Salt + Fat + Acid + Heat
These four elements – precisely defined and experimented with by famous chefs and cooks for centuries – are also beautifully explored by Samin Nosrat, author of the incredible cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Her guidance in these matters is legendary, and if you want to learn more, buy her book and watch her show by the same name on Netflix. Let’s explore how these concepts are best applied to the sandwich-making craft.
Fat defines any dish, and the best sandwiches use multiple kinds of fat to create a symphony. To make the perfect grilled cheese, you need a soft bread that browns well when fried in butter or oil and a flavorful cheese that melts well. Some of the finest bread, such as croissants, focaccia, or challah, are only made possible through the introduction of a flavorful fat. Fat content is also what defines a cheese – the combination of fat and water into an emulsion during cheesemaking is what allows the flavor of a perfect melting cheese, like cheddar, to form.
Beyond the grilled cheese, fat’s greatest contribution to any sandwich is the role it plays in a cut of meat. Beef with particular fat marbling, such as Wagyu, is the most expensive in the world and the most delicious bacon is both crispy and full of perfectly rendered fat. In making any sandwich you have to be aware of what you add in terms of fat from meat, cheese, and spreads so that you can balance it well with a nice pickle, spicy mustard, or a vinegar-based sauce.
It can be easy to load a sandwich full of fat-heavy ingredients – they are often the main attraction of any good sandwich. For an iconic sandwich such as the Philly Cheesesteak, where the ribeye steak and the creamy cheese are the core of the dish, it’s easy to overlook the other aspects. For the perfect cheesesteak, a light, fluffy roll and grilled onions are vital to breaking up the rich and fatty textures. It should be noted that virtually any sandwich can benefit considerably from heat, and a hot frying pan without butter or oil is a sad thing to observe. A grilled sandwich with browned butter has more flavorful bread with a stronger depth of texture than its colder counterpart.
Some of the best fats and fatty ingredients for sandwiches include:
- Bacon Fat
- Duck Fat
- Olive Oil
- Cream Cheese
- Ground Beef
- Garlic Aioli
- Vegetables and Legumes:
- Peanut Butter