How to make the perfect chicken sandwich

Living Well | Tianna Nadalin | Images: Getty, supplied | Posted on 22 October 2020

Forget soggy bread and sloppy fillings. Here’s how to make perfect chicken sandwiches.

Whether you’re planning a backyard picnic, DIY high tea or just looking for an easy weekend lunch, there is something about a fresh, homemade chicken sandwich that is hard to top. But choosing the right bread, perfecting the poach and mastering the meat-to-mayo ratio are essential if you want to execute the ultimate chicken sambo.

We asked seasoned sandwich constructor Glenn Bacon, executive chef at RACV’s Royal Pines Resort, for his top tips for making the perfect chicken sandwich. 

Royal Pines chicken sandwiches

Celebrate Melbourne Cup Day in delicious style. 

Chef’s guide to making the perfect chicken sandwich

What is the best bread for a classic chicken sambo?

When making a chicken sandwich, Glenn says the bread you choose depends on the style of sandwich you want to make. For a classic sammo, or for chicken finger sandwiches, Glenn says a good-quality fluffy white bread works nicely. Otherwise, for something more rustic and filling, you can’t go wrong with a bitey sourdough. “And if you’re hosting a picnic or high tea at home and want something a little fancier, you could even buy little tartlets for a lovely canape-type feel,” he says.

Should you butter the bread?

There’s nothing that can’t do with a little buttering up, and that includes a chicken sandwich. “Even though you are putting mayo on the bread, it still needs a little butter,” Glenn says. “It gives the filling something to stick to and makes the bread feel complete. Otherwise, when you pull it apart, it just feels like it hasn’t got that care factor.”

But how do you stop the butter from clumping and ripping the bread, you ask? “For a nice even spread, allow the butter to come to room temperature first.”

How do you make perfect poached chicken?

There’s nothing worse than tough, rubbery chicken. The trick to perfecting beautifully tender poached bird, Glenn says, is not getting the chicken too hot. “What we do is bring a pot of chicken stock to a boil and gently place the chicken into the water,” Glenn says. “Then turn the heat off straight away and let the chicken steep in the hot stock for 20 to 30 minutes.” It’s done when the chicken’s temperature is 75 degrees. Then you simply chill it in the fridge so it’s ready for dicing. 

Can you use roast chook? 

Glenn says if you’re after a quick and easy solution (or you just want to use up some leftovers), there are plenty of different ways to prep your chicken. “You could use a nice, freshly roasted chicken,” he says. “Take the meat off while it’s still warm, cut it and let it cool.” Give it an extra kick by leaving some skin on for a little more seasoning, Glenn says.  

How do you make the filling?

Okay, so you’ve got your chicken chopped and ready and your bread is buttered. Now to pull together the filling. “Start with the chicken in a bowl – it can be either sliced or diced,” Glenn says. “Then season with some salt and cracked pepper and add mayo until it just comes together in the bowl and has a nice, creamy texture.” He says a good-quality, whole-egg mayo is ideal for this job. 

White bread

Fluffy white bread is a classic choice for chicken finger sandwiches.

Avocado cut in half

Chef Glenn Bacon says you avocadon't want to add this to the mix.

Buttered white bread

Bring butter to room temperature so you don't ruin your bread.

Is there a perfect chicken-to-mayo ratio?

When making the perfect chicken sandwich, Glenn says, the last thing you want is for it to be sloppy. “It’s a fine line,” he says. “You don’t want so much mayo that it spills out the sides, but too little means it won’t come together properly. You want to add just enough that it’s holding its own shape. Start with the 80:20 rule – 80 per cent chicken, 20 per cent mayo, then play it by ear from there.”

Is avocado allowed?

When it comes to non-traditional mix-ins, Glenn says he wouldn’t be caught bread mixing chicken and avocado. “This comes down to personal preference,” he says. “Personally, I don’t think avocado adds anything to a chicken sandwich – but I am a purist. I like to keep the chicken as chicken and avo somewhere else entirely.”

So what can you add?

Avocado might be out of the question but there are plenty of other ways to spice up your chicken sandwich. “Chicken can be a little on the bland side so fresh herbs or spices can add a nice touch,” Glenn says. “We like to add a pinch of wattle seeds for a toasty coffee flavour, but you could also use fresh tarragon, which gives a really nice aniseed flavour. Parsley and dill also work well.” 

Triangles or soldiers?

It’s a question that has plagued culinary masters for generations. “I like soldiers myself,” Glenn says, “but only because they’re a little more elegant. When you’re serving them, you can turn them over so the filling is exposed and it looks nicer on the plate.” 

Getting to the crust of the issue

Whether you leave crusts on or off, again, comes down to the style of sandwich you’re making. “If you’re doing nice little elegant finger sandwiches, usually you would take the crusts off,” Glenn says. “But if you’re making something a little more rustic, leaving them on is fine.”

Best wine to drink with them? 

Chicken sandwiches and sparkling wine were a match made in culinary heaven. “A good Aussie sparkling wine is always the go-to, or a champagne, especially with the Melbourne Cup,” Glenn says. “Those buttery notes and fattiness go together nicely.” 

If you’re not into bubbles, Glenn says chardonnay is also a winner.

Royal Pines chicken sandwiches

Celebrate Melbourne Cup Day in delicious style. 

Glenn Bacon’s famous chicken sandwich, three ways

Open chicken sandwich

Make it a more rustic affair by using a sourdough baguette and serving Danish-style open-top sandwiches instead. 

  • Start with a really nice sourdough and give it a nice even spread of good-quality butter.
  • Add some wattle seeds to your poached chicken and mayo mix, and season with salt and better.  
  • I like to do a quenelle of the chicken on top, then sprinkle with some micro herbs and a few more wattle seeds.  

Fancy chicken finger sandwiches

For something a little more elegant, you can’t go past finger sandwiches. 

  • Get a good-quality white loaf, cut for sandwiches. 
  • Make sure the butter is at room temperature before trying to spread it on the bread. 
  • Holding the bread with the flat of your hand, cut the crusts off using a sharp, serrated-edge knife. Use the knife like you’re sawing the bread so you don’t flatten it – that’s the secret
  • Top with your classic chicken and mayo mix, then cut into thirds for soldiers.

Classic chicken club sandwich 

If you want to go all out, up the ante by fusing two finger-food favourites: chicken club and cucumber sandwiches. 

  • Follow the steps for finger sandwiches above, but add a layer of cucumber before you slice them. 
  • So it goes buttered bread, chicken and mayo mix, then another slice of buttered bread (the middle piece should be buttered on both sides), then a layer of cucumber, topped with another piece of buttered bread. Make them even fancier by adding a thin layer of cream cheese too. 
  • The trick for this, Glenn says, is to slice the cucumber lengthways so you only need three or four slices to cover a whole piece of bread, plus they’re less likely to fall out when you cut the soldiers. Using a mandolin is the easiest way to achieve a consistent thickness.
  • Make sure you put a little salt and pepper on the cucumber to really bring out the flavour.