White or brown? Cheese or ham? Ridged or smooth? SO MANY VARIABLES. Here's the verdict
Can we talk about crisp sandwiches? One of the most overlooked foodstuffs of our generation, they're so rarely seen in the gourmet world and yet bring joy to millions of bellies every year. Nothing knocks a bad day or a nasty hangover into touch quite like the satisfying crunch of unexpected potato chips between two pieces of bread.
Anyone who says you don't 'need' an additional layer of greasy carbs in-between two slices of bread needs to take a long hard look at their priorities. Finding a crisp in your sandwich is like finding a farthing in the Christmas pudding, except better because you (probably) won't break a tooth.
But how to reach crisp sarnie nirvana? What's the perfect ratio of squidge to crunch to condiment? Make yourself comfy and prepare for the battle of the ultimate crisp sandwiches.
Only one thing's for certain: there WILL be crumbs.
Round 1: white bread v posh bread
Posh bread has its place. Granary, seeded, soda, rye; all fancy-pants breads with so much to offer the casual snacker. There are many times when a slice of rustic sourdough simply can't be beat. But a crisp sandwich, my friend, is not one of these times.
Make no mistake, you're definitely allowed to pop crisps IN a posh bread sandwich – they edge it out, a bit like Lily Allen wearing trainers with a ballgown – but if you're setting out to create the absolute ultimate definitive crisp sarnie experience, step away from the spelt. Only squidgy white bread will do.
That doesn't mean you should reach for the cheap type that looks like wadding, mind. To support crisps without collapsing at the first bite, you need structural integrity. Aim for a medium-cut Farmhouse sliced, minimum.
Round 2: fillings v other fillings v NO fillings
Now that you've picked the carby foundation of your crisp sandwich, it's time to graduate onto the harder stuff. The battle of the fillings.
First, it goes almost without saying that you're going to want butter – unless you're one of those mayonnaise-spreaders one hears about – because the idea of crisps between dry bread is enough to make the Earl of Sandwich choke on his butty. (If you need help, simply remember the famous rhyme: "Can't be bettered? Must be buttered!")
Meat, veg, fish, chips, tiramisu … there's a whole universe of potential fillings out there to enrich your crisp sarnie, but in the interests of efficiency we have focused on some staples:
- Ham – lends a lot in the way of flavour and juxtaposing texture, without fighting the crisp for prominence. Works particularly well with prawn cocktail flavour, for a bright pink surf 'n' turf experience.
- Cheese – BUT WHICH TYPE? Mature cheddar is a dependable companion to everything except cheese-flavoured crisps (Mini Cheddars and actual cheddar are only to be attempted if you have a really strong constitution), but blue cheese, brie and Boursin have all been known to hold their own against a handful of crispy potato. Even cream cheese pairs nicely with a stronger flavour, like spring onion or Thai sweet chilli. Don't insult your crisps with Kraft slices, though. We're all better than that.
- Houmous – controversial, this one. Purists will scream you out of the kitchen, but the world never got anywhere without experimenting. What would Ottolenghi put in his crisp sandwich? Let's think about that.
- Jam – there is nothing so sacred that is has escaped the salty-sweet revolution. Nothing. Especially not crisp sandwiches which, as we all know, were invented at a child's birthday party in 1794.
- Salad – who do you think you are, Gwyneth Paltrow?
Of course, you might choose not to have a filling at all. A true crisp connoisseur doesn't need distractions – just use bread as the vehicle and let those spuds (or maize snacks) shine.
One word of warning, though: without cheese, meat or other edible cushioning, the naked crisp can be dangerously sharp. Chew carefully.
Round 3: condiments
There's very little room for manoeuvre on this one. Everyone with taste buds knows that ketchup is to salty fried potato what Morecambe was to Wise, or Taylor Swift is to everyone who has ever met Taylor Swift. An unstoppable force for good. Choose ketchup. Choose life.
That said, we'll also let mustard, pickle and chutney slide in the right circumstances. Which they probably will – right down your jumper.
Round 4: WHICH CRISPS?
Now we're in the heavyweight division. Which crisps should form the crucial crunch in your crackingly crumbly creation? Cripes.
Proper crisps v pretenders
Your first decision: do you stick with actual potato crisps, or do you let 'maize snacks', 'snack biscuits', 'corn puffs' or any other amateur outsiders into the ring?
Only you know the answer in your heart, but important things to bear in mind are: is it strong enough to deliver a good crunch, or will it turn to mush? (We're looking at you, Mini Cheddars). Is it pungent, powdery and aggressively orange? (Wotsits). Will its shape make construction a structural nightmare? (Hula Hoops).
On our official approved non-potato list are: Quavers, Wheat Crunchies, Nik Naks (not scampi and lemon) and Monster Munch. Don't even talk to us about Twiglets.
Ridges v smooth
Both ridged or smooth are legitimate choices. Ridged are grippier, therefore less likely to end up in your lap, but having a larger surface area means you'll need more butter, ketchup or other moist-makers to balance them out.
As a general rule, the posher the crisp the tougher it will be. Which means a bag of retro Golden Wonder goes down as easy as gravy while Kettle Chips need some seriously hefty fillings to tame them into sandwich submission. Use only in an emergency.
Walkers, obviously, are somewhere in the middle. Walkers are always somewhere in the middle.
Crazy flavours v plain old salt
Crisp sandwiches, like almost every single other thing in life, are all a question of balance. So if you're keeping the fillings simple, feel free to go to town with a veritable carnival of flavours – smoky bacon, firecracker lobster, maybe even a pick 'n' mix selection.
On the other hand, if you're going to let rip with a pulled pork bap or smoked mackerel pâté and cornichons, you're probably best sticking with a nice neutral ready salted as your crisp component. It's just common sense, guys. You know this.
The exception to all that, of course, is when you're hungover or pregnant. Then if your body is telling you it wants want pickled onion Discos on a bed of molten Reblochon, you go for it. We are nobody to judge.
The final verdict
Ultimate bread: White. Medium cut. Soft but substantial. Easy on the crust.
Ultimate pre-filling: Enough butter to grease a Chippendale.
Ultimate filling: Cheese. Or ham. No, definitely cheese. Or both! OK, cheese.
Ultimate crisps: Salt and vinegar McCoy's. Because the definitive crisp sandwich needs sharp, tangy acidity to cut through the wodge of cheddar, enough strength to stand up against a tidal wave of ketchup, and an air of nostalgic familiarity.
Ultimate composition: Butter bread (both slices, don't be ridiculous), top with sliced cheese (time waits for no grater), then layer crisps on top of the cheese with a slight overlap, ensuring the bread is covered up to the edges. Follow with a moderate squirt of ketchup, somewhere between 'smidgen' and 'bloodbath'. Top with the second slice of bread, give a firm push to ensure the ingredients meld slightly, then slice diagonally.
Serve on a plate, preferably accompanied by a sofa, a pair of slipper socks and a side of something terrible on BBC Three.
Liked this? Then try these:
- The definitive ranking of all the greatest crisp flavours
- Homemade tries: microwave crisps
- Prepare to drool: Britain's most beautiful sandwiches
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