August is National Sandwich Month. Chef Tom Colicchio, a seasoned food judge and sandwich expert, knows a thing or two about creating a delicious, nutritious sandwich from the bread to the fillings. In fact, Chef Colicchio’s expertise and sandwich recipes are helping inspire Americans across the country to submit their favorite recipes into this year’s America’s Better Sandwich® Contest.

Here are some of Chef Colicchio’s top tips for building a better sandwich.

1. Always use the freshest ingredients you can find; there’s no substitute for a perfectly ripe piece of produce.

2. Create sandwiches that fit your and your family’s palettes, not what the latest trends tell you to.

3. At the same time, don’t be afraid to experiment with new things! You can always try again tomorrow.

4. The architecture of the sandwich is as important as what you put in it. If it isn’t built solidly it will fall apart:

  • If you’re using messier ingredients, like roasted vegetables or condiments such as dressing, try lightly toasting or searing one side of each bread slice until crisp and stack your sandwich with the toasty sides facing in. This will make your sandwich sturdier and help prevent sogginess.
  • Build sandwiches from the bottom up, starting with the driest and heaviest ingredients first before adding your favorite toppings, like lettuce and tomato. Finally, spread condiments on the second slice of bread before topping the sandwich.
  • Most importantly, don’t overload your sandwich to the point of ingredients falling out when you take a bite!

5. If served cold, put cheese next to the bread to help reinforce the stability of the sandwich. If served hot, put cheese next to the meat so the flavors can properly play off of one another.

6. Greens should be dressed prior to placement in the sandwich to ensure consistent seasoning throughout.

7. Don’t overdo it with condiments; the more you mix them, the more muddled the flavor becomes. Pick one that will really accentuate the flavors you’re highlighting.