12 Ways To Upgrade Your Ham Sandwich

sandwich with lots of ham
sandwich with lots of ham - Mpessaris/Getty Images

You can't get more classic than a ham sandwich. It is meaty, usually cheesy, and makes a great lunch for eating at home, school, or on the go. It's so great, in fact, that people eat it very often, but that can lead to it becoming (I hate to say it) "boring." If you want to keep your ham sandwich from becoming monotonous, or if you just want to reignite your passion for this perfect panini, then I've got great news for you: There is a lot you can do to upgrade a ham sandwich.

You know, as Willem Dafoe would say in the popular Spiderman meme, I'm a bit of a ham sandwich expert myself. Ham is a lunch meat that is usually affordable and easy to get, so we always had it around my house growing up in a middle-class neighborhood in Kentucky. But eating the same ham sandwich every day is not very satisfying. So, I have spent years testing out variations of this traditional bag lunch entree and have come up with some ideas that will have you appreciating your humble ham sandwich all over again. Let's dig in.

Read more: 11 Things You Didn't Know You Should Be Doing With Bacon

Toast Your Bread

ham sandwich with toasted bread
ham sandwich with toasted bread - Timolina/Shutterstock

This may sound like a very small change, but sometimes the tiniest of changes have the biggest impact. Toasting the bread of your ham sandwich gives it a whole new flavor, as well as a very satisfying crunch. That's not all, though. Toasting the bread makes it harder, which means that you can feel free to add all the juicy tomatoes and copious spreads you want without worrying as much about making your bread soggy. And, if you put your sandwich together right after taking the hot bread out of the toaster, it makes the cheese on your sandwich melt just slightly. Not only does this taste even more amazing, but it makes all the flavors of the ham, cheese, and condiments meld together in a way that doesn't happen with an untoasted sandwich.

Another reason that this is a great ham sandwich hack is that it is achievable for anyone. Most homes have a toaster, so it is easy to just pop in the bread to shake things up. It doesn't require buying any fancy ingredients or even very much extra time, so it's a terrific way to do something different without putting in too much money or effort.

Try A Different Type Of Ham

person slicing ham
person slicing ham - Gmvozd/Getty Images

Have you ever thought about what kind of ham you are using on your ham sandwich? It's easy to just grab a package of ham from the lunch meat or deli section at the grocery store and toss it in the cart, but if you take a moment to look around, you'll see that there is a world of possibilities there. You can find bone-in or boneless ham that you can bake and slice yourself. You can also find cured ham, which is prepared either by drying the meat with salt and (usually) nitrites (as in the case of "country hams"), or by brining it in a liquid mix of sugar, salt, and spices (as in the case of "city hams"). Truly uncured hams, on the other hand, may be more rare, as most are typically still cured, just without the use of chemical nitrites.

But these are just the big, broad categories. You can also find numerous flavor variations, like honey baked, maple, and smoked ham. To break it down even further, there are also subgenres of smoked ham like applewood smoked ham, which has a different flavor due to the wood used. As you can see, all it takes is one simple switch to change the taste of your whole sandwich.

Make It A Melt

grilled ham and cheese sandwiches
grilled ham and cheese sandwiches - Azurita/Getty Images

Sticking with simple-but-impressive changes, upgrading your ham sandwich to a melt is a fantastic way to go. If you can make a grilled cheese, you can make a ham and cheese melt. My preferred way to go about this is to put a bit of butter on the outside of two slices of white sandwich bread. Then, place ham and a slice of American cheese (or any cheese that will melt well) in the middle and close the bread around it. Next, heat up a skillet on the stove and place the sandwich on it, flipping it once the first side gets brown. When the bread is toasty and the cheese is melted, your sandwich is ready.

You can also make this sandwich in a panini press. Or, if you're really pressed for time or just feeling lazy, you can prepare your sandwich (without the exterior butter), wrap it in a paper towel, and pop it in the microwave for a few seconds to melt the cheese. This is the less "cultured" way to do it and doesn't result in toasted bread, but hey, you still get a hot ham and cheese out of it, right?

