A bologna sandwich was one of the earliest things I learned to cook. Poorly made scrambled eggs were probably the first thing I cooked, but I learned to sear slices of bologna in a pan soon after. It was easy enough to accomplish then and much like riding a bike, I’ve found it’s still easy to do.
Today I’m revisiting sandwiches of my childhood and sandwiches from my adulthood, and I even smoked a sandwich right in the middle of the other sandwiches for breakfast.
Please scroll along to read about my adventures in baloney (or bologna)!
Since the internet seems to be talking about Stranger Things now, here’s a throwback to season 3 and the ’80s (hit?) song, My Bologna, by “Weird Al” Yankovic. I recommend you leave the song jamming in the background on a loop while you read on. Or at least add it to your next house party Spotify list. Do it for the baloney vibes.
What is bologna?
That’s your question? Ok, bologna is this sliced meat stuff. Sometimes it’s spelled baloney and it’s definitely pronounced like baloney (don’t pronounce it: bo-LOG-na, instead say: buh-LOAN-ee).
Bologna is a meat blend of – typically – pork that is ground, seasoned, and stuffed in a big log-shaped tube before it is cured and fully cooked. Sometimes it’s a blend of other meats as well (these are required to be listed on the package). I’ve seen beef, pork, and turkey listed on some bologna recently. If you’ve never had bologna, and you’re American, you could think of it as something like a thinly sliced hot dog, but with extra-large girth. If you’ve never had bologna and you’re NOT from America, you can think of it as another, cheaper version of mortadella.
Bologna is typically sliced thin and served in packages at your grocery store. You can go to the deli counter and order a half-pound of freshly sliced bologna, or you can mystify the deli employees and ask for, “one whole bologna, please” and stand there while they repeat back, “did you say the whole bologna?” And then they give it to you while they are shaking their heads and you walk to the counter and pay for it.
Today we’re going to use some bologna that I bought to make three different but similar versions of bologna sandwiches.
Sandwich one: fried bologna on white bread
This is the old-school sandwich that’s like what I grew up eating. It’s very comforting, but maybe you had to enjoy it as a kid to feel that way. For this sandwich, we need some soft white bread, thin-sliced bologna, and some (likely) boring cheese. You could get creative with the cheese if you wanted, but I mostly went with deli American.
For the bread, I chose my Pullman white bread recipe that I’ve written about before. It’s just simple white bread and it works great for bologna or other cold-cut sandwiches.
How to fry bologna
Frying bologna is super easy. You need to cut some slashes in the outside ring of the round cold cut slice and sear the meat on a hot pan until it starts to take on some color and the meat starts to brown.
If you don’t get a sear on the bologna, the meat will not crisp up and it will stay soft and sort of boring. After it’s been pan-fried the slices pick up extra flavor and the heat crisps the meat to give it added texture.
If you forget to cut slits into the edges, the meat will cup up and you will only be able to get color/searing around the edges while the middle part of the meat avoids the searing hot cooking surface.
Get your cheese ready and add it to the seared meat quickly while it’s still in the pan or griddle and the heat from the meat will help to melt the cheese some.
You can toast the bread at the same time as searing the bologna, and with a little bit of mayonnaise and/or mustard your sandwich is ready for serving. This is a simple sandwich to make and it will take you back all the way if your childhood contained bologna.
|Bologna frying technique||How many slits cut in the round, sliced meat|
|Fireman’s badge||Four slits cut in the side of your bologna|
|Pac-man cut||One slit cut in the side of your bologna|
Which bologna technique are you? A fireman or a Pac-man!?
I’m not really going to add a recipe for simple bologna, cheese, and white bread sandwich, but here are the steps you need to take to make it happen.
Steps for a simple fried bologna sandwich
- secure your bologna, cheese, bread, and any condiments you might want
- cut slits in the side of your sliced meat
- start searing the bologna over medium-high heat
- toast the bread
- when the meat has taken on some color, add slices of cheese on top. If you are cooking multiple slices of bologna for the sandwich, put the slice of cheese in between the slices of meat this heat will help the cheese melt
- add condiments to your toasted bread
- add bologna and cheese to the bread and top with the second slice
- eat sandwich
Sandwich two: smoky bologna breakfast sandwich
Honestly, this was my favorite sandwich of the three that I made. Don’t let this keep you from reading though, they were all solid. In these, I used the smoked bologna and some of the smoked gouda and I topped those with a couple of eggs folded on top.
