Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato is one of the world’s best sandwiches. Even though there’s only 3 ingredients in the name, there’s actually two additional ingredients that need to be considered; the bread and the mayonnaise. During tomato season, it might actually vie for the best sandwich you can ever eat.
Does this mean the tomato is actually the most important ingredient in the success of this sandwich? Let’s make a bunch and find out.
For the bread in most of these BLTs I tried to keep things simple and went with King Arthur Baking’s Classic Sandwich Bread recipe. The only change or addition I made was adding some of their Harvest Grains Blend to the dough (I’m not an affiliate with King Arthur nor are they a sponsor, they just have good products and recipes). I added 1/3 cup of the harvest grains to the dough and then mixed/kneaded/formed it as usual. When the dough was almost ready for the oven, I beat an egg with a tablespoon of water, gave the whole proofed loaf a brush with egg wash and then sprinkled more harvest grains on the top and put it in the oven.
If you didn’t want to buy King Arthur’s Harvest Grains Blend, you could head to the bulk food section of your grocery store and get a few of these ingredients yourself. I think the sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds and the oat flakes are the most important part of the mix in my experience. Buy some and keep them on hand to mix up your breads.
For some of these BLTs I smoked some pork belly on my Weber Kettle. For others I bought bacon at the store.
I’ve grilled a lot but I’ve never smoked anything before, so this was sort of a learning experience for me. Baby’s first smoke, some might say. I started with this Michael Symon recipe for a pork belly dry brine. It’s fairly salty in the end product and some comments did mention that. Perhaps like some folks in the comments mention, I just didn’t wash off the salt/brine enough in the stage between brining and smoking. It was still really good, just a bit salty.
After seven days of brining pork belly in the fridge, I set up my Weber Kettle for smoking. This is a very clear video on how that process should work. It’s pretty much what I did step for step.
In the end, my first attempt at smoking worked ok. Not perfect. The temperature of my closed/smoking grill kept rising over 300 degrees when I wanted it to stay in the 250 range. I need to work on my technique for the next time. I don’t plan to do any long smokes on a kettle grill, but I do expect to do a couple of shorter ones before the summer ends. One day I’ll buy a smoker but currently I don’t really want (or according to my wife – NEED) a third grill on our roof deck.
Here’s a quick slideshow of how I set things up for smoking three small pieces of pork belly. The time span would have been longer with a larger piece, but this is what my market was selling the day I went through. My full smoke after the meat hit the grill grates was about an hour and a half. I used this fairly cheap “Veken” brand four probe thermometer (Amazon affiliate link) to keep an eye on the temps and it seemed to work fairly well.
Here’s some bacon that I sliced after I had smoked it for an hour and a half. At this stage it still needs to be fried in a pan or baked in the oven to complete the normal baconing process.
Will I brine and smoke my own pork belly again? Yes. Will I ONLY eat my own pork belly instead of buying store bought bacon? Absolutely not.
Super thick cut bacon that you made yourself is great. But it’s also something different from thinly sliced bacon you get at the grocery store. They both have their place for me and I think most people would feel the same.
If you’re cooking grocery store bacon or bacon you smoked yourself, the easiest way to cook it is in the oven. BUT you have to remember that some bacon has more sweetness than others and might brown in the oven faster than others. This Michael Symon recipe that I used for example cooked/browned faster than the typical grocery store bacon I’ve cooked because of the sugar content.
So you just need to keep an eye on it in the oven if that’s how you’re cooking it.
No one wants to write or read about lettuce.
Just kidding. I have some opinions. The lettuce in a BLT definitely adds some fresh crunch and texture. I used mostly iceberg in these sandwiches because it maximizes crunch over flavor (none). One tip I do have is to toss or dress your lettuce with a small amount of olive oil and red wine vinegar to add a bit more excitement to the lettuce portion of your sandwich. Maybe save this dressed lettuce tip for non-tomato season to jazz things up.
This week we hit the Farmer’s Market. I love the Farmer’s Market in summer, especially when the tomatoes are starting to show up (they should be there when you start reading this). For my sandwiches this week I bought a few heirlooms and put them to work.
Once sliced and placed on the sandwich, don’t forget to season those tomatoes with salt and pepper.
Dukes and Homemade
Ok, I’ll admit this isn’t much of a competition. I made roasted garlic mayo from scratch and while Duke’s is pretty much top tier mayonnaise (especially in the South Eastern US), it can’t beat mayonnaise that you made at home.
The mayo recipes I’ve shared are easy if you have a stick/immersion blender. I have a Cuisinart hand blender (Amazon affiliate link) that works well, but this should work with any model. With a blender and the right size mixing container, you can make mayo at home in less than five minutes. If you don’t have one, you’re going to get a bit of arm exercise whipping the ingredients into the proper mayonnaise consistency. I’ve done it both ways, but the blender how I made this batch.
Here’s my recipe for roasted garlic mayonnaise (some would say aioli if they were fancy). If you’re not a fan of roasted garlic, you can omit that and just make plain (but still better than store bought) mayonnaise.
If you do like roasted garlic, you really should try this recipe.
Some finished BLTs.
Final BLT thoughts
Always toast your BLT bread. I tried two toasting techniques and I definitely prefer griddling the bread in a pan vs toasting it in a toaster oven. Both options are good and they both provide an entirely different experience.
I know I said at the beginning of this post that tomato could be the most important ingredient in a BLT and I still think that’s mostly correct. I think it’s two ingredients together that can make or break the BLT experience. For me it’s the combination of a juicy tomato and the mayonnaise that create what is almost a special sandwich sauce. Obviously bacon is important, but for me it’s not nearly as important as the combination of a ripe tomato and the mayonnaise.
Make more BLTs. And check back next week when I most likely get cheesy again.