Choose A Different Type Of Bread

person slicing rye bread
person slicing rye bread - Clarkandcompany/Getty Images

When most people think ham sandwich, they think of a simple, square sandwich on white sandwich bread. And that's fine! But if you want to take things to a new level, consider swapping out the Rainbow bread for one with a different taste, color, and/or texture. Italian bread is a safe choice if you want to shake things up but not too much, as it tastes pretty similar to sandwich bread with a heartier texture. Wheat bread is a healthy choice and adds a richer flavor to the mix as well as vitamins and fiber.

Sourdough bread is fermented, and may thusly bring a tangier taste to your sandwich. It is also purported to be more easily digestible, making this one a good choice for those who have a finicky stomach. According to experts at Colorado State University, sourdough bread is fermented with Lactobacillus bacteria (also known as "good bacteria" or probiotics), which gives it a lower pH, reduces the levels of some hard-to-digest ingredients in the bread, and starts breaking things down before you even take a bite. That means less work for your stomach to do!

Rye bread is usually denser and makes a great foundation for a ham sandwich, because it can easily hold up all your vegetables, condiments, and other additions. It also has a strong flavor on its own, so this is one to use if you really want to amp up the flavor of your sandwich.

Skip The Loaf Of Bread Altogether

ham bagel sandwich
ham bagel sandwich - Kajakiki/Getty Images

Now we're starting to think outside the breadbox. If you can't decide which bread would go best on your ham sandwich, consider this: You can make one without using sliced bread at all. If you want to do something completely crazy (okay, it's not that crazy), you can put your ham and cheese on a pretzel bun instead of your typical sandwich bread. Or, you can slice a plain bagel in half and fill it with your sandwich fixings. For more a breakfast-y sandwich, you can even use a biscuit instead, whether it be made from scratch or baked from a can of biscuit dough.

All of these options are interesting because they change the texture of the sandwich even more so than they change the flavor. Pretzel buns and bagels, for instance, are much more dense and lead to a chewier sandwich that may feel more filling. If you want to go in the opposite direction, you can use a tortilla for a thinner, lighter layer of carbs and create a wrap instead of a sandwich.

Switch Up Your Cheese

various cheeses on platter
various cheeses on platter - Jupiterimages/Getty Images

A classic ham and cheese sandwich in America is usually topped with American cheese. While this makes for a lovely and patriotic sandwich, this is just one of dozens of cheese choices you have. Swiss, for instance, is often touted as being one of the best matches for ham because of its richness and light tartness that counters ham's sweet, salty flavor. Gruyere is also great in this department, and usually brings a bit of its own sweetness to the mix as well. Cheddar, though, can bring a sharper contrast, with many ham sandwich connoisseurs swearing that the sharper the cheddar, the better it works with the ham.

A softer cheese like brie can also work well, and can bring an earthier flavor to the sandwich. Blue cheese and Gorgonzola are both stronger flavors, but they can help balance out the flavor profile if your ham is on the sweeter side. You can also experiment with cream cheese, which can take the place of mayonnaise on the sandwich, and mozzarella, which is best when its melted. If you're feeling really adventurous, you can mix and match your cheeses to find the combination you like best.

Slather On Some Butter

buttered bread
buttered bread - Carlosgaw/Getty Images

If you are looking for something a bit more decadent, try adding butter to your ham sandwich. And we're not talking about just on the outside of the bread so it doesn't turn while you're grilling it. Some ham sandwich lovers swear that swiping some spreadable butter or margarine on the interior side of the bread makes for a richer sandwich.

In this scenario, the butter would be taking the place of the mayonnaise that is on almost every ham and cheese sandwich, but some take it a bit further to get the best of both worlds. If you aren't worried too much about your fat intake for the day, you can add both butter and mayonnaise to your sandwich. Spread one on one side and one on the other, or mix them both together for a more homogeneous condiment.

If you're sticking with just the butter, though, consider heating up the sandwich to make it melt. That way, the butter really seeps into the bread and mixes with the other ingredients inside the sandwich.

