I ate every Christmas sandwich so you don't have to
'Tis the season for a meal deal
Christmas will be different this year. While the government looks set to let everyone run loose for five days over the festive period, the pandemic will not be taking any time off. Many of us will not see our loved ones over Christmas, we will not be squeezing into a rammed Wetherspoons on Christmas Eve, nor will we pay through the nose to attend an oversold nightclub on New Year's Eve. But there is one thing that a pandemic cannot stop: Christmas sandwiches.
Presents, mulled wine and roast vegetables are all great, but the biggest winter treat is rocking up to a supermarket, and picking up a sandwich named 'festive feast', filled to the brim with turkey, mayonnaise and cranberry sauce. That is when autumn truly transitions into winter. And the time has come.
But which Christmas sandwich is the best? I'm glad you asked. I travelled to every supermarket (within a walking distance from my house) and sampled all of their festive sandwiches, all in the name of public service journalism.
Here begins the official scientific ranking of every festive sandwich on offer in British supermarkets (and Pret a Manger), according to science, starting with the worst.
First things first, there's no turkey in this sandwich. It is a 'Hog Roast' on white sage and onion bread, which instantly puts it at a disadvantage. But I've not tasted it yet, maybe it still tastes good despite diverting from the conventional turkey filling. It doesn't. Dry, lacking in flavour, and barely related to Christmas at all, Aldi's festive sandwich is not worth your time.
No messing about with the marketing of this one. It's called 'Christmas Lunch' and includes turkey, bacon, stuffing and cranberry sauce on malted bread - the hallmarks of a good Christmas sandwich. The ratio between the mayonnaise and the meaty fillings is bang on, but the bread is slightly stale. There's also something not right about the mayo itself. Checking the packaging, I realise I am eating the sandwich on its best by date, so maybe not the fault of Morrisons. Still nicer than the Aldi one though.
It's called 'Turkey feast'. It's got all the right ingredients: turkey, mayonnaise, sage and onion stuffing, smoked bacon and cranberry sauce on malted bread. It tastes alright. It's not gonna top any lists, but it definitely serves its purpose as the headline act of a Christmas meal deal.
Sainos have gone big on the pork. This 'turkey with pigs under blankets' sandwich feels more like a sausage sandwich with a bit of turkey than a turkey sandwich with a bit of sausage. I'm not complaining though, we all know pigs in blankets are the best part of a Christmas dinner and Sainsbury's have not shied away from that fact. For that, they deserve respect. Crucially, every key ingredient is still there. It is slightly overloaded, though, which makes the bread stick together in the packaging, creating the possibility of spoiling the integrity of the whole sandwich. Room for improvement.
For the record, Tesco do the best meal deals. Their diverse selection of sandwiches and pasta pots puts their rivals to shame. But their Christmas sandwich is nothing extraordinary, even if they do describe its contents as their "chef's recipe." Even if we allow the slightly grandiose use of the term 'chef', should you really brag about them coming up with literally the exact same recipe as everyone else?
Just like its counterpart at Sainsbury's, the Tesco sandwich does feel overloaded to the point that it's asking a lot of the bread. It's all well and good using lovely brown, malted bread, but you have to think about how much filling it can take. You haven't thought about that, have you Tesco? All that said, this 'turkey and trimmings' number is hugely improved by the sausage, and the mayonnaise is the best yet.
I won't lie, I forgot about this sandwich until the very end, and even forgot to take a photo of it, which says as much about the sandwich as it does about how this experiment is going. Right now my entire body is just a brown, white and red blur of carbohydrate. I'm hallucinating a sea of mayonnaise and cranberry sauce.
The sandwich is fine, it's good. The meat is notably delicious. There's nothing wrong with it. I would not discourage you from buying this sandwich. Here is a picture from the Waitrose website.
Am I putting Asda this high because they sent me four sandwiches in the post after I wrote that I didn't live within walking distance of a store? I couldn't possibly say. But what I can say for certain is that the Festive Triple is absolutely worth your time. It's the perfect Christmassy three course meal condensed into one little box. One for those of you who appreciate all of Christmas dinner, and not just the meaty bits. The Turkey & Trimmings number also ticks every box. Well loaded, but not too much. The turkey is moist, the "cranberry and port sauce" is delicious. I highly recommend the Asda Christmas sandwiches, if you can find an Asda.
Marks and Spencer
This is where they get really good. These are the big boys. The Manchester City and Liverpool of Christmas sandwiches. If you've got an M&S nearby, and have a little extra money to spare, ignore everything above and go straight to Marks' food court.
The M&S 'turkey feast' is so posh, they don't use cranberry sauce. They use cranberry chutney. I'm not entirely sure what the nutritional difference is but it's better than every other cranberry filling in this list. There's plenty of it as well.
They also get an extra point for philanthropy, with 5 per cent of each sale shared between Together for Short Lives & Shelter. This is not just any sandwich.
Pret a Manger
Not a supermarket per sé, but Pret still qualifies as a high street takeaway lunch option. It would also be criminal to overlook the best Christmas sandwich on the market.
First off, the packaging is minimal, which means less waste. Then there's the name: Pret the Halls. Does that qualify as a pun? I'm not sure but I like it. Extra point for a funny name. Then there's the food itself, which lives up to the high expectations set by the ubiquitous coffee shop chain. The meat is excellent but that's par for the course. Where this sandwich really separates itself from the rest is its crunchier stuffing, and its secret weapon: spinach.
Maybe I'm so full of bread and meat at the moment that anything green resembles an oasis in a desert but the spinach is really putting this sandwich in a league of its own.
Pret also get an extra point for generosity, with 50p from each purchase of this sandwich going to help the homeless.
So there you have it, as many predicted, Pret a Manger wins this year's festive sandwich competition. Now, I'm going to lie down and hopefully not explode.
For the avoidance of doubt, most of the leftovers from this experiment were eaten by other members of my household.
A previous version of this article did not include the Asda sandwiches. That has since been amended. Thank you to Asda for the sandwiches.