The Perfect BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato) Sandwich

Updated on February 17, 2019
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Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

Which Came First?

There are some questions in life that might never be answered. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Why are there no B batteries? Why isn't phonetic spelled the way it sounds? And, in creating the bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich (otherwise lovingly known as the BLT), what is most important—the smokey pork, the crisp leaf lettuce, the sweet ripe tomato, the creamy mayonnaise, or is it the foundation, the lightly toasted white bread, that deserves top billing?

Let's take a look at each component, determine how to achieve the very best of each and, thereby, create the perfect BLT. The whole could be even greater than the sum of its parts.

Bacon

Source

Bacon receives top-billing in this sandwich and with good reason. Who can deny the allure of sweet-salty, crisply cooked pork belly? Keep in mind however that bigger is not always better. Save your thick-sliced bacon for something else. You don't want big chews of bacon here—crisp and crackly is the way to go.

And, I have another revelation for you. Frying will not give you the crispest, crackly-est bacon on the planet. To achieve true bacon nirvana you need to bake those fatty strips in the oven. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil (makes for easier cleanup), arrange your porcine pieces in a single layer (barely touching, not overlapping) and bake in a 425-degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

Perfection.

Lettuce

Source

Our chef-like instincts (don't all of us secretly long to become a Master Chef?) would lead us to search the refrigerator crisper for home-grown spinach, or perhaps a handful of bitter arugula. You must resist the urge to go all arty on the "L" of the BLT. For this most perfect of sandwiches, there is only one green that will do. Bibb lettuce, the tender inner leaves are crunchy but tender and possess a sweetness that compliments and doesn't overwhelm the other flavors.

Tomato

Source

From where did the idea originate that the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden was an apple? Let's review the story.

We are told in Genesis that Adam and Eve are living the perfect life in Eden. They may eat fruit from any tree except one, "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." Guess what? They eat the forbidden fruit and are expelled from paradise.

The original Hebrew says only "fruit," but in latter-day Western art, ranging from serious religious painting to about a million cartoons, the item in question is invariably depicted as an apple. I don't think so. My vote is that it was a tomato.

Think about it. On a summer day is there anything more fragrant, sweet, or (dare I say) Heavenly than a plump ripe tomato, warmed by the sun? If you have grown your own tomatoes, or are fortunate enough to be the BFF of someone else who does, I'm sure you'll agree with me.

The surest way to create a BLT failure is to use a substandard tomato. I'm not suggesting that you need to purchase an heirloom tomato for at $4.99 per pound, but vine-ripened tomatoes are far superior to tomatoes that are picked green and then gassed with ethylene to artificially ripen them. If you have a craving for a BLT in the dead of winter you might have no choice, but seriously, the best BLT will come off a summer-ripened fresh tomato. Run, don't walk to your nearest farmers' market.

Bread

Source

Not whole-grain, dill rye, or artisanal sprouted wheat. Sandwich bread with a tender crumb is what you need. I like to use my homemade white bread. Slice it thick and toast it gently.

Ingredients

  • 5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 packages active dry yeast (not quick-rise or bread machine)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups warm water (110 to 120 degrees F.)

Instructions

  1. In a large mixing bowl combine 2 cups of the flour, the yeast, and salt. Add warm water. Beat at low speed of electric mixer for 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl.
  2. Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can with a spoon. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and begin to knead. At first, the dough will appear ragged, but as you continue to knead it will become smooth and elastic. Total kneading time will be about 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. When you have finished kneading, place the dough in a large, lightly greased mixing bowl. Turn the dough over in the bowl so that the entire ball of dough is greased. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place, away from drafts.
  4. Let the dough sit in this cozy safe place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. One way to test if the dough has risen enough is to lightly and quickly press two fingertips into the dough about 1/2 inch. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready for the next step.
  5. Punch down the dough by pushing your fist into the center of the dough. Pull the edges of the dough to the center, and then place the dough on a lightly floured surface. It will be smooth and bubbles will be visible under the surface.
  6. Divide the dough in half. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. (This is to allow the gluten strands to relax so that the dough is easier to shape).
  7. Lightly flour your hands and the top of the dough. Pick up the dough with both hands, thumbs on top and fingertips underneath. Use your thumbs to smooth the surface of the dough, moving from top to the underside. Rotate the dough and repeat 3 or 4 times until you have a round of dough that is perfectly smooth on top.
  8. Place the dough smooth side up on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled in size (about 45 minutes).
  9. While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  10. When your dough is risen and ready to place in the oven, score the top with a sharp blade. The purpose for this is two-fold—it creates a decorative top and (more importantly) releases the pressure inside of the dough so that it expands evenly while baking.
  11. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Not sure the bread has baked long enough? Turn a loaf over and tap with your index finger. If it sounds "hollow", your bread is done. You can also use an instant-read thermometer. The internal temperature of the bread should be 190 degrees F.
  12. Immediately after you take your loaves from the oven, remove them from the baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool. If they remain on the baking sheet the bottoms will steam and become soggy. Setting the finished loaves on an elevated cooling rack allows for air circulation and ensures that the crust will remain "crusty".

