Bread is an essential component of a sandwich, just as mustard is to a hot dog, milk is to cereal, and Parmesan cheese is to pasta. Without bread or a bun, a sandwich is just a charcuterie board; nothing against charcuterie boards, but you can’t stroll down the street munching on one. Is there any way you could pack a charcuterie platter to snack on later?
Is it okay to gorge on a charcuterie platter before takeoff? There are as many varieties of sandwich bread as there are sandwich preparation methods, and without bread, none of these things would exist. Here is a not-quite-complete but very scientific list of some of the greatest and brightest breads that make our most treasured sandwiches what they are.
Complete and portable loaves of bread (those that can be eaten out of hand with just minimum slicing, preferably done in advance) are a thing of beauty. Rolls are convenient for carrying about, so you may have whatever sort of sandwich you choose on them. However, if we had to choose, we’d say that a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich is the pinnacle of the sandwich art form.
- A hoagie or sub, sometimes known as a hero or sub, is a long, football-shaped bun used to encase various sandwiches, such as a four-meat and cheese sub or a herby banh mi. If the outside of the hoagie roll doesn’t crack when you bite into it, it’s not the real thing.
- Whether you spread some butter on them or not, Hawaiian rolls are delicious on their own or stuffed with pulled pork or jackfruit, two of the finest things ever to go with sliders. King’s Hawaiian is the only brand worth buying since the rolls come in convenient packaging and are easy to pull apart.
- The roll used for a lobster roll is cut in half lengthwise instead of across the top like a regular hot dog bun so that as much of the tender, mayonnaise-drenched, chive-topped lobster meat as possible may be stuffed within. The bread of a lobster roll is toasted in butter, making it one of the dish’s standout features.
- There are few greater sandwiches than the chip butty, or French fries on white bread, so it should come as no surprise that the potato roll, in all its golden yellow glory, is one of the top 10 breads of all time, even when eaten alone with a little bit of butter and honey.
Premium, gourmet breads for sandwiches
Only a few short decades ago, it was unheard of to have a sandwich on anything other than a precut slice of purchased white bread. The variety of gourmet sandwich breads available today is dizzying, but thick-cut sourdough slices and chewy focaccia are quickly becoming the norm. Almost.
- Focaccia bread may leave your hands greasy for hours if you eat a sandwich cooked with it. It’s a fair trade off for sandwich bread that manages to be airy and crunchy while still being chewy and unctuous. Sometimes, the sandwiched component of the sandwich doesn’t seem essential because of the additional taste provided by the speckled crunchy salt on top and, if you’re fortunate, rosemary or olives or red onions.
- Ciabatta, which literally translates to “slipper” in Italian, is not nearly as ancient as it seems. In the 1990s, this bread had a resurgence when it became the standard “fancy” bread in fast food chains like Panera Bread. But excellent ciabatta is good ciabatta. The olive oil and the caprese salad components between two slices of bread are what give this dish its stellar reputation.
- That sourdough smells so good. Wow, those years really added up fast! Sandwich lovers worldwide may thank the millions of home bakers who carefully tended their sourdough starters during the epidemic. Rich sandwich contents are complemented by and steal the show from thick, chewy slices (sometimes referred to in the industry as “custardy”) with caramelized crusts. If the sourdough is too porous, your toppings will just fall straight through.
- With their crispy crusts and convenient form, baguettes have been the standard for gourmet sandwiches for decades. Aiming high? Arrange everything on a single baguette, France’s national bread, or slice it in half to create two sandwiches. Use butter as the foundation, just as the French do.
There was a time when sliced bread was the greatest invention since sliced bread, and although artisan breads may have since taken their place, there are still certain sandwiches that can’t be made with anything but sliced bread. Also, according to simple geometry, you waste less food by slicing a rectangular sandwich into two triangles. There’s some truth to it.
- Rye caraway bread is best companions with pastrami, corned beef, or a bit fried salami. Its sweet and sour taste complements any topping, so if you’re in a Jewish deli, don’t settle for anything else. Take a loaf of challah with you. Sliced deli rye is aesthetically beautiful on many levels, not the least of which being its form.
