How To Make the Perfect BLT

published Jul 28, 2020
summer
How to Make the Perfect BLT

A step-by-step guide to making the sandwich of summer, filled with juicy, ripe tomatoes, salty bacon, and crisp lettuce.

Makes1 sandwich

Prep5 minutes

Cook5 minutes to 15 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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photo of two halves of a blt sandwich stacked on top of each other on parchment paper on a wooden cutting board
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Debbie Wee

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My official summer sandwich has always been the BLT. I patiently wait until the farmers markets are piled high with a dizzying array of heirloom tomatoes before I even think of making one, as a juicy, ripe tomato is the hallmark of what makes a BLT truly sing. Once tomatoes start showing up, I jump into action and make sure I’m well-stocked with mayo, bacon, lettuce, and bread — because once the BLT train starts, it keeps going until the first fall cold snap hits and takes out the tomato plants.

After much trial and error, I’ve landed on my favorite way to construct the perfect balance of toasted bread; creamy, tangy mayo; salty, crispy bacon; juicy tomato; and refreshing, crunchy lettuce. Follow this recipe, and every single BLT you make will be sweet summer perfection. Here’s how to do it.

Credit: Photo: Tara Donne | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

The Role of Each BLT Ingredient

With a sandwich as simple as a BLT, each ingredient plays a major role. Let’s break down each one and how you should shop for it.

  • Bacon: Salty, smoky bacon gives savory heft to a BLT, and standard-cut is the way to go. Thick-cut bacon cooks up with more chew than crunch, so you want a thinner bacon that almost shatters when you bite into it. Avoid packs of bacon where the slices are stacked directly on top of each other, as those are usually the thickest.
  • Lettuce: Some prefer butter lettuce for its tender, flavorful leaves, while others like shredded iceberg for maximum crunchiness. Go for the middle ground with romaine, which has a refreshing crunch and more flavor than iceberg.
  • Tomato: For a single sandwich, one small tomato will do. Get the best you can, usually found at farmers markets if you can get to one. Pick the variety you like eating out of hand, not pulpier ones like San Marzanos that are good for canning. When they’re in season, I love dry-farmed tomatoes, which tend to have more intense flavor than irrigated tomatoes. Don’t worry too much about size, as it’s fine to cut up a bigger one and snack on the extra slices. If you’re making two BLTs, one medium or large tomato will yield enough slices for both.
  • Bread: Hearty white sandwich bread holds up well in a BLT, and sliced French or sourdough sandwich breads are also fantastic. These breads toast up nicely and are mild enough in flavor to let the other ingredients shine.
  • Mayonnaise: Best Foods (Hellmann’s east of the Rocky Mountains) is my go-to brand, but I know Duke’s fans will fight me on this one. Just go with your favorite store-bought mayonnaise, or make your own.

Even though the tomatoes are drained of some moisture, don’t worry. If you start with ripe tomatoes, there will be plenty of juice left to soak into the bread and even maybe down your arm. I highly recommend you just cook the whole package of bacon all at once and stash the slices in the fridge or freezer. That way, when the BLT craving strikes, you’re just a few minutes away from summer sandwich heaven.

Credit: Photo: Tara Donne | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

The One Knife You’ll Need for BLTs

When making BLTs, you only need one knife, and it’s not a regular chef’s knife. Reach for a serrated knife, like a bread knife, instead. The teeth on a serrated knife grip and tear through tomato skin with ease so that you can cut slices without smashing or mangling the tomato.

After you construct the sandwich, this same knife will neatly cut the BLT in half. All that’s left to do is grab a stack of napkins and dig in, preferably with a glass of icy-cold lemonade or beer and some potato chips alongside.

Credit: Photo: Tara Donne | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell
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Here's how to make a perfect BLT.

How to Make the Perfect BLT

A step-by-step guide to making the sandwich of summer, filled with juicy, ripe tomatoes, salty bacon, and crisp lettuce.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 5 minutes to 15 minutes

Makes 1 sandwich

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 3 slices

    bacon (regular, not thick cut)

  • 1

    small tomato

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 slices

    hearty white sandwich bread

  • 2 tablespoons

    mayonnaise

  • 1

    romaine lettuce leaf

Equipment

  • Toaster

  • Serrated knife

  • Cutting board

  • Measuring spoon

  • Butter knife

  • Paper towels

Instructions

  1. Cook the bacon. Cook 3 slices bacon, using one of these methods: stove, oven, or microwave. (If you’re making several BLTs, use the oven to cook the bacon, as it’s the easiest way to cook a lot of bacon). Make sure every slice is evenly crispy with no areas of unrendered fat. No flabbiness allowed! Transfer to a paper towel to drain.

  2. Slice and season the tomato. Slice 1 small tomato crosswise with a serrated knife into 1/3-inch thick slices. Place the slices in a single layer on a double layer of paper towels (the towels will absorb some of the moisture, preventing a soggy sandwich). Season lightly with kosher salt and some black pepper. Let sit while you toast the bread.

  3. Toast the bread. Toast 2 slices white sandwich bread until light golden brown.

  4. Build the BLT. Spread 1 tablespoon mayonnaise on each slice of bread. Place 1 romaine lettuce leaf on one slice of bread, folding it as needed to fit neatly on the bread. Top with the seasoned tomato slices in a single layer (no need to pat the top dry), cutting them in half as needed to fit in a single layer. Tear the 3 bacon slices in half and place on top of the tomatoes in 2 layers. Close the sandwich with the second slice of bread mayonnaise-side down.

  5. Cut the BLT in half. Gently press down on the top of the sandwich to compact slightly. Cut in half with the serrated knife and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The bacon can be cooked up to 1 week ahead and refrigerated. Let sit out at room temperature while you prepare the rest of the BLT ingredients.

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