How to make a sandwich, the perfect sandwich, using science
A perfect sandwich is more than just bread and filling. Daniel Bennett reveals the rigorously researched methods of making a sarnie fit for a scientist.
A leaf or two can vastly improve your sandwich satisfaction.
Hervé This, father of molecular gastronomy and an inspiration to Heston Blumenthal, explains that sating your hunger isn’t just about the volume of food. It’s also the amount of time that you spend eating. “The more you have to chew on in each bite, and the more flavour you get with each mouthful, the less you need to eat to feel satisfied.” This is where the green stuff comes in: adding some fresh herbs or leafage ups the chew count per mouthful, improving the munching experience.
Personal taste may dictate what you put inside, but sandwich architecture is just as important as the ingredients.
According to researchers from the National Institute for Agricultural Research, taste testers unanimously preferred sandwiches when strong-smelling ingredients like smoked salmon or strong cheese were placed at the bottom, beneath any other fillers or salads. The upper layers prevented the strong odours from entering the nasal passages at the roof of the mouth, which would have tainted the flavour.
Read more about the science of food:
- I’m in my 30s and I never follow the nutrition labels on food. Am I about to die?
- Food supplements: Should we all be taking vitamin D?
- 5 things you probably didn't know about processed food
A thin layer of margarine or butter applied to the bread creates a hydrophobic barrier that will stop it from soaking up moisture.
It’s this technique that stops most boxed sandwiches sitting on supermarket shelves from going soggy. Moisture from a sauce, spread or relish is imperative though, as it helps to carry the flavour compounds via your saliva to your papillae – the taste centres of your mouth.
Crisp, crusty bread with a soft crumb – like a baguette – is the ideal foundation for the perfect sandwich.
“Our brain is designed to recognise contrast,” says This. “A great recipe capitalises on the way our brain and sensory organs perceive taste. Take the smell of tobacco, for example – over time our brain becomes fatigued to that particular sensory input and we stop noticing the smell. The same principle applies with taste.”
- Heat: Applying some heat can help spruce up an ordinary sarnie. Heat excites essential oils in the ingredients, carrying most of the flavour into the air, meaning you’ll taste more via your nasal canals.
- Bacon: Dr Graham Clayton at the Department of Food Science at Leeds University determined that it’s not the smell of bacon that’s most important, it’s the texture. To get the perfect texture, Clayton suggests grilling back bacon rashers for seven minutes at 240°C.
May Half Price Sale
- Save up to 52% when you subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine.
- Risk - free offer! Cancel at any time when you subscribe via Direct Debit.
- FREE UK delivery.
- Stay up to date with the latest developments in the worlds of science and technology.