How to Make the Best BLT of All Time

Chef Gabriel Pascuzzi adds a pink peppercorn aïoli to this classic sandwich. Here's how to make the best BLT yourself.

Stacked Sandwich Shop BLT
Photo: @Meatballssmama (Kari Young)

Tomato season means many things, from caprese salads to panzanella and the humble BLT. The classic combination of bacon, lettuce, and tomato is a simple one, but that doesn't mean there's not an art to it. Leave it to chef Gabriel Pascuzzi — Eater named him Portland's Chef of the Year in 2017 — to know just what to do to turn out an irresistible version of this summertime staple. When he was running the city's beloved Stacked Sandwich Shop, Pascuzzi only made BLTs when tomatoes were in season, and when they were, he pulled out all the stops.

At Stacked, the BLT came with avocado — it was aptly called a B.L.T.A. — as well as house-smoked thick-cut bacon, heirloom tomatoes, butter lettuce, and a pink peppercorn aïoli made with bacon fat. It was served on sourdough from Portland's Pearl Bakery.

"We didn't want to mess with it too much," the chef — who has a background in fine dining, having staged at Noma and worked at the likes of New York City's Colicchio & Sons and DB Bistro before launching his popular pop-up back in Portland — says, respecting the inherent integrity of the simple sandwich. Since there were so few ingredients, he made sure each one shined. He planted his own tomatoes in his father's garden, and he made the bacon in-house, curing it for up to seven days before letting it sit overnight, exposed in the walk-in, and smoking it for four hours.

To make his signature pink peppercorn aïoli, Pascuzzi hand-grinds and toasts the peppercorns, which he mixes into a blend of three parts bacon fat and one part canola oil, and a traditional aïoli base of Champagne vinegar, Dijon, egg yolks, salt, and a pinch of sugar. The oil is crucial, because it keeps the bacon fat from congealing. The result is a "floral, peppery note that plays well with the tomatoes," the chef says.

Unfortunately, Stacked officially shut its doors at the end of 2021, but thankfully you can make your own version of its famed BLT at home, with a few helpful pointers from the sandwich guru:

Always season your tomatoes

It's "the biggest thing people are messing up," Pascuzzi says. All you need is a sprinkle of sea salt and some cracked black pepper, and you're good to go.

And only use good tomatoes, of course

Pascuzzi uses whatever heirloom varieties are ripe in his garden, and suggests using bigger ones, simply to make it easier on yourself.

Choose the right bread

"Sourdough, for me, is the obvious choice," he says. We'll settle for whatever your preference is, so long as it's lightly toasted, which Pascuzzi also suggests.

Use thick-cut bacon, all the way

If you're not making your own bacon, Pascuzzi recommends Benton's or Nueske's. Or, "if you've got a local spot that makes their own bacon, go there," he says.

And cook that bacon in a cast iron skillet

The debate over the best way to cook bacon is real — in the oven, on the stove, with some water ... But Pascuzzi prefers to keep it traditional, frying up crispy, thick-cut bacon in a skillet (without water, he emphatically advises).

Layer up

Start with a healthy spread of mayo, pink peppercorn or otherwise, on the bottom slice of bread. Then add the bacon — Pascuzzi uses six strips. Next, add the tomatoes, because they hold on well to the bacon, and then add a big leaf of butter lettuce. Spread a light coating of aïoli onto the top slice of bread, stick those slices of avocado onto that, if using, and sandwich it all together.

For more BLT inspiration, check out these recipes.

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