Mayonnaise

Source

I hate to end on a controversial note, but the schmeer on the bread has caused heated debate (almost as intense as the discussion of whether or not clam chowder should contain tomatoes or if chili should have beans).

It's personal.

I was born and raised on the West Coast and the only mayo we've ever known is Best Foods. East of the Rockies are those who will accept nothing other than Miracle Whip. They are not synonymous, nor are they interchangeable. I won't judge. Use your favorite, and God bless you.

But... if you have two minutes, you can make your own and it will be amazing. Here's what to do.

Ingredients

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

Directions

  1. Place the egg yolks, salt, and lemon juice in the bowl of a blender. Process until the egg yolk and juice are well-combined and the yolks begin to turn to a lighter shade of yellow.
  2. Remove the fill cap (central portion of the lid). Place the olive oil in a glass measuring cup with a lip suitable for pouring. With the blender running, begin adding the oil to the yolk/lemon juice mixture.
  3. Start with just one drop at a time and increase to a steady but very slow stream as the oil is absorbed.

Questions & Answers

  • Can you add mustard to a BLT sandwich?

    That's an interesting question. Hmmm, I think many people would find that to be an interesting and tasty addition. I must admit a bit of personal bias; I've never been much of a mustard fan but I have a friend who dips french fries into the stuff like others use ketchup. Are you thinking yellow, Dijon, or grainy brown mustard? (Oops, you're supposed to asking the questions not me). Thanks for an interesting and helpful addition to this article. I appreciate it.

© 2019 Linda Lum

Comments

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    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      8 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Lawrence, thank you for stopping by. I always enjoy hearing from you. Yes, multigrain is so flavorful (and good for you). By the way, just minutes ago I published a new article on Exploring Whole Grains. Give it a look.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      8 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Linda

      BLTs are awesome, my favourite is on Multigrain bread, but that's me!

      Delicious

      Lawrence

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      9 months ago from Washington State, USA

      TruSoulDJ, then my work here was a success. Thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image

      TruSoulDJ 

      9 months ago

      Oh my goodness... ow I’m hungry. Thanks a lot

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      10 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Audry, I'm glad that you ennoyed this. See my comments below for customizing you mayo.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      10 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      I love bacon! But it has to be crispy to suit me. Your BLT recipe has my mouth watering even now in the early morning. I've never tried making my own mayonnaise and didn't realize it is so simple to whip up. Thanks for this.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      10 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Rachel I'm glad this made ypu happy. I am already ready for summer.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      10 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Shauna I always make a small amount so don't know about its longevity. I have stored it for a week with no problem

    • profile image

      Rachel Alba 

      10 months ago

      BLT's are one of my husband and mines favorite sandwiches. Of course we like them better in the summer when we can pick the tomatoes right off the plant. I love the fact that you gave us a way to make the mayo just in case we are out of it. Thanks for sharing.

      Blessings to you.

    • profile image

      Gloriapantuccigreen 

      10 months ago

      Looks good

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      10 months ago from Central Florida

      Linda, you've got me craving a BLT! I agree with you regarding the cut of bacon. I like thick sliced bacon with eggs, but for a BLT, the thin stuff is the way to go.

      My mom's a Miracle Whip gal and I was too for the longest time. Now I use Duke's mayo. I had no idea how easy it is to make mayo. I'll have to try your recipe. It's got fewer ingredients than anything you'll find on the grocery store shelves. How long does it keep?

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      10 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, at this time of year I will allow you to "hold the tomato and lettuce", but when the really home-grown fresh stuff appears in the Farmers Market, it will make all the difference in the world. I'm glad I found something that you like.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'll take one, please; hold the tomato and lettuce on mine. lol But I do love bacon!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      10 months ago from Sunny Florida

      Linda, I never considered making my own mayo, but I think you are very convincing. I use to make my own bread, but I have a hard time standing for any big length of time, so I don't do as much anymore. I even have one of those bread machines, but still buy bakery bread.

      I appreciate your suggestions.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      10 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Hi Pamela, of course, you don't have to make your own bread. Your local bakery probably has some amazing loaves from which to choose, but goodness sakes it sure smells good!

      However, if you have the time to make your own mayonnaise, you simply must. Trust me, once you make fresh mayo you'll never want to use the store-bought stuff again.

      You can flavor it to suit your mood. Add a pinch of garlic, some lemon zest, perhaps a tiny pinch of red pepper flakes.

      I haven't gone rogue on my mayo but with Spring just around the corner I always start thinking about baby vegetables and dip. Homemade mayo is the perfect dip. What about a wee dribble of dark sesame oil, or some lime zest, or a bit of grainy mustard.

      Oh my, I'm getting hungry, how about you?

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      10 months ago from Sunny Florida

      This is my favrite sandwich in the whole world. I never mafe mt own bread for this sandwich but it sounds likea good idea. Excellent article!

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      10 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, if I turn a vegan back to eating meat should I be happy or slink away in a shroud of guilt? Thank you for your kind words. You've made my day (and darn it, don't give up on my Q&A #68. Fingers crossed that it will be published after today's holiday).

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      10 months ago from USA

      Your gift of writing is so splendid you make me want to eat bacon again. You are so gifted, my dear, at cooking and describing it. I shall sit and contemplate.

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