Forget chic sausages and gourmet burgers. The star of your barbecue this summer is the sandwich.
And a plain old white roll just doesn’t cut it anymore, because retailers offer a range of strange and beautiful colors, flavors and shapes.
From charcoal hot dog buns and avocado burger baps to potato sliders and rainbow bagels, the shelves are bursting with brightly colored and, in some cases, downright bizarre buns.
But how do they taste? Are they distracting from the meat inside? And, crucially, how do they handle ketchup? We put ten to the test.
£ 11.95 for 14, colorful bakery.co.uk (main photo)
Sarah Rainey gives her verdict on a selection of the weird and wonderful sandwiches available in UK stores. Pictured: rainbow bagel bun
What is it? A wonderfully soft, doughy bagel with a rainbow swirl both inside and out. Made by Colorful Bakery in Manchester, it is almost too good to eat.
The taste test: There is no discernible taste of the rainbow colors, which is disappointing, but otherwise delicious: just the right amount of toughness and a spongy center.
It’s easy to cut evenly on both sides and brown when roasted. And I’m surprised to find that, despite the hole in the center, everything stays inside – even the ketchup. The tough texture is perfect for sticking the layers together.
Try it with: Everything actually. Very tasty with a lot of salad and a burger with melted cheese.5/5
£ 1.15 for two, Marks & Spencer
Sarah recommends combining Marks & Spencer’s avocado sandwiches (photo) with non-meat options like mushrooms
What is it? Also called ‘avocado dough’, these new green-tinged brioche breads are made with mashed avocado instead of egg and are enriched with coconut oil instead of butter, making them vegan (and rather unpleasant in color).
The taste test: There is a surprisingly strong – but not unpleasant – avocado taste. The coconut oil makes it taste rich, buttery and sweet. It is sticky to cut, but holds the filling and sauce well. Thin enough to fit two halves in a toaster, it colors quickly but crunchy nicely and stays crunchy even when slathered in ketchup.
Try it with: Non-meat options like mushroom or bean burgers. After all, they are vegan. 4/5
76p each, rem.co.uk
Sarah said pretzel buns (pictured) are malty and sweeter than brioche, best with chicken rather than beef or pork
What is it? A hybrid between an American-style glazed pretzel and a white hamburger bun.
The taste test: Malty and sweeter than brioche, with a characteristic pretzel taste and smell. It is dry to eat and extremely chewy; I’m still trying to get through the bun long after the meat runs out.
Everything stays inside, but the bun barely absorbs ketchup or juices from the meat, making it a bit messy. When I try to roast it, the glazed fillings burn quickly.
Goes well with: Chicken instead of beef or pork.3/5
CHILLI CHEESE WARM CROSS BEAN
£ 2.50 for four, Marks & Spencer
Sarah said hot chili cheese cross buns (photo) are not for the faint hearted as they pack serious spices
What is it? A smart return of the retailer’s popular Easter product. M&S markets its hot cross bun with chili cheese – flavored with cheddar, onions, dried peppers, Worcester sauce, and hot pepper – as the ultimate burger bun.
The taste test: Not for the faint hearted, they pack some serious spices. First, there is strong spicy cheddar, and then the fiery peppers hit you in the back of your throat. Although smaller than a standard burger bap, it does the job surprisingly well – although the sauce makes the bun a little drooping. I would recommend toasting them.
Try it with: A chili burger, if you can handle the heat.3/5
£ 1 for four, asda.com
Sarah said onion brioche (photo) has a buttery, creamy delight that goes well with a juicy beef burger
What is it? An alternative to standard bog brioche, this bun is flavored with ‘onion flakes’, which gives the dough a unique twist.
The taste test: Buttery, creamy delight, with a sweet finish of caramelized onions. The top is beautiful and shiny and the bun itself has an attractive yellow color.
The soft texture is ideal for shaping around the meat and picking up a lot of tasty sauce – there are hardly any drops when I pick up the burger to put in. It also roasts well, although cutting is tricky because the dough is so crumbly.
Try it with: Made for a juicy beef burger. 5/5
CHARCOAL HOT DOG BUN
£ 11.95 for 14, colorful bakery.co.uk
Sarah claims that charcoal hot dog buns (shown) have a dry and asymmetrical flavor, best paired with burnt sausages
What is it? Jumping into the black food trend, this hot dog roll is made with activated charcoal, a powdered form of carbon commonly marketed as a health food, making it jet black in color. It is also huge; you could put two sausages in one sandwich from start to finish.
The taste test: Dry and a bit asymmetrical, although I might imagine the latter. There is very little flavor from the bun and it takes in all the flavor of the meat. Despite its size, my hot dog keeps rolling out and the sauce doesn’t stick to the bread at all. And there is no point in toasting this; it is as black as soot. Novelty value only.
Try it with: Burnt sausages; not one to waste on a gourmet hot dog. 1/5
SYRUP SOAKED ROGROL
£ 1.35 for four, waitrose.com
Sarah recommends pairing syrup-infused rye rolls (shown) with halloumi burgers
What is it? Soft rolls made from rye grains soaked in malt syrup and aged for 16 hours, part of the retailer’s ‘Scrumptious Summer’ range.
The taste test: Firm, malty and more, with lots of seeds everywhere and an attractive floral top. They taste healthier than your average burger bun, with a smooth, syrupy finish that’s absolutely delicious.
The soft bread forms well around a hamburger filling and contains a lot of ketchup. Just as deliciously toasted and crispy, or fresh.
Try it with: Halloumi burgers, since the spicy cheese pairs well with the malt. 5/5
Price on request, national delivery via fostersbakery.co.uk
Sarah said that combining a potato bun (pictured) with chicken burgers is like having a plate of chicken and chips
What is it? These buns are made from potato – rather than wheat flour – and are produced by wholesale bakery Fosters in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. Other products in the weird and wonderful range are beet-flavored sandwiches and edible glitter.
The taste test: Potatoes imply a heavy, doughy bread, but they are much lighter than expected and have a recognizable starchy taste. The bun holds together well and does not let any filling escape. And it turns crispy and golden brown under the grill in minutes.
Goes well with: Chicken burgers – the combination is like a plate of chicken and chips. 4/5
FOCACCIA BURGER BUN
76p each, rem.co.uk
Sarah said that focaccia burger buns (photo) have a very strong flavor that overpowers most fillings so it is best eaten alone
What is it? An individual focaccia bun, made from the same oil-rich dough as the Italian bread. Comes in plain, mixed pepper and spicy tomato, and olive and basil varieties.
The taste test: Very strongly flavored with pieces of whole vegetables on top. The dough itself is chewy, greasy and on the salty side.
Contains the burger, but the sauce is too much and dribbles over the edges and collects at the bottom of my plate. Plus, it doesn’t fit in the toaster and takes ages to brown under the broiler.
It is too greasy for me; my hands are covered with oil at the end.
Try it with: Completely exceeds most fillings; better eaten on its own. 1/5
37 p each, rinkoff bakkerij.co.uk
Sarah said pizza sandwiches are a real treat, best served with burgers with cheese and bacon
What is it? If you can’t choose between a pizza and a burger, these sandwiches are for you.
Combine a crispy melted cheese and tomato topping with a floury bakery bap, they are the ultimate barbecue treat from trendy London bakery Rinkoffs.
The taste test: Pure indulgence – it’s like eating a margherita pizza with a burger stuffed in the crust.
The cheese is spicy, the tomato topping rich and the bread soft and slightly sweet on the inside.
My only complaint is the size: there is so much sandwich that the burger gets a bit lost.
Try it with: A beef burger with cheese and bacon.5/5