What makes a BLT the perfect sandwich? It's the bacon, isn't it? Of course it's the bacon! It's always the bacon. But wait, what about the tomato? Ah, equally essential! You absolutely need a fat slice or two of flavorful, perfectly ripe tomato. And then, not least, there's the lettuce. Limp lettuce could never do. The crisp bite of cold iceberg lettuce is crucial. Yes, it takes all three elements -- the B, the L, and the T -- working together as one delicious whole. Here's how to make a perfect BLT.
We'll start with the bacon, as any reasonable person would. For tips and advice on creating the best bacon for BLTs, we turn to resident bacophile Chef John. He recommends baking the bacon. You might say, he's a bacon baker.
How to Make Perfect Bacon for BLTs
Chef John's bacon-for-BLTs method involves several easy steps. It may take a few minutes more on the front end, but you'll save that time on the clean-up end.
Step 1: Break Out the Heavy-Duty Aluminum Foil
Tear off a piece of foil that's twice as long as your baking sheet. Watch the video below to see Chef John's patented pull-and-pinch method for prepping the foil. "Using heavy duty aluminum foil and creating some valleys for the bacon fat to flow results in perfectly flat, perfectly crisp, yet still succulent strips of bacon," says Chef John. "Perfect for a BLT!"
Step 2: Place the Bacon on the Aluminum Foil.
Place the pinched, ridged foil on your baking sheet and lay the bacon down across the foil. You can go perpendicular to the pinched peaks (the preferred method) or horizontal -- ultimately, it doesn't matter all that much. Either way, the bacon fat will drain into the troughs.
Step 3: Bake Your Bacon
Place the bacon in an oven preheated to 375 degrees F and bake it to beautiful -- about 25 to 30 minutes.
Why is this the best way to cook bacon for BLTs? Chef John explains: "The fat runs down into the crevices, so the bacon cooks above the fat and not in it. And that produces a very even doneness and superior texture. You get a beautiful crisp strip. But it's not dry. It's still tender and succulent. Perfect for a BLT."
VIDEO: See how Chef John makes perfect bacon for BLTs
The Best Tomatoes for BLTs
If bacon's the boss of the BLT, then ripe, juicy tomatoes are the chairman of the BLT board. Thick slices of tomato provide the essential juicy counterpart and soft mouthfeel to the crispy, flavorful bacon. The best tomatoes are large, dense, slicing tomatoes, preferably heirloom, and obviously in season. True, you can find big red tomatoes in the store year-round; but if you're in search of the perfect BLT, you'll only realize your quest when tomatoes are in peak season. (So if you're reading this article in the dead of January, may I direct you to a delicious Reuben Recipe?)
Let Us Discuss Lettuce
Iceberg lettuce is the classic choice for a reason. It's that crunchy character and overall excellent texture. Also worthy, romaine lettuce. Fancy-pants folks will experiment with arugula and the like, and that's fine, nice for a change of pace. But in pursuit of the perfect BLT, we'll go with iceberg all the way. (Save a section of iceberg for these Wedge Salads on a Stick).
Bread and Mayo
So we've gotten this far and haven't even mentioned the ingredient that provides the sandwiching. The bread. Again, feel free to go low brow here. A couple slices of toasted white bread make an ideal foil for the B and the T. You'll just want to slather 'em up with enough mayonnaise. No need to make your own fancy mayo from fresh eggs -- unscrew a jar and have a ball. Just be sure to provide enough moisture.
How to Layer Your BLT
Add mayo to both slices of toast. Lay down a bed of lettuce on the bottom piece of toast. Next, the bacon. Finally, the tomato slices. Viola, the perfect BLT!