The secrets to nailing the perfect sandwich according to Max Halley

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We all know how to make a sandwich…but do you know how to make a great sandwich? That’s the real question at hand.

There are certain things to consider when attempting to elevate your sarnie game. What ‘bread’ are you using? Is there the right amount of crunch? What about the moistness? 

A few subtle considerations take an average sandwich to a great one, so we’ve roped in an expert to impart his wisdom. 

Max Halley is the founder of Max’s Sandwich Shop in north London, which has gained a cult following since it opened its doors in 2014. Daring to go where others don’t, he serves everything from a lasagne sandwich to one stuffed with vegetable samosas, because - hey - boundaries are made to be broken. 

Max Halley is the undisputed King of sandwiches (Credit: Instagram/ Max Halley/ DFR Visuals)

The sandwich aficionado has also written multiple cookbooks, including his most recent, Max’s World Of Sandwiches, which is practically brimming with tips to make your own impeccable sandwiches at home. 

Basically, if there was a King of sandwiches, it would be Max. So, keep reading and soak up his knowledge. 

What are the key components needed to make the perfect sandwich? 

“Hot/cold, sweet/sour, crunchy/soft. That’s my sandwich mantra. It is in those three core contrasts that our brains find deliciousness.

“I think where most sandwiches go wrong is not having a crunchy thing, though – and let me clarify, lettuce is not crunchy, that's an abomination. It provides freshness.

Crisps are crunchy. You can use packaged crisps, obviously, but at the Sandwich Shop we make our own, and not just out of potato. 

Max Halley previously teamed up with Walkers to create crisp sandwiches (Credit: Walkers/ Max Halley)

“Over Christmas we made cassava crisps and they were the greatest thing ever. They have double the starch content of potato so they go mad crunchy, and they taste sweet, really earthy, and just gorgeous. 

“I like sweet potato, too. You can tailor your crisps around what else is in the sandwich. 

“It’s not just crisps, though. Every sandwich served at the Sandwich Shop has tonnes of deep-fried elements because that's where true crunch is to be found.

“I love croutons in a sandwich. They said you couldn't put bread in a sandwich, but they didn't think about deep frying it. We also use Bombay mix and samosas (ie filo pastry) or spring roll rice paper sheets.”

Is a hotdog a sandwich? Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. 

“The answer to whether or not a hotdog is a sandwich is the same as to triangles, rectangles, or squares…who cares?” 

Hot dogs *are* sandwiches, according to Max (Credit: Getty)

Well, what is your definition of a sandwich, then?

“I think the truth is, it is so loose. If you want to try and get down to the specifics of ‘what is a sandwich?’ it’s basically a bready, fillingy arrangement of some kind.

“Most food cultures wrap things in gluten. By my definition, the whole world makes sandwiches in some form. I remember [food journalist] Jonathan Nunn writing an article in Pit Magazine where he argues that basically everything's a kebab.

“But that’s it! Kebab? That’s a sandwich. Burger? Sandwich. Bao bun? Sandwich. Hot dog? Sandwich. Everyone’s at it in some way, which means when you’re making a sandwich the whole world's cuisine is available to you, and that is just such a nice, nice thing.”

What about an open sandwich? Is that… a sandwich?

“Well, no, that’s just stuff on bread. There has to be some kind of encasing.”

Now, let’s get down to business, give us tips to jazz up the following:

Tuna sandwich

Max Halley has the tuna sandwich nailed down (Credit: Walkers)

“Number one, don't cover in mayonnaise! You could also consider using fresh tuna instead of tinned tuna…

“Do something different with it. Blend up your tuna and use it as a tonnato sauce, to go with something else. One of my favourite things is Vitello tonnato which is cold sliced veal with a tuna sauce. 

“In my first sandwich book, there's a sandwich called a ‘tuna mayo of sorts’, which is made with a fried pork chop that you slice it up and then cover in tonnato sauce.

