It’s not a recommendation—it’s basically law.

By Annie Campbell
Updated: May 15, 2019
Photo: Antonis Achilleos; Styling: Gerri Williams for James Reps

Have you ever finished a fantastic sandwich at a restaurant and thought, ‘I bet I could make something like this myself’? You’re not wrong. There’s little more to a delicious sandwich than a few quality, flavorful ingredients layered between two humble slices of bread.

But oftentimes, when you sit down to eat your own homemade masterpiece, it doesn’t quite live up to the chef-made ($15) version. So, what went wrong? Your sandwich, even if it was on toasted bread, needed the crisp, buttery, and mouth-watering finish of a pan-fry.

WATCH: How to Make a Caramel Apple Grilled Cheese

Picture the delectable golden crust of a gooey grilled cheese sandwich. Now imagine that gorgeousness on every homemade sandwich you make from now on. That dream is within reach, my friend.

In the same way that even the most inherently delicious steak is incomplete without a pan-sear, your sandwiches will benefit greatly from a pan-fry.

Here’s why:

1. A pan-fried sandwich is just better looking. You eat with your eyes (or your phone) first, and after you take one glance at that golden, glistening masterpiece, you’ll never see dry bread the same way again.

2. Pan-frying gives the sandwich a crisp textural element that a soft filling might be lacking, like creamy peanut butter and jelly or a Caprese with fresh mozzarella.

3. Frying the bread enhances the very first ingredient that will touch your tastebuds, ensuring love at first bite.

4. Pressing weight on top as you fry flattens your overstuffed sandwich to a height that you can actually fit into your mouth. Finally, you can get every perfectly-paired ingredient in one bite.

5. The caramelized fat provides a subtle change of flavor that elevates any filling, sweet or savory.

Read more: Fried Bread Is Buttered Toast Living Its Best Life

How to achieve pan-fried sandwich Nirvana:

With a hot skillet and a little butter or oil, this final (but fundamental) step requires almost no extra effort to your sandwich-making endeavor. You don’t even need an official sandwich press. All you need to is a heavy pot or pan to weigh your sandwich down against the hot pan.

Heat a pat of butter or a tablespoon of oil in a skillet over low to medium heat. For another option, you can spread the fat directly onto your bread slices before transferring to the hot pan. A favorite substitute of our editorial staff (and Martha Stewart) is using a slather of mayo instead of butter for the outside of the bread.

Cook the sandwich for about two minutes on each side, until golden brown or any cheesy filling begins to melt. Place a weighted plate, lid, or pan on top of the sandwich to ensure total contact between the bottom slice and the hot pan. Allow both sides to crisp completely, and serve while it’s still warm and gleaming.

Of course, you could heat the bread without fat for a bland, dry toasting, but I’m gonna suggest you don’t take the low-fat option here. Enjoy all the flavor that a dab of butter or drizzle of oil has to offer.

Try our: Chicken Cordon Bleu Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Photo: Jennifer Causey; Styling: Lindsey Lower
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