What's the Best BLT, Really?

August 23, 2016

This may not be the best BLT you will ever eat. How could it be, when everyone has strong feelings about their way—obviously the right way—of making one?

In honor of Tomato Week, we'll endeavor to solicit all of those "right" ways: We've asked friends and food bloggers to submit their best BLTs on social this week for our unofficially-dubbed "BLT-Off"—and we ask you to do the same, in the comments! The winner will be chosen on Facebook Live this Friday at 4:30 P.M. It will be an impossible judgment.

But we had to throw our hat in the ring, too. Here's our entry:

The go-to. Photo by Linda Xiao

From the bottom up: bread, mayo, tomato, bacon, lettuce, pickled peppers, mayo, bread. But not just any bread, mayo, lettuce, tomato. Here's our starting line-up:

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The Bread: Pain de campagne, 1/2-inch-thick slices, toasted on one side.
Chewy and faintly wheaty, it's the middle ground between sourdough and wheat, with a thin crust circumference. Slices should be thick, to sop up all the juices, but only toasted on one side (use a baking sheet, in the oven). Amanda learned this trick at ‘wichcraft. You’ve had a BLT where the toasted bread hurts your teeth and shatters down to your plate: Leaving the outsides untoasted maintains softness (no shattering crumbs) while the crisp inside fights sogging.

The Mayo: Brown butter mayonnaise, on both slices of bread.
In a BLT, mayonnaise delivers lusciousness; but when the oil is replaced with brown butter, the mayonnaise becomes a nutty-sweet ungirding for the key BLT flavors. Making your own mayonnaise and browning butter is more time intensive, but know that this fuss isn't just for kicks.

The Tomato! Thick Jersey Beefsteaks slices, drained of goop.
The best layer of this BLT is right here, where the tomato hits the mayo. This—this—is why the tomato goes below the bacon.

Jersey Beefsteaks are Merrill’s favorite all-around tomato, but they’re also the best choice for a BLT—because they’re dependable: sweet, juicy, and the right size for a slice of bread. We salt ours first and scoop out any goop and seeds in the slice’s little pockets. We like them sliced thick—about 1/2 inch.

The Bacon: Thick-cut, oven-baked bacon.
The bacon brings people in, so it has to be good: smoky; thick enough to chew instead of crumble but still crispy; and baked so that the pieces lay flat.

The Lettuce: Chopped romaine.
If lettuce is there for crunch, it better crunch. Too often the tomato juices and mayo wilt it before it can ever deliver. So put a small handful of lettuce above the heavy stuff and chop it: By doing so, you’re more prone to get midribs here and there—this is good.

The Bonus Round: Pickled hot peppers.
We also threw in some pickled hot peppers—by no means necessary, but every sandwich loves heat and a little pickle (some who really know sandwiches say it’s required).

An upstanding BLT, right here. Photo by Linda Xiao

How do you build your best BLT? Tell us in the comments below! And be sure to check back on Friday for all of our BLT-Off contenders.

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Susie W. August 26, 2016
The critical things are tomatoes, bacon, bread. We all know ripe, preferably homegrown, tomatoes are the foundation. You need real bacon - not Oscar Mayer or Hormel. although you can make do. Bob's Burgerhouse Applewood Smoked Bacon is the best I can find at the the grocery store - processed without any added water. White bread is essential - we know you're not going to use Wonder Bread. I use sliced "French bread" from DeKalb Farmers Market in Atlanta - the right amount of tenderness with enough heft to carry the juices. Homemade mayo. Iceberg keeps it real and adds a dimension of "crunch" without turning the whole thing into a health-food experience.
702551 August 23, 2016
Kenji at Serious Eats covered this topic last week:

The first of the two biggest takeaways is to use Japanese-style "shokupan" bread if available.

Like all sandwiches, a ***B-I-G*** part of the success is the bread quality.

His second brilliant observation that avocado is Mother Nature's mayonnaise. As a native Californian I am all for including avocado as the "secret ingredient" that makes a good BLT *great*.

His first rule "Use excellent tomatoes" is far better than saying "use this or that tomato." Different cultivars do well in certain places at certain times under certain growing climates than others. The point is to use the best ones available to you at the time of making the sandwich, not focusing on a specific type. Kenji absolutely nails this concept.

Anyhow, thanks for the recap of the BLT topic that he presented last week.
Hilary August 23, 2016
Absolutely the best ever BLT: IS placed on a cast iron grillpan ,beautiful crusty rustic sourdough thickly sliced, brushed with olive oil and garlic, grilled both sides over a campfire , lathered with bright lemony aioli, accompanyed with fresh picked chervil and baby arugula, layered fresh picked big rainbow tomatoes (Burpee's seed company, my ultimate weakness), and thick cut fruitwood peppered bacon, slowly rendered over the fire, and a smattering of flaked French grey salt. All together gentling pressed, all being bathed lightly with smoke from the fire. Let rest amongst the cooling coals for as long as you possibly can withstand the torture. Softening the inside slightly, consume as soon as fast your fingers can allow
Stuart G. August 23, 2016
I once replaced the mayo with peanut butter and never went back.
To make a BLT my way: use whole grain bread, toasted until almost burnt, slather peanut butter on both slices, sprinkle chopped onion on one slice and crumble still-warm-from-the-pan bacon on the other slice, use two leaves Romain split down the stem or torn iceberg lettuce and fresh picked homegrown tomatoes, it doesn't matter what kind just that they were still on the vine during your last meal
Mary K. August 23, 2016
Publix white mountain bread, one side toasted for spreadin the mayo (homemade herb, with extra lemon juice, chopped fresh lemon thyme, parsley and fresh ground pepper), just picked heirloom or ugly ripe beefsteak tomatoes with sea salt(salt and rest for 10 minutes to release juices, drain); fresh crisp basil leaves, Benton's thick hickory smoked bacon-ovenfried.......cooked crispy. After toasting insides of the publix white mtn bread, spread lemon herb mayo on toasted sides,making sure to cover the entire surface with a thin layer, top one slice of bread with several slices of drained, salted tomatoes, basil leaves, then a double layer of bacon (criss cross directions so you get bacon in absolutely every bite). Add additional fresh ground pepper as preferred. Top with other slice of bread, cut in half and dig sure to sop up any juices or mayo with crusts of bread!