The 4 Secrets to the Perfect Cuban Sandwich

The Cuban sandwich might just be the perfect sandwich. It’s piled high with pork, cheese, and pickles, before being pressed. The result is something that is rich, meaty, and filling. Originating in Tampa at the turn of the century, the Cuban has a rich history in both Cuba and Florida. While there are a few variations to the sandwich, everyone agrees that the secret to the perfect Cuban is in using high quality ingredients and lots of pork.

The great thing about Cubans is that they are easy to make at home – you don’t even need a panini press. And whether you believe salami belongs on them (as they do in Tampa), or follow Miami’s lead and skip it, you’ll have a sandwich that is delicious.

1. Start With the Bread

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Flickr

Sandwiches are all about the bread they’re made on. Cuban sandwiches are made on Cuban bread. The bread is similar to Italian or French bread – they look like baguettes and are soft in the center. Like the Cuban sandwich, it originated in Tampa or Miami.

Since it’s made with different ingredients, most notably lard, it has a slightly different flavor than its Italian and French cousins. But, if you can’t find Cuban bread, a loaf of French bread will work nicely.

2. The Condiments

Serious Eats
Serious Eats

The beauty of the Cuban sandwich is the balance of the flavors where roast pork meets sweet ham and juicy pickles. Swiss cheese and spicy mustard add even more complexity to the sandwich. There’s a lot going on in the sandwich, but it all works.

After you have your bread chosen and sliced it, spread each side with a healthy dose of yellow mustard and lay down a layer of Swiss cheese. Putting cheese on both sides of the sandwich will help hold it together once it’s been pressed.

Next comes my favorite part of the sandwich – the pickles! Thinly sliced dill pickles (or bread and butter pickles) add a layer of tang and crunch. It goes well with the earthy flavor of the cheese and the brightness of the mustard. And it sets the stage for the star of the show: the pork.

3. A Whole Lot of Pork

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Serious Eats

The next layer on the sandwich is the pork. Cuban sandwiches call for roast pork and ham, and if you’d like – salami. This sandwich is all about the meat, and high quality meat will make your sandwich outstanding.

The best way to make the sandwich is to slow roast pork beforehand. Delicious roast pork makes for delicious Cuban sandwiches.

After the roast pork, pile on a layer of ham. The best ham to use is one that has been honey roasted. The sweetness in the ham plays off the roasted pork in a really tasty way. Then, add a layer of salami if that’s the route you’re going. Cuban sandwiches are all about the meat, so pile it high.

4. The Press

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Serious Eats

Once the sandwich is assembled, it’s time to heat things up. If you have a Panini press, you’re a step ahead. If you don’t have one, don’t fret – a heavy cast iron skillet will do the trick.

Heat up your cast iron skillet or griddle with a little butter. Once it’s hot, place your sandwich on it. Use another heavy pan to press down on the sandwich as it cooks. When it’s nice and golden on one side, flip it over and repeat.

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Serious Eats

Slice the sandwich diagonally and serve while it’s still hot and melty.

Do you have any secret tricks to creating the perfect Cuban sandwich? Let us know!

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