- Prepackaged white bread, a throwback to the golden age of sandwiches, still has a revered place in the sandwich pantheon. Try it with peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, or brown mustard and tomato mayonnaise. Do you despise the way its slices bend, or would you rather have a little thinner crust? Your sandwich calls for a loaf of bread with the crisp edges of a Pullman loaf.
- Wheat bread: pre-packaged wheat bread has a little sweetness, a robust texture, and a flavor that won’t overpower anything you choose to spread on top. That’s why it works so well as a whole-grain counterpoint to the richness of both egg salad and a turkey club. Grilled cheese sandwiches benefit from its pleasant yeasty soured taste.
Breads for Breakfast
Although there may be fewer alternatives for breakfast sandwiches than there are for lunch sandwiches, a BEC can hold its own against a tuna melt any day of the week. Fortunately, there are just as many varieties of sandwich bread available for breakfast as there are for lunch, and most of them are just as formidable when it comes time to pack a lunch.
- Only a few sandwich breads, like the English muffin, can boast a characteristic as cute and easily recognized as its dimples. That’s why people like the English muffin, with its distinctive cornmeal coating. Toasting an English muffin allows the butter to seep into all the crevices, making it the ideal bread for a morning sandwich.
- Milk bread, the world’s airiest, fluffiest, and lusciest bread, is great for more than just breakfast. It improves the flavor of plain eggs, sweetened condensed milk, and any kind of jam in an instant. It helps that its inside can be peeled away like cotton candy, and that its trademark swirl on the side adds just the perfect amount of whimsy.
- Although opinions may be divided on the best way to stuff a bagel (is a heaping scoop of tuna and enough shredded lettuce to fill a small backpack the best choice for a sphere of bread with a hole in the center? ), this famously humble bread is a great option for breakfast and lunch regardless of what you put on it. From the little Montreal varieties to the massive, doughy Brooklyn ones, bagels may be enjoyed in a wide variety of ways. However, one constant is a bagel sandwich’s unrivaled capacity to sop up a hangover.
- Kaiser rolls: these rolls, which are most often associated with the legendary New York City deli breakfast sandwiches, are crusty on the exterior and fluffy on the inside. The Kaiser is already a great complement to crispy bacon and melty American cheese, but the addition of poppy and sesame seeds takes it to the next level.
Hippie health breads are a reminder that there’s more to life than buttered rolls, with their retro 1970s packaging, seedy textures, dark flours, and grand gestures toward individual health. They aren’t usually the tastiest or most sumptuous choice, but they do the trick when you’ve got a need for home.
- A lady in a crop top may be seen running joyfully toward you on the Fitness Bread packaging if you look carefully enough. In other words, “If you eat this [brick-like, very brown] bread, you could look like her.” Whether or not it’s true is irrelevant; what is relevant is that eating even a single slice will leave you feeling stuffed beyond your comfort zone.
- The ubiquitous green sandwich wraps seen at airports: Is bread included in a wrap? That’s up for debate, but the fact remains that everyone seems to be carrying about a green wrap with herbs on it. Pre-flight snack of an airport sandwich with hummus, carrots, and bean sprouts? Prepare yourselves for Mr. Green. There’s hardly any taste to these wraps, which makes you wonder if maybe it’s simply food coloring. If you want to relive the ’90s, eat a red sundried tomato sandwich.
- Sandwich lovers, go no farther than Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Bread for super-seedy, very nutritious, nutrient-dense sandwich bread. Do you like to read some scripture with your lunch as well? Then consider yourself fortunate. The package of this bread quotes Ezekiel 4:9: “Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt, put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself.” What the Ezekiel is for, if you don’t feel like baking bread, is for when you don’t bake bread.
Pita is unique among breads for the convenience of its pocket and the thrill of ripping it apart while it’s still warm. Find a sturdy pita and the possibilities for fillings are endless; shawarma and falafel are only the beginning. It complements everything from soup to salad when eaten on its own.