Smoking the bologna and cheese
I already wrote this, but I must state it again. I went to the grocery store and bought a whole bologna. No, I don’t mean an entire small package of sliced bologna, I mean a whole five-pound “chub” of bologna. The end goal for me with the thirty-five dollars’ worth of bologna that I purchased was to smoke it (or at least most of it). And I had the idea that at the end of my bologna smoking time, I could also set up my grill for smoking two types of cheese as well.
I don’t have a dedicated smoker. At the moment I have a roof deck and I’m lucky to have space for a charcoal grill and a gas grill, but I’m not really interested at this time to put a third grill/smoker up there that I would have to also monitor for 8+ hours. It’s because of this that I don’t do a whole lot of meat smoking. But with some temperature control and charcoal/wood arrangement, I am able to do 2 to 3-hour smokes like bacon or this bologna.
Since I don’t have a smoker, I use my Weber kettle and the folks at Weber can explain how to set up a kettle better than I can. You only need to control the temperature for a few hours, so it’s not a terribly difficult process. Plus, the bologna is already cooked, so you can’t really mess it up.
The biggest piece of knowledge I’ve picked up in these few smoking escapades with my kettle grill is how to better control the temperature. I’m still not that great with it, but I have learned that a big part of it is how and when to use the vents on the grill to control the amount of fire being produced.
I did really enjoy and learn a lot from this quote from Meathead Goldwyn. “Playing with both vents at once is like trying to control the speed of your car by using both the gas pedal and the brake at once.” This is great advice and you can read a bit more helpful temperature control advice from Goldwyn in this article about using vents to control temperature.
As you saw in the photo above, I also smoked some cheeses. I ended up just snacking on the smoked cheddar with crackers, but I used the smoked gouda in several of these sandwiches and it was fantastic. The cheese can’t smoke anywhere near the temperature that the bologna can, so I waited until the bologna was pretty much done and then killed the heat in my kettle to around 100 degrees F. Then I removed the bologna to cool and left the cheese on there for about an hour to pick up some smoked flavor.
This cold smoking of cheese worked great and I’m going to be doing this again.
Bologna smoked ends
These are the candy parts of this bologna smoking process.
I don’t think these should be called the trendy “burnt ends” because the bologna doesn’t smoke long enough for that, but these are smoky end pieces that I suggest you snack on when you’re making a sandwich. They’re all squares or straight-edged pieces because of the scoring that you do prior to smoking the bologna. The bologna ends all come off in small squares and there are also some sides that flake off during the slicing process.
Another folded egg
I have written about folded eggs a couple of times on this blog so far, but specifically, it was when I wrote about sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits. Basically, a folded egg is one step up from straight scrambled eggs and one step down from making an omelet. There’s a slideshow at the link above, so check that out if you need a visual for your egg learning.
The smoked bologna breakfast sandwich recipe
Here’s my recipe for my smoked bologna breakfast sandwich. Don’t stop now though, there are more recipes, sandwich photos, and strategies down below! Keep reading because your mom didn’t raise a quitter, yet.
Egg and cheese and smoked bologna come together to create a comforting breakfast sandwich that is steeped in smoky flavor.
Ingredients:Bologna barbecue rub
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 3+ pounds bologna, whole unsliced
- 3 tablespoons yellow mustard
- bologna barbecue rub (from above)
- 2 slices of white bread
- 2 tablespoons butter (half used to toast the bread and the other half to cook eggs)
- 2 or 3 slices of smoked bologna (from above)
- 1 or 2 slices of smoked gouda or smoked cheddar cheese
- 2 whole large eggs
Bologna barbecue rub: add all barbecue rub ingredients to a bowl and stir to combine. Taste it to see if it's super spicy and adjust.
Smoke the bologna: set up your smoker or kettle grill for cooking at 225°F (105°C) with your favorite choice of wood or pellets for pork.
With a sharp knife score the outside of the bologna. Keep your cuts about an inch apart and then make a crosshatch of scores going the other direction. Don't cut too deep into the meat.
Once the bologna has been scored, rub the outside with 3 tablespoons of yellow mustard. This mustard is going to be your "glue" to allow the barbecue rub to stick to the outside of the bologna.
Once the mustard is spread all over the bologna, clean your hands and then sprinkle the barbecue rub very well over the outside. Don't forget about the ends of the bologna. Do your best to make a consistent spread of rub.
Once your grill is set up and the internal smoker temperature is around 225 F, add the rubbed bologna and allow it to smoke for 2 to 3 hours. The bologna should take on some color, the barbecue rub should fully have adhered and after this amount of time smoking, your bologna should have taken on a lot of smoky flavors. Remove it from the smoker and allow the meat to cool.
Slice the bologna as thinly as possible. If you want to get thin slices, the meat has to be cool and if you really want to be able to slice it super thin and you don't have an electric slicer, you can put the meat in the refrigerator or even freezer for a few minutes to firm up the meat.
