Why It Works
- Slow-cooking the bacon renders its fat, while helping it to cook evenly and crisply.
- Toasting the bread in bacon fat adds an extra layer of flavor.
- Seasoning the tomatoes directly with salt and pepper enhances their flavor.
- Shredded iceberg lettuce provides structure, sweetness, and crunch.
A BLT is not a well-dressed bacon sandwich. A BLT is a tomato sandwich, seasoned with bacon. From this basic premise, all else follows. Indeed, a better name for the BLT might well be the Tomato Club, for it is the perfect tomato, not the bacon, that is the rarest, the most ephemeral, the most singularly delicious ingredient.
A BLT is not a democracy. It is not a committee meeting. It is a dictatorship, and the tomato is King, Queen, and Supreme Leader. In the BLT universe, the Prime Directive is that all other ingredients shall be at Her Majesty's service, their only role to prop her up and enhance her best qualities.
Here's how I make mine.
- 3 strips thick-cut, naturally cured bacon (see note)
- 2 slices high-quality sandwich bread, such as shokupan
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) homemade or store-bought mayonnaise (see note)
- 1 1/2 cups finely shredded iceberg lettuce (see note)
- 4 thick slices ripe tomato (see note)
- Coarse sea salt, such as fleur de sel or Maldon
- Freshly ground black pepper
Place a griddle or skillet over medium-low heat. Add bacon and place a bacon press, skillet, or masonry trowel on top of it to keep it flat as it cooks. Cook until lightly browned on first side, about 5 minutes, then flip, cover again, and continue cooking until bacon is browned on both sides and fat has rendered, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer bacon to a paper towel–lined plate and set aside.
Place bread on same skillet or griddle and toast in bacon fat over medium-low heat, swirling occasionally, until evenly browned on first side. Flip and brown second side.
Lay toasted bread on a work surface and spread mayonnaise on both top faces. Divide lettuce evenly between both pieces of bread. Layer tomato slices on 1 piece of bread and sprinkle generously with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.
Break bacon slices in half and layer them onto the sandwich in 2 layers of 3 half slices each, alternating the orientation of bacon in each layer for more structural stability. Close sandwich and cut in half diagonally. Serve immediately.
This recipe can easily be scaled up. To cook bacon for a larger crowd, preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Lay bacon strips on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper, top with a second sheet of parchment paper, and place a second tray on top to keep the bacon flat while baking. Transfer the sandwiched bacon slices to the oven, and bake until well rendered and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes. Reserve the bacon drippings, and brush onto slices of bread before toasting in the toaster or on a griddle.
I strongly recommend using an immersion-cured bacon, such as Nueske's or Wright bacon, for this sandwich. Many typical supermarket brands inject brine into the bacon for faster curing, which waterlogs it and causes it to spatter more and cook unevenly. To avoid this type of bacon, look for ascorbate or sodium erythorbate on the ingredients label—antioxidants required by law to stem the formation of nitrosamines in injected bacon.
Homemade mayonnaise is easy to make using our technique, but mayonnaise preference is personal, so use whatever your favorite mayonnaise is. I know better than to get between someone and their Duke's. Finely shredded iceberg lettuce is my lettuce of choice, unless you can find super-fresh, young, crisp leaf or romaine lettuce at the farmers market. Use only the best summer tomatoes.