Add Peppers

man slicing bell pepper
man slicing bell pepper - Photo_concepts/Getty Images

Many ham sandwich upgrades stick to what is usually on the sandwich already: bread, lettuce, tomato, condiments, etc. But this one is a game-changing addition. Roasted red peppers made at home or even from a jar can really make your ham sandwich pop. Grilled red or yellow bell peppers are a great choice as well, as are green peppers. For those who want to spice things up, you can add jalapeno peppers or red pepper flakes as well.

There is just one thing to remember when putting peppers on your sandwich: You need to drain them. If you are using roasted peppers from a jar, be sure to put them in a strainer and let most of the excess liquid drain off before adding them to your sandwich, otherwise you may have a soggy mess on your hands. The same can be true with grilled peppers: You'll get a better texture if you make sure they are dry on the outside before adding them to the sandwich.

Toss In Some Veggies

fresh spinach leaves
fresh spinach leaves - Kativ/Getty Images

It's not unusual to see lettuce or tomato on a ham sandwich, but these are just two options you have in terms of vegetables. Have some arugula in your garden? Toss that on there! Are you a fan of fresh spinach? That works great too!

If you want to get away from the leafier vegetables, you can test out some more unusual choices like artichoke. Pickled artichokes in particular can bring a tangy pop of vinegar, but if you aren't a fan, you can achieve similar results with pickles or other pickled vegetables. Sliced and pitted olives of any kind can add a zing as well as a unique texture too.

Fresh onions can also taste great with ham, but making caramelized onions are even better, especially if you want to make a honey baked ham taste even sweeter. Grilled zucchini or even asparagus can be added if you want to stick with a fresh garden theme instead, but this is all just the tip of the iceberg. You have tons of choices here: Just open your produce drawer and start experimenting!

Spread The Love With Spreads

bowl of garlic aioli
bowl of garlic aioli - Bit245/Getty Images

If your usual mayonnaise and mustard are becoming a bit "meh," there are tons of other condiments you can add to your ham sandwich. You can, for instance, mix various types of sauce with your mayonnaise, like sriracha. This spicy chili spread comes from Thailand and has a taste that is both sweet and vinegary with a hint of garlic.

If you want to swap out the mayonnaise all together, you can try aioli instead, which is a creamy sauce similar to mayo but with lots of added garlic. If you're not looking to keep the vampires away, though, you can test out horseradish. This is a very strongly flavored condiment made from the root of a plant from the same family as wasabi. The root has a taste reminiscent of intense mustard with a heat you might not expect, but which becomes much lighter when mixed with vinegar, as it is in horseradish sauce.

Drizzle On Some Oil And Vinegar

olive oil and balsamic vinegar
olive oil and balsamic vinegar - Fcafotodigital/Getty Images

If you are looking for something that adds fewer calories and more zip to your ham sandwich, olive oil and vinegar should be your go-to condiments. All you have to do is drizzle some olive oil on the interior side of both pieces of bread, then follow that up with a drizzle of vinegar before closing the sandwich. Alternatively, you could stir them together in a bowl before adding them to make sure the flavor is spread more evenly.

Most types of vinegar will work here, but red wine vinegar and white vinegar seem to mix best with the ham flavor. However, you can also opt for balsamic vinegar. No matter which vinegar you decide to use, be sure to pour with a light hand. It can be an intense flavor, and adding too much can easily overpower your sandwich. Olive oil is a bit more forgiving in this department, and it will help balance things out if you don't go overboard.

Top Your Ham With An Egg

open-faced ham and egg sandwich
open-faced ham and egg sandwich - Fermate/Getty Images

Eggs are not just for breakfast anymore! Just like you can add some chunks of ham to your scrambled eggs, you can also add them to your ham sandwich. The easiest way to do this is to fry an egg and add it to your ham along with some cheese. But, you can also add scrambled eggs too, even if this might make for a bit messier sandwich.

One of my personal favorite ways to add eggs is to make an over-easy egg and add it to a sandwich with toasted bread. When you bite into it, the yolk of the egg breaks and seeps into the crispy, crunchy bread, bringing all the flavors together in a really cool way.

If you happen to have some egg salad on your hands, you can use that as a condiment for your ham sandwich too. Eggs and ham work really well together, so this is the perfect way to create a hearty, filling sandwich that tastes great.

Read the original article on Daily Meal