Assemble the sandwich: spread 1 tablespoon of butter across your slices of bread and toast them. You can do this in a toaster or in a pan with the meat if you prefer.
If your slices of bologna aren't already sliced up around the edges a little bit (from the pre-smoking scoring), add 2 to 4 small cuts around the circumference of the bologna slices. This helps it sear and stay flat in the pan.
In a medium pan or griddle over medium-high heat, add your slices of bologna. Cook for 2 minutes per side or until you start to get some browning and maybe even some darker brown spots on the meat.
Once you've started to get the meat seared, add slices or graded smoked cheese on top of the hot bologna that is still in the pan to get allow the meat to start melting the cheese. Stack all bologna in the pan with the cheese.
Add condiments to your sliced and toasted bread and get ready for the stack of bologna and cheese. Once the cheese seems like it's started melting, remove the meat and cheese to one slice of bread and get ready to cook your eggs.
Crack 2 eggs into a small bowl and with a fork, whisk the eggs until they are very whipped up and the yolks and whites are fully combined. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to the raw eggs.
Wipe out the pan or griddle and add 1 tablespoon of butter. Once the butter starts bubbling and foaming up (should be almost immediately) add your salted and peppered, mixed-up raw eggs. You might want to turn the heat in the pan off or low at this point if you see smoke or if the butter almost instantly starts to disappear.
Allow the eggs to coat the bottom of the pan and they should cook fast. Once the eggs seem to have set a little, start to fold them over themselves like a pamphlet or brochure. Try to form the eggs into the size of the bread that your sandwich will be on.
If you can't make a great folded egg, or if something goes upside down, you can easily use a spatula or knife to cut and shape the egg to fit the bread.
Add the egg to the top of the stacked bologna and cheese and then top everything with the second slice of bread.
Serve the sandwich and enjoy.
Sandwich three: the fancy bologna sandwich
Au Cheval, a restaurant in Chicago, makes a fancy bologna sandwich. While Au Cheval is almost totally known for its burger, there are folks out there that think Au Cheval’s bologna sandwich is even better than the burger.
Word of warning: Au Cheval uses a lot of dijonnaise on this sandwich. If you’re scared of mayonnaise, get yourself prepared. View the Au Cheval bologna sandwich on Google Image Search to see what I mean.
The bologna sandwich is thinly sliced house-made bologna, cheese, and a dijonnaise sauce sandwiched between a brioche bun.
When I started thinking about buying a bunch of bologna, I knew I’d be also attempting to make a version of Au Cheval’s bologna sandwich. If I didn’t, there’s at least one person who would have tweeted at me about it and I’m very sensitive and would have had to go out and buy more bologna. And this whole process would have started over again! We couldn’t have that happen.
So, I made a version of the Au Cheval bologna sandwich. It’s not an exact copycat, but it’s close enough and tasty enough for me to enjoy and share with all of you.
The brioche buns
Au Cheval’s bologna sandwich is on brioche, so first, we need some fancy and shiny enriched buns to sandwich the meat, cheese, and sauce. This is my brioche bun recipe that I’ve been making occasionally for the past couple of years. You can bake them plain or add toppings like sesame seeds or even everything-bagel-seasoning for a bit of extra oomph. I think I prefer them un-topped and plain, but depending on the sandwich, I can see why some may prefer bun toppings.
Here’s my brioche bun recipe. These make pretty buns, mostly because of the overnight refrigeration that allows you to easily round up your buns into perfect little squished balls of dough.
This homemade dijonnaise is basically just a good mayonnaise with a percentage of fancy mustard in it. My normal mayonnaise recipe does already have some Dijon mustard in it, but we just amp it up with this version to make a very flavorful mayonnaise.
This is a great spread for any sandwich that would benefit from mustard and mayonnaise and it’s especially tasty for dipping fries into if you’re fancy enough to occasionally call them frites.
If you’ve never made your own mayonnaise, it’s life changing. I have a video I made where I show you how to make mayo in around 2 minutes if you have an immersion blender. If you run out of mayo, but you keep eggs in your fridge and vegetable oil in your pantry, you can literally have a flavorful mayonnaise in a jar in under 10 minutes or even under 20 if you’re whisking by hand.
The fancy bologna sandwich recipe
Inspired by Au Cheval’s bologna sandwich
Smoke bologna erry day
This was a fun time and a good week for me for sandwiching. I learned more about smoking in my Weber kettle grill, and I got to eat a lot of bologna. Also, these brioche buns are a recipe I will most likely make over and over for a long time.
Check back next week when I pesto change-o some chicken.