Picnics and sandwiches go hand in hand. After all, there is nothing more portable than your favourite fillings between bread.
However, one of the greatest picnic conundrums is how to prevent sandwiches from getting soggy.
These are just some of our great picnic tips to help keep your sandwiches fresh and avoid soggy sandwich syndrome, no matter what style of picnic sandwich you favour.
How to Stop Sandwiches Going Soggy
Make Your Sandwich at the Last Possible Moment.
The least amount of time your sandwich is a sandwich, the better. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule – such as the pressed sandwich (which features in various incarnations in our summer sandwich and fall sandwich editions). Also, a thick, crusty baguette that does well languishing with its fillings without falling victim to soggy bottom.
But for your average sandwich, try to minimise the amount of time in storage as possible. If you must make sandwiches the night before, wrap them well and store in an airtight container in the fridge to avoid any condensation issues.
Construct Your Sandwiches In Situ When You are Ready to Eat
At the risk of stating the obvious, the most foolproof way to prevent soggy sandwiches is to pack your fillings and bread separately and make your sandwich as you are ready to eat.
DIY sandwich platters are also a fabulous way to do picnic sandwiches for groups. Put out platters and containers of fillings with your bread of choice and let everyone DIY their own sandwich. It’s easier than making a load of sandwiches, allows everyone to make it the way they like, and you won’t suffer soggy sandwich issues.
Or, you can partially build your sandwiches with dry fillings and add wet fillings such as tomato, egg, tuna or chicken salads at the last minute.
Sustainable Picnic Sandwich Wraps
Choose The Right Bread
If you must pre-make your sandwiches, choosing robust bread over traditional store-bought sliced bread will help sandwiches stand up to some transit time without becoming soggy.
Opt for rye or sourdough, crusty baguettes, rolls, ciabatta or bagels – bread that will hold up over long periods even with moist fillings. Like a dense, crusty baguette, some bread will actually do well soaking up the flavours of wet fillings without losing the crusty outer crunch.
Toast the Bread
I’m of two minds about this, and while it has merit, it is a preference thing. If you like toasted bread, toast away. Drying the bread through toasting will help prevent any sogginess and give your sandwich a different spin with a crisp texture.
If you don’t like toasted bread, only toast lightly. You could also opt for properly toasted sandwiches and wrap in foil to keep them warm.
If I was to adopt the toasting method for certain sandwiches, think BLT for example, I would only toast the inner side of the bread on a pan or griddle as you might for a hamburger bun.
Doing it this way prevents sogginess leaving the outer either soft and fluffy or with the original crunch depending on the bread you choose.
Forget Bread All Together
You don’t need bread to make a sandwich – Well yes, traditionally a sandwich is two pieces of bread with a filling. However, there are other ways to bundle your favourite sandwich fillings into a portable meal.
Look to hearty, sturdy and pliable greens such as kale, chard or collard leaves to use as a wrap alternative. The large, sturdy leaves make great wraps, are a colourful way to serve your favourite sandwich fillings and are so healthy. Think of them as a sandwich-style summer spring roll. They’ll also never go soggy on you.
Not convinced on using robust green leaves as a bread alternative to combat soggy sandwich syndrome, look to the tortilla. Use a large soft tortilla, either flour or corn tortilla as a sandwich wrap. Tortillas stand up to moisture much better than bread and are a very portable way to serve sandwiches. Serve them whole or cut them down into pinwheel style for finger sandwiches.
Use firm vegetables as an outer casing such as slices of cucumber, bell peppers or grilled sweet potato. Load portobello mushrooms with your favourite fillings or turn to tofu or polenta cakes for a bread alternative. We’ve got loads of ideas for delicious no bread sandwiches here.
Use Dry Sandwich Fillings
No one likes a dry sandwich, but there are ways to avoid soggy sandwiches by keeping wet fillings to a minimum.
Tomatoes are probably the worst offender when it comes to making sandwich bread wet and soggy. You can avoid tomatoes altogether, or pack them separately and add when ready to eat. Placing them towards the middle of the sandwich between other layers can also help.
Swap tomatoes for roasted red peppers, just pat dry with a paper towel before adding them and keep them to the sandwich’s centre.
Alternately, try sun or semi-dried tomatoes instead. They will give a nice flavour boost to your sandwich and never cause sogginess.
If using lettuce, make sure it is completely dry after rinsing before adding to the sandwich. Pat with a paper towel after a using a salad spinner to make sure all excess water is removed.
Wet fillings such as egg or chicken salad are always best added at the last minute, otherwise, consider a protective layer such as lettuce between the salad and bread.
If adding condiments such as mayonnaise or pickles, consider adding them just before eating or spread them between slices of meat and cheese away from the bread.
More on the condiment conundrum further on.
Avoid Hot or Warm Sandwich Fillings
If you have cooked sandwich fillings such as chicken, egg, bacon or roasted veg, let them completely cool before adding to your sandwich unless you intend to have a hot sandwich such as a hot roast chicken roll. Then fill your bread with steaming hot chicken and wrap in foil to keep it hot. We give you all the tips for keeping picnic food warm here. I would also suggest the inner toast method here.
Adding warm ingredients to a sandwich will create condensation and in turn, soggy bread. Always use cold or room temperature ingredients.
Condiments and Sandwich Construction Tips
This is a tricky one as there are three schools of thought regarding condiments and soggy sandwiches.
- Some prefer to layer condiments between inner layers, for example, between cheese and meat slices towards the sandwich’s middle. Doing this creates a moisture barrier between wet ingredients and the bread.
- Other cautious sandwich makers like to pack condiments separately and add at the last minute.
- Then, there are the sandwich thrill-seekers who believe a hefty layer of condiment on the bread helps prevent sogginess.
I think this last theory is an extension of the butter and olive oil method. It is true, a layer of butter or even a thin brush of olive oil on the inside of the bread will create a moisture barrier and repel liquids from entering the bread. However, I don’t believe it is the same for wet chutneys, mayonnaise or even some mustards.
If you were to adopt this last method, I would advise doing so experimentally and with caution. While a thin layer of seeded mustard, pesto or even a thick slather of hummus may not cause sogginess, cranberry, pickles, relish or bbq sauce may result in a soggy mess.
Pack Your Sandwiches Well
Last but not least, make sure your sandwiches are packed well. Use ziplock bags and airtight containers if packing on ice to avoid wetness or condensation creeping in.
Use natural sandwich wraps such as reusable beeswax wrappers or paper to avoid sandwich sweat which can happen with cling wrap. Keep sandwiches cold but not stored against ice bricks or ice packs. And most of all, don’t go to all the trouble of keeping your sandwiches from getting soggy and allow them to get squashed.