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The Grinder has been everywhere this summer, but what is it? The giant meat sandwich, recently popularized by a certain influential social media family, is popping up all over TikTok, with creators and cooks riffing on the sandwich to make it their own.
Similar to a sub, hoagie, and hero, the grinder is said to date back to the 19th century, when Italian immigrants on the East Coast would bring these overstuffed, but stable, sandwiches to work at the shipyards. The name may refer to the grinding of teeth workers needed to bite into the hard and overstuffed bread, or grinder may be slang for a worker on the docks. It's not documented, but what does remain is this delicious relic, that's perfect for a workday lunch or truly anytime. It's portable, full of protein, fiber and more nutrients, easy to make and with all the possible variations, should never get boring. Here's how to make a grinder!
Grinder Sandwich Recipe
A grinder consists of good sandwich bread, deli meats (like salami and ham), crunchy lettuce (typically iceberg) mixed with onions, pickled peppers and mayo, sliced cheese and sliced tomato. Let's break it down so you can make your own perfect grinder.
A grinder should be built on bread that can hold it intact for hours, whether it's being toted to the beach, work or your couch. Italian rolls, or hoagie rolls, in pretty much whatever size you want (you can cut the sandwich in half, in thirds or more slices), are ideal. You can also use French bread, sub rolls or a demi baguette. Gluten-free sandwich lovers can often find versions of these breads in frozen ready-to-bake packages or at gluten-free bakeries. Whatever you choose, slice your bread in half, and you're ready to start building your grinder.
Thinly sliced deli cheese is often laid across the top half of a grinder. Gently layer the cheese to ensure that every part of the bread is covered. Traditionally, provolone is used, but you can also swap in thinly sliced Swiss, muenster, pepper jack or mix a few types for a fun mash-up. Some grinder makers like to toast the top half of their bread with the cheese to make it extra-melty, but if you're planning on eating this sandwich later on, leave the cheese in its natural state.
Now for the fun part, the meat! The bottom half of your bread is ready to be stacked with meats, and the combo is up to you. TikTok's grinders see stacks of deli turkey, ham, pepperoni, prosciutto, pastrami or salami. Of course, the types of meats and quantity is up to you. Plant-based deli meats can also work on the sandwich. Those who don't eat red meat can also try deli chicken and duck prosciutto. Fold each piece of meat in half or in quarters and align it with the bread. Repeat until you have your desired meat stack.
The salad in the middle of the sandwich is what makes a grinder, a grinder. Because you've lined each side of the bread with cheese and meat, it shouldn't soak through and make the sandwich soggy. In a mixing bowl, add 1/4 cup mayo (kewpie mayo or Greek yogurt can work too), plus a tablespoon of red wine vinegar, plus oregano, chili flakes, garlic powder, salt and papper, to taste. Mix up the dressing and toss with two cups shredded iceberg lettuce. You can also toss in some cabbage or kale for a fun twist. Add 2 tablespoons chopped pepperoncini (or similar peppers) and toss the salad. The creaminess is optional -- sub in mustard to emulsify the dressing if you want to skip dairy altogether and make a vinaigrette. You can also toss the shredded ingredients with pre-made Caesar, Ranch or Italian dressing for a quick hack. It's all up to you! Add the salad on top of your meats.
Thinly sliced red onions (typically soaked in water to remove some of the acidity and sharp flavor) and thinly sliced tomatoes typically top the Grinder's salad element, but you can also get creative here. Throw on some thinly sliced cucumbers, add olives, capers, pickle slices or other briny additions. Sneak on some extra meat! Crumble on some bacon! Go wild with mozzarella or bleu cheese! It's your Grinder; make it special. Once you've topped it off, press the top slice of bread with cheese on top of the sandwich, and slice to desired proportions. Wrap in foil, and keep refrigerated or in a cooler until ready to eat.