Super Bowl Exposé: How Do They Make Those Giant Party Subs?
I remember my first party sub. In the second grade, we were celebrating whatever you celebrate in second grade—maybe we had party funds from the annual nerd Brainwave competition or maybe it was the class guinea pig’s birthday. I only recall the shock and awe of staring at foot after foot of sandwich. The box itself could have held an anaconda. The meat was spilling out almost cartoonishly. The shredded lettuce surrounded it like confetti. It was glorious. And just like that, my fascination and obsession with party subs began.
People tell you that you should never meet your idols, which is why I’ve previously avoided run-ins with party sub magicians. What if it was all trickery? What if, as friends have assured me, the giant loaf wasn’t actually impressive at all, but in fact many smaller and weaker bread specimens sliced to disillusion those of us who believe in the massive hoagie roll? But recently, my curiosity got the better of me and I called up Gil Calderon, general manager of Meathook Sandwich in Brooklyn (known for extreme subs and sandwiches). And behold, he revealed exactly how a perfect party sub gets made. Highlights below.
So is the bread really that long? Amazingly, yes. Meathook sources party sub bread from Rockland Bakery, a large-scale operation in New York. “They have ovens with decks that can house a six-foot long hero,” Calderon says. “In big, industrial-sized bakeries, the decks are that size so they can fit a bunch of loaves.” So maybe it’s not a special, giant oven dedicated to party sub bread like you may have hoped, but it’s not a trick!
Is there a secret to making sandwiches with giant bread? “We prefer to use a hero that we’ve gotten a day before,” Calderon says. “The crumb is very moist because of the size of the bread. It needs that extra day to dry out a bit.”
How can one six-foot sandwich feed 30 people? “It’s misleading,” Calderon says. “But what we bill as a six-foot sub is actually more like a seven-foot sub because of the way bread tapers.” Keep that in mind when you’re calculating trunk space. Beyond that, party subs are not only much longer, but also wider than traditional subs, which is why a six- (or seven-) foot sub will feed up to 35 or 40 people. “Every foot can be sliced into six to eight portions,” he says. “Which will give you nice, sturdy slices.”
What does it take to cut them? “We used to try to slice the sandwiches by hand,” Calderon says. “Imagine doing that a few hundred times.” Now, Meathook uses an electric carving knife—like one you might use on a Thanksgiving turkey—to slice through the sandwiches cleanly without disrupting any of the filling.
Any tips for transporting one of these babies? Don’t be afraid to pick up your party sub hours in advance. According Caderon, the sandwiches can hold up for at least five or six hours. “The crusts of the party subs that we use are pretty resilient,” he says. “Some are even better the next day.”
Sadly, it's too late to order a party sub from Meathook Sandwich in time for the Super Bowl (they need 36 hours notice). But if you want to plan for your next party, head over to the website to check out their selection of both hot (!!) and cold party subs ranging from one to six feet.