Batty Butty Boffins

12 Apr 2007

Four scientists at Leeds University in Great Britain have spent more than 1,000 hours testing 700 variations on the traditional bacon butty (or sandwich) to produce the perfect preparation formula. It is:

N = C + {fb(cm) . fb(tc)} + fb(Ts) + fc . ta, where 
N = force in Newtons required to break the cooked bacon, 
fb = function of the bacon type, 
fc = function of the condiment/filling effect,
Ts = serving temperature, 
tc = cooking time, 
ta = time or duration of application of condiment/filling, 
cm = cooking method and
C = Newtons required to break uncooked bacon.

Whereas the recipe is:
‘Cut two slices of white farmhouse bread, 1 to 2cm thick. 
 Take two or three rashers of back bacon. 
Place under preheated oven grill for approximately seven minutes on high (preferably 240°C). Turn once during cooking.
Add sauce to taste.’

According to the Leeds University study, the two most important characteristics are crispiness and crunchiness, the sound of which while eating should ideally measure 0.5 decibels. The bacon rashers inside the butty should break when 0.4 Newtons of force is applied through chewing.

A high-tech computer was used to test the texture of the butties, which were subsequently tested for flavor by a panel of 50 volunteers, some of whom sampled four-six bacon sandwiches a day for three or four days.

Variants in the preparation of a butty include different types of bacon (smoked, unsmoked, streaky, thick cut), cooking techniques (frying, grilling, baking or microwaving), types of oil for frying (sunflower, olive, vegetable) and cooking time and temperature. The British spend more than £1bn every year on bacon, which is the UK’s most commonly eaten meat, and purchase around 1.8 billion sandwiches outside the home every year.

The word ‘butty’ originates from Scouse, the dialect of Liverpool, and entered national parlance in the 1960s during Beatlesmania. Now many Britons use it regularly instead of the more formal ‘sandwich’, said to have been coined in the mid eighteenth century after the fourth Earl of Sandwich, who was partial to meat between slices of bread. The first written usage of the word ‘sandwich’ appeared in longhand in Edward Gibbon’s journal.

Modern Britons would routinely describe french fries between slices of buttered bread as bacon butties. Typical Liverpool variations on the theme are the sugar butty and the ‘conny onny’ butty with a spread of condensed milk.

The Leeds research was commissioned by the Danish Bacon and Food Council, the British subsidiary of a Danish pig breeders’ organization. The team was led by Dr Graham Clayton, who commented, ‘It’s not a hoax’. It should be pointed out that the results of the study were published just after April 1.



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