This Is the 1 Sandwich-Making Rule ‘Top Chef’ Judge Tom Colicchio Never Breaks

Aside from his well-known aversion to all things okra, Tom Colicchio is a man who will try just about anything and everything the culinary world has to offer. So, when it comes to a good old fashioned sandwich, this Top Chef judge knows a thing or two about turning the classic PB&J on its head. So long simplicity — it’s time we all heed Colicchio’s advice and give the sandwich a well-deserved makeover.

We’re counting down to Colicchio’s top sandwich-making rule he never, ever breaks. Follow these sandwich-making tips, and you’ll be savoring those new creations of yours in no time.

11. Be conservative with condiments

mayo

Keep your condiments to a minimum. | iStock/Getty Images

Colicchio recommends: Sticking to one

It can be tough to exercise restraint when it comes to dousing your sandwich in your favorite condiments. But try to resist the urge. “Don’t overdo it with condiments; the more you mix them, the more muddled the flavor becomes,” Colicchio warns. “Pick one that will really accentuate the flavors you’re highlighting.”

Next: Never underestimate the power of adding salad to your sandwich. 

10. Put dressing on greens before putting them in the sandwich

man washing lettuce for salad

Dress your lettuce first. | iStock/Getty Images

Colicchio recommends: Dressing your greens before building your sandwich

Adding a dash of lettuce to a sandwich can be just the ticket. And while that extra dose of greens is sure to be tasty, it can also come with a lack of proper flavor distribution. However, Colicchio says the secret to staying away from this potential problem is simple. “Greens should be dressed prior to placement in the sandwich to ensure consistent seasoning throughout.”

Next: Most sandwiches worth eating call for cheese. 

9. Place your cheese properly

Emmental Swiss cheese

Put the cheese near the bread. | Sebalos/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Colicchio recommends: Placing cheese next to the bread in a cold sandwich

Proper placement of everything that goes inside your sandwich is just another key factor in guaranteeing the perfect creation every time. As it turns out, your cheese layering skills play a crucial role in maintaining that ideal structure you’ve been striving for. “If served cold, put cheese next to the bread to help reinforce the stability of the sandwich,” Colicchio says. “If served hot, put cheese next to the meat so the flavors can properly play off of one another.”

Next: Proper layering is key. 

8. Make sure your sandwich has a sturdy foundation

sandwich

A proper sandwich should be thought out. | Rez-art/iStock/Getty Image

Colicchio recommends: Giving thought to your process before throwing ingredients onto the bread

Sure, crafting the perfect sandwich might seem simple, but let’s not put the horse before the cart here. Learning to master just about anything takes time, and as you’ve likely learned somewhere along the way, the devil’s in the details. You wouldn’t build your home without guaranteeing the foundation is sturdy, so why wouldn’t you do the same for your sandwich?

OK, let’s calm down. There’s no way making a sandwich remotely compares to building a structurally sound home, but you get where we’re going here. And as Colicchio says, “The architecture of the sandwich is as important as what you put in it. If it isn’t built solidly, it will fall apart.”

Next: Here are a few of our favorite sandwich recipes. 

Here’s how you can make deli-style sandwiches of your own

Turkey Croissant Sandwich on a wooden table

Use a recipe when you’re unsure. | DreamBigPhotos/iStock/Getty Images

We recommend: Following a recipe when you try something new

Creating the perfect sandwich is a tall order, but thankfully it’s not completely impossible. In fact, making a deli-style sandwich just like the one your favorite Italian sub shop makes isn’t totally out of reach after all. If you’re interested in trying your hand, check out this list of six of our favorite concoctions.

Next: Quality bread is the foundation of any good sandwich. 

7. Never skimp on the bread

tuna salad on toasted bread

A quality bread will make or break your sandwich. | iStock.com

Colicchio recommends: Using a hearty, whole wheat bread

Because the outside is just as important as what’s on the inside, choosing quality bread for your sandwich is key. And Colicchio’s top pick? Arnold 100% Whole Wheat Bread. That’s one you can find in just about any grocery store.

Next: Here are a few breads to stay away from.

Don’t be duped by these types of bread

sandwiches

Make sure you can pronounce the ingredients. | iStock/Getty Images

We recommend: Sticking to brands that only use ingredients you can pronounce

There’s a laundry list of breads you should stay away from, but it can be tough to keep track. Good thing we have some easy-to-follow guidelines that’ll make sticking to the quality stuff as easy as can be. However, if you do prefer any of the types of bread we list, just make sure the brand you buy uses nothing but high-quality ingredients.

Next: Building the perfect sandwich is truly an art. 

