The 10 Commandments for Building the Perfect Sandwich

All images courtesy of Lardo

Nobody has risen faster in the sandwich field than Rick Gencarelli, the former fine dining chef and brain behind Lardo in Portland, Oregon. Perhaps it is his chef sensibilities, his portion size control, or maybe his attention to balance and contrasts. Maybe he’s just an insane sandwich genius. Regardless, he shared that knowledge with us and laid out the rules for assembling one of America’s most iconic foods: the sandwich.

Sandwich on a bun with melty cheese

I. Thou shalt have warm bread

All of Lardo’s bread is heated at 425 degrees for two minutes. No exceptions. Why? It creates a crusty barrier so that the juicy items such as pickled vegetables, mayo, and vinaigrette don't soak through the bread.

II. Thou shalt spread thy condiments evenly

When spreading your mayo, ketchup, sriracha, hummus white bean fugu puree, etc. every inch of your bread layer should be covered. This makes any single bite consistently delicious and -- because you’ve toasted your bread like we told -- never soggy.

III. Thou shalt have the proper amount of meat

The ratio of bread to meat is key. Too much meat and you get a gut bomb. Too little and the eater might be disappointed. Rick says the magic number is about five ounces of meat with any sandwich. That way, he says, “No one needs to take a nap.” Unless you want to, because naps are great, you guys.

Lardo Portland

IV. Thou shalt have the proper meat-to-cheese ratio

Silence your lactose intolerance complaints! All sandwiches should have cheese, one-and-a-half to two ounces of cheese to be exact. They recommend cheddar for burgers or egg sandwiches and Provolone for sliced-meat Italian inspirations.

V. Thou shalt not disparage the American variety

While American cheese is usually considered the bastard child of great European cheeses, Lardo is in love with good American cheese. “Its ability to add unctuous fat and creaminess without stealing the show is fantastic,” Rick says.

VI. Thou shalt have good texture

Rick says that every sandwich needs a crunchy component. Inside Lardo’s sandwiches you might find pickled vegetables, sliced raw fennel, jicama, house-made Kimchi, raw cabbage, chicharrones, potato chips, cucumber, and perhaps even fried tortillas or a kitchen sink because damn that’s a lot of crunchy stuff.

Pickled peppers

VII. Thou shalt innovate

Lately Lardo’s been experimenting with the “inner toast” idea for some creations. You toast bread on just one side, with the crunchy side facing the inside of the ‘wich. This amazingly simple-yet-genius innovation is courtesy of Portland Chef Leather Storrs (yes, that is a real name) and keeps the soft part of the bread on the outside, saving your gums from scraping on the edges. They say it makes a great PB&J or BLT. It also should get a Nobel prize.

VIII. Thou shalt mix different temperatures

A great sandwich contains hot and cold elements within -- for example, hot smoked pork with cold Kimchi. Or try hot Vietnamese pork meatballs topped with cold carrot, daikon, and cold, crunchy cilantro. They call it the Mortadella at Lardo. Rick says that consideration of hot items and cold items will make the difference between an OK sandwich and a memorable one.

IX. Thou shalt question thyself

Before any sandwich goes on the board at Lardo it goes through a serious vetting process. Will it haunt someone's dreams until they can have it again? Have they elevated the sandwich just a bit? Did they make it their own by putting a small twist on it and surprise people a little? And, most importantly Rick says, “Is it $#@!@%! delicious?”

X. Thou shalt always strive for a more perfect sandwich

Even if you think you've found a sandwich combination so mind-meltingly awe-inspiring that it can only be paired with a drink from the Fountain of Youth and whatever the heck fruit was growing on the Tree of Knowledge, remember this -- never settle. There are so many more amazing sandwich combinations yet to discover.