The greatest thing since sliced bread.

We’ve all heard and probably used the famous adage, and as transformative as that innovation was, to me it leaves out half (at least) of the equation — that is, everything that goes between those slices.

Yes, I’m talking about the sandwich. Without the filling, all you have with sliced bread is ... thinner bread.

There are about as many reasons to love sandwiches as there are ways to make them. They’re portable and you can eat them with your hands. They’re fast, easy and cheap to make. Oh, and they’re fun!

That’s where these recipes come in. If your familiar brown-bag sandwich has left you feeling kind of blue, fear not. We took five classic lunch sandwiches and gave them a boost. These updates won’t make them unrecognizable or twee, but they will make them taste fresh, flavorful and special.

But first, a few sandwich best practices:

Don’t overstuff. Sure, you can put anything in a sandwich. That doesn’t mean you should put everything in a sandwich. Being judicious with your filling means you can focus on a few quality ingredients. Plus, the sandwich will stand a chance of actually holding together.

Incorporate flavors in high-impact, low-volume ways. There are plenty of strategies for amping up flavor without making your sandwich heftier. Whip up a flavored mayonnaise (call it an aioli, if you like) by doctoring it with Sriracha, chipotle peppers, citrus zest and more. Incorporate a spice blend into yogurt. Repurpose bacon fat for toasting bread. You might be surprised how creative — and thrifty — you can be.

Aim for a mix of textures. It’s just as important as the right balance of flavors. Choose elements across a few categories, including creamy, crunchy, crispy, saucy and soft.

Protect the bread. Insulate the bread when using wet fillings, or at least wait to assemble until you’re ready to eat. Something fatty (butter, mayo) or a slice of cheese can do the trick. So does toasting the sides of the bread that will face the inside of the sandwich. This also gives your teeth something soft to sink into first.

Protect the sandwich. Why go through the effort of making a sandwich only to pull it out of your bag smashed? Do yourself a favor and pack your homemade beauty in a hard-sided container or sturdy lunch bag. If you really want to be extra fancy and careful, you can wrap it in parchment or wax paper first.

Ready to assemble? Great. Try one of my custom creations and then start putting together some of your own.

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