The Simple Way To Upgrade Your Reuben Sandwich

Among the top sandwich varieties available in present-day America, the iconic Reuben still maintains a spot high on the lists of sandwich lovers far and wide. What's Cooking America outlines the many origin accounts of the sandwich, yet all suggested theories have American roots, with the oldest potential submission dating back to 1914.

What keeps this longtime classic a favorite among Americans? According to Daily News, the standard ingredients in a classic Reuben sandwich include Swiss Cheese, German sauerkraut, Russian Dressing, and the most valued ingredient stacked to an often astounding height: German corned beef. 

One 2019 YouGovAmerica survey polled 1,223 Americans' top sandwich choices and while grilled cheese and the classic turkey sandwich won the popularity contest by taking first and second place, 48% of survey respondents also claimed to be Reuben fans. The classic flavors of a Reuben have even served as inspiration for other dishes like Rachael Ray's Reuben-style casserole, and appetizers like Reuben-topped Irish nachos.

However, there is one simple step when assembling a classic Reuben sandwich that many chefs see as a non-negotiable, and who knows — this might take your next stacked Reuben from tasty to exceedingly delicious.

Make your next Reuben sandwich a melt

Just like there is one simple step you can take to avoid a soggy grilled cheese sandwich, there is one way to make sure your next Reuben sandwich is constructed to maximize its layered deliciousness. According to USA Today, when a sandwich has a lot of fresh or wet ingredients such as tomato slices, toasting the bread prevents a mushy exterior. This is the case for Reubens as well, except you want to ensure the Swiss cheese is hot and gooey while still maintaining a crunchy exterior.

When looking at some popular chefs' recipe instructions, melting the assembled sandwich levels up this iconic classic. While Martha Stewart uses a cast iron to finish off her layered Reuben, The Pioneer Woman uses a griddle to achieve toasty, melted perfection. Reader's Digest cites toasted Reubens as one of the many ways to upgrade your everyday sandwich and even mentions home cook Patricia Kile's suggestion (per Taste of Home) of taking away the spice in the standard Russian dressing to par down its heightened flavor profile. Beyond melting your next Reuben, potential sauce alterations only beg the question, is Russian dressing necessary on a Reuben?

The varied sauce options for a classic Reuben sandwich

Before you head to the kitchen to make your next hot Reuben melt, you may want to consider some sauce variations depending on your taste preferences. According to Sandwich Tribunal, you need Thousand Island Dressing to make the perfect Reuben, yet the familiar classic has always been paired with Russian dressing. So what's the difference?

According to MasterClass, both Russian and Thousand Island Dressing have a base of ketchup and mayonnaise but the additions of chili pepper and horseradish in the Russian variety sets them apart. Thousand Island dressing usually has some variation of pickled relish which produces a sweeter, less savory flavor. While you could use the latter if you want less spice in your Reuben, SPICEography notes that Russian dressing has a purpose in the stacked classic: the addition of horseradish balances the fatty components of corned beef. Whether you like your Reuben sweet or slightly tangy, just make sure you take the time to melt your next sandwich and your taste buds will thank you.