Now that we're firmly into the heat of the summer, it's time to talk beach trips. Whether you're headed to the Florida Keys, the Alabama Gulf or the Outer Banks, you'll want to make sure you properly pack more than just your suit and sunscreen. Hand-held lunches and snacks are just as important, and the easier they are to eat when you've got a sessionable beer in one hand and a towel in the other, the better.
For these reasons, we love a good beach-friendly sandwich when we're headed to the ocean, but it can be surprisingly easy to end up with a soggy, bready mess if we're not careful.
The proper stacking order is crucial to a perfect packed sandwich. After some experimenting in the test kitchen, we’ve landed on some key rules for crunchy, crisp and fresh sandwiches, no matter how long they sit in your beach cooler.
Toast the bread
Crafting a sandwich that will survive your day at the beach begins with the bread. We prefer using regular sandwich bread as the base for our sandwich, but it can easily get soggy. A light toast (don't go too crazy here) is the first step in creating a moisture barrier for your sandwich. Bonus: By toasting your bread, you will not only cut down the sog-factoro, you’ll help create another crisp crunchy texture element in the sandwich.
Pat the produce dry, very dry
Before you even think about adding lettuce, tomatoes or onions to the a sandwich, you’ll want to get as much moisture off of them as you can. After washing and slicing your produce, take a few minutes to pat everything ultra-dry with a paper towel. Pay special attention to those pesky tomato slices and the crevices in leaf lettuce. Several firm pats with a paper towel will make all of the difference.
Build a moisture barrier
Begin constructing your sandwich by building a moisture barrier with dry ingredients, such as lettuce and cheese. (Bacon also works great here.) You'll want to stick these ingredients on the inside of both the top and bottom slices of bread. Cheese works better on the bottom than lettuce does. Place your sandwich meat of choice on top of the cheese, followed by any moisture-filled toppings like onions and pickles. Place those recently-dried tomatoes on top of the lettuce.
Put the condiments in the middle
This is the true pro move, and it may go against all of your sandwich-making instincts. When you build a sandwich at home, one of the first things you likely do is to spread mustard, mayonnaise and other spreads directly on the bread. You don't want to do that here. The moisture in those condiments will, inevitably, soak into the bread, leaving you with a mushy mess. (And yes, we know about the mayonnaise barrier theory (Chef Jeffrey abides by it), but our experience says that mayo, too, makes for soggy bread.) Instead, smear all of those goodies on top of the meat and tomato slices so that they get sandwiched in the center. They'll be blocked from that precious toasted bread all day long.
Wrap it up
When it comes to protecting your sandwich, its wrapping is just as important as its construction. Instead of just throwing your sandwich into a plastic bag, think about creating a better barrier from the moisture of those ice packs in your cooler. You know how sandwiches are wrapped when you get them from a sub shop? They're often wrapped in parchment paper to keep everything in place (no rouge tomatoes in sight). We suggest taking a cue from that design and double-wrapping your perfect sandwich in parchment and a plastic bag. Your lunchtime belly will thank you for the extra effort.
Illustration by Amanda Pharis