“In my recent book there’s also a Pan Bagnat, which is basically nicoise salad in a sandwich, and that’s one of God's greatest gifts to picnicking. Fill your bread out with vinaigrette and tuna and all this stuff, then just squish the sandwich, wrap it in clingfilm, and press it overnight.

“It’s out of this world!”

Bacon sandwich

Max's bacon chop sarnie, with marinated tomatoes, smoky bacon & jalapeno mayo. Bosh. (Credit: DFR Visuals)

“My main piece of advice here is cook your bacon slowly, because then you will render the maximum amount of fat out of the bacon, and you can mix that bacon fat into your mayonnaise, for extra flavour, too.

“I remember once asking myself, ‘How do you make a bacon sandwich even more bacon-y?’ 

“I put bacon fat and streaky bacon in there, and then also added some smoky bacon crisps in. It was like bacon on bacon on bacon, it was an absolute banger!

“Other than that, have you ever had a scallop and bacon bun? If not, you should know that is possibly the greatest of all breakfasts. 

“It loves hot sauce so much, and it feels it's like really decadent, somehow. That sandwich at Billingsgate Cafe is - from what I can understand - the only good thing about getting up at 4am to buy some f*cking fish!”

Egg sandwich 

Egg sandos need TLC, too (Credit: This Morning/ Max Halley)

“Eggs are a little miracle, aren’t they? In breakfast sandwiches, I actually prefer a soft-boiled egg mashed in rather than a fried egg. The texture just works. 

“I love [French] sauce gribiche, where you boil eggs and then you take the hard egg yolks and you make mayonnaise from them. Then, you basically make tartar sauce with it, chop up the egg whites, and put them in the sauce. That’s lovely in a sandwich and more exciting [than your classic egg mayo].

“I also love curry powder in egg mayo, so it's almost like Coronation flavour. Coronation egg mayo delicious.”

How do you come up with inventive sandwich fillings? 

“I don't think about sandwiches. I think about dishes that are delicious. I go out for dinner and the majority of my brain is busy just thinking.

“I’m asking myself, ‘How do I turn that dish into a sandwich?’

“What I would like people to take away is that just to think of contrasts. 

“Not every sandwich you make at home is gonna be hot/cold, sweet/sour, crunchy/soft, but just make sure when you’re using rich stuff, there’s freshness and acidity and that will really help in making yours a bit better. 

“Oh, and at the Sandwich Shop, our two MOs are, ‘Can I mix in mayonnaise’ and ‘What will happen when I throw that in the deep fat fryer?' There are so many possibilities.”

What’s the most over-rated sandwich filling? 

“F*cking cheese. I think cheese is disgusting, personally. 

“A cold slab of cheese, to me, is like, the same thing as asking ‘would I like a large slab of candle wax in my sandwich? I just don't understand.”

To finish, can you give everyone a few unique sandwich ingredients to play around with at home? 

Mashed potato

“Mashed potato instead of mayonnaise, that’s the definition of creativity… try it! By that I mean pomme puree – a really sloppy and almost like a potato sauce. It's soft and buttery, how is that not just a totally banging thing in a sandwich?”


“That was another one of those moments when I asked myself, ‘How could that be a sandwich?’ One of my guilty pleasures is getting a croissant, a slab of lasagne, and putting it straight in there. Bam. Cook it in the sandwich toaster.”


“Paneer is wonderful in a sandwich. Look, it’s not a particularly strongly flavoured thing, but it has a wonderful bounciness which is a really great texture to have in a sandwich.” 


“One of my favourite recipes in my new book is the chimichurri recipe. I put it in a sandwich with grilled chorizo, which you would often have at a barbecue.”

Brown butter mayo

“This is so good, and this is naughty. People are always like, ‘butter or mayonnaise’, well, what about both? I should be on a retainer from Hellman’s, it's ridiculous!”

Salsa verde

“People say this isn’t a sandwich sauce and should only go with roast pork, of whatever. It’s like, f*ck that.”

Happy sandwich-making, one and all!

Featured image: DFR Visuals/ Instagram: Max Halley