6. Build from the bottom up

sub sandwich

Start with the heaviest ingredients. | iStock/Getty Images

Colicchio recommends: Starting with your driest, heaviest ingredients first

Anyone who’s ever said the order of sandwich ingredients doesn’t matter has clearly never had a messy sandwich. The best way to build your perfect sandwich is by putting a little logic into your process. “Build sandwiches from the bottom up, starting with the driest and heaviest ingredients first before adding your favorite toppings, like lettuce and tomato,” Colicchio recommends. “Finally, spread condiments on the second slice of bread before topping the sandwich.”

Next: Don’t overlook the importance of keeping things simple. 

5. Don’t overload your sandwich

sandwich

Use only the essentials. | CLFortin/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Colicchio recommends: Using an editing eye

Packing on all the meats, all the veggies, and all the condiments is tempting. But once again, this is one step of the process that requires a little editing on your part. Ever bite into a jelly doughnut, only to have all the filling come squirting out the other end? Yeah, it’s kind of like that. To avoid such horrifying embarrassment, follow Colicchio’s tip: “Don’t overload your sandwich to the point of ingredients falling out when you take a bite!”

Next: Toasted bread is the solution to your problems. 

4. Toast your bread if you’re using messy ingredients

grilled sandwich

Grill your bread to keep everything together. | iStock/Getty Images

Colicchio recommends: Avoiding soggy bread by toasting it

“I just love a soggy sandwich,” said no one ever. Who wants to open up the lunch they’ve been waiting all morning to eat, only to find an overly moist mess? Well, Colicchio has a solution to your soggy sandwich problems.

“If you’re using messier ingredients, like roasted vegetables or condiments such as dressing, try lightly toasting or searing one side of each bread slice until crisp and stack your sandwich with the toasty sides facing in,” Colicchio recommends. “This will make your sandwich sturdier and help prevent sogginess.”

Next: And now, some of Colicchio’s go-tos 

Tom Colicchio’s favorite sandwiches

sandwich

An eggplant sandwich is his top suggestion. | iStock/Getty Images

We recommend: Just about any one of Colicchio’s suggestions

We’re sure you’re wondering exactly what kind of sandwiches the seasoned chef enjoys most. Some of Cholicchio’s top contenders are marinated eggplant with tomato relish, mozzarella, and herbs; grilled flank steak and scallions with salsa verde, ricotta-corn, and horseradish mayo; and egg salad with smoked salmon, arugula, pickled red onion and lemon vinaigrette. Our mouths are salivating just thinking about these.

Next: Food trends aren’t worth it if you’re not into them.

3. Create sandwiches according to your own tastes, not trends

sandwich

Only add what you like. | Lauraag/iStock /Getty Images Plus

Colicchio recommends: Ditching the latest trends and following your taste buds

Just admit it: You didn’t know what avocado toast was before it emerged as the latest and greatest trend in the foodie world. And that’s OK — you’re not alone. While you might love this trendy food sensation, try to steer clear of falling victim to other trends that don’t fit your tastes or lifestyle. As Colicchio warns, “Create sandwiches that fit your and your family’s palates, not what the latest trends tell you to.”

Next: The most popular food trends of 2017

Food trends to look out for

Lettuce and Tomato Sandwiches

If you don’t like avocados, don’t worry. | iStock.com/Olgna

We recommend: Steering clear of popular food trends that just aren’t you

On the subject of food trends, it really can be tough to resist them all — even the ones that don’t suit you. But we’re here to help. Check out this handy list of all the most popular food trends of 2017. Is unicorn-flavored everything your cup of tea? Wonderful, go for it. However, if you just can’t get behind the trend, leave it behind where it belongs.

Next: It’s time to test out your culinary creativity in the kitchen. 

2. Let your creativity flag fly

Sandwich tomato, lettuce, onion and yellow cheese on a wooden table

Don’t be afraid to experiment. | Mariolizaola/iStock/Getty Images

Colicchio recommends: Just going for it

While there’s definite merit in the previous point, it’s important to follow with this one. While you shouldn’t necessarily jump on the whatever’s-cool-on-Instagram bandwagon, that’s no reason to deter you from trying new things, either. After all, the kitchen is the best place to let your freak flag fly. “Don’t be afraid to experiment with new things! You can always try again tomorrow,” Colicchio encourages.

Next: And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Here is Colicchio’s sandwich-making rule he never breaks.

1. Use nothing but the freshest ingredients available

sandwich

Always use fresh ingredients. | iStock/Getty Images

Colicchio recommends: Using nothing but the absolute best you can get your hands on

Buying organic can be costly, and it’s not always feasible to do so. However, whatever the best produce is in your realm of possibilities, be sure to stick with it. “Always use the freshest ingredients you can find. There’s no substitute for a perfectly ripe piece of produce,” Colicchio says.

Read more: This Is the Only Fast Food Item Anthony Bourdain Will Ever Eat