anyway.
Corn relish: 1½ c corn kernels + 1½ c white wine vinegar + ¾ c sugar + ½ c water + 2 tbsp honey + 1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and coarsely ground + 1 tsp black peppercorns, toasted and coarsely ground + ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring all the ingredients to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then use or store in the refrigerator.
Sandwich: 3 slices uncooked bacon + 1 tbsp brown sugar + 1 beefsteak tomato, sliced + salt and pepper + 1 tbsp mayo + 1 tsp lemon zest + 2 slices sourdough, toasted + 4 butter lettuce leaves + ¼ c corn relish
Preheat the oven to 400°. Place the bacon in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Rub the brown sugar into each slice and bake until crisp, 10 to 15 min. Meanwhile, sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine the mayo and lemon zest, and spread it on one side of each slice of bread. To assemble, layer the lettuce, tomatoes, bacon and corn relish, and top with remaining slice of bread. Then serve.
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