Technique: Wrecking Bar’s Terry Koval on making the perfect BLT

It’s all in the details
Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Everybody knows that a ripe tomato is essential, but it’s the details that make for BLT perfection, says Wrecking Bar Brewpub executive chef Terry Koval, who never lets his tomatoes see the inside of a refrigerator. Koval brines his own pork from Riverview Farms, but home cooks can turn to a local butcher for thin bacon slices, then use the oven (not a skillet) for more even cooking. The bacon’s done when it’s slightly chewy but still has some snap. You’ll want snap and crunch in your lettuce, too. Koval rinses a head of iceberg under cold water to crisp the leaves, then shreds it (whole leaves tend to slide). And the bread? Koval goes for a sturdy, artisanal-style white bread like bâtarde or pain au levain. “I love the holes of pain au levain; the pockets of mayonnaise squeeze out the top when you bite into it.” He then (heavily) butters and toasts each slice on one side only. Once assembled, take a sharp knife and cut the sandwich on the diagonal. “I like to bite right into that crunchy, buttery triangle on the end. That just tastes like a mouthful of summertime to me.”

The Breakdown
1 Preheat oven to 400°F. Lay bacon slices flat on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 10 to 20 minutes or until crispy.

2 Remove outside leaves and core a head of iceberg lettuce. Rinse under cold water. Pat dry. Quarter the head, then cut into chiffonade strips.

3 Thickly slice a ripe tomato; place on a paper towel–lined plate. Season each slice on both sides with salt and pepper; drizzle with extra virgin olive oil (Koval prefers Agrumato lemon extra virgin olive oil). Sprinkle with finely minced flat-leaf parsley and thyme.

4 Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 Tbsp. butter. When melted, add a slice of bread and toast on one side only. Remove to a plate, untoasted side up, and repeat with other slice.

5 Generously spread mayonnaise over each untoasted side of bread. Add lettuce; sprinkle with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Add tomato slices then bacon. Top with the other slice of bread. Using a sharp sandwich knife, cut on the diagonal and serve.

To bind the ingredients together, Koval is unapologetically loyal to Duke’s Mayonnaise, which is ultra-creamy and free of starches, gums, and sweeteners.

Terry Koval
Illustration by Joel Kimmel

About Terry Koval
This South Carolina native might be best known for the burgers he designed for Farm Burger—now boasting five outposts, including one in California. Today you can find him at Wrecking Bar Brewpub, where a well-crafted sandwich gets the same level of attention as the beer brewing in the back.

This article originally appeared in our September 2015 issue.