the perfect PB&J

Posted by Ted on Aug 3, 2004 in Food & Drinks

everyone has their favorite.

toasted bread or plain.. heels or middles.. crusts trimmed or not.. not to mention the kind of bread..

how much jelly? what kind?

peanut butter.. creamy or chunky? homogenized or not?

cut? if so, across the middle or the points?

did we get this image of a perfect PB&J from our childhood? or did we acquire it later in life? either for the first time, or as something different than you grew up with?

for me, it’s a slightly toasted country white bread, a good even layer of freshly made jam (tamidon‘s Peach Ginger comes to mind), and an equal layer of creamy commercial peanut butter. I don’t think it even matters whether it’s Jiffy or Skippy or Peter Pan..

I often feel that I’m surrounded by crunchy peanut butter eaters.. I figure, for me, the crunch gets in the way of the simple flavor balance. but I like the crunch, too.. so that’s what the lightly toasted is for :)

An adventurer at heart, Ted Beatie is at his happiest when he’s off the beaten path. His deepest passion is sharing the world through photography and writing, found at The Pocket Explorer. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.


Aug 3, 2004 at 8:27 pm

plain wheat bread, middles, with crust, uncut.

commercial peanut butter, probably smooth but some days i’m in the mood for crunchy.

grape jelly. strawberry will also do.

peanut butter on the insides of both pieces of bread – keeps the jelly from soaking in. enough jelly that it doesn’t squish out the sides while i’m eating the sandwich.

yes, this makes for a PB&J that’s mostly PB with a little J in the middle for flavor.

Aug 3, 2004 at 8:27 pm

Using toasted bread instead of crunchy peanut butter also leads to a texture balance across the sandwich, with edge conditions only along the crusts. Chunky, by nature, leads to nuggets of crunchiness, disrupting the evenness of the sandwich.

As for being surrounded by crunchy peanut butter eaters…I’m living in a house with both people creamy peanut butter eaters, and somehow, we’ve got two jars of chunky in the pantry. Need to figure out what to do with those…

Aug 5, 2004 at 10:31 pm

somehow, we’ve got two jars of chunky in the pantry. Need to figure out what to do with those…

peanut butter cookies or dun-dun noodles, perhaps?

Aug 3, 2004 at 8:43 pm

Okay- I never used to like PB&J, but when you’re away at writer camp and you want to make sure you don’t accidentally starve, it works in a pinch. And I really like PB&J now.

Toasted challah, which means there’s no weird ends, it’s all sort of middles. That’s what’s great about challah. Of course, the non-end end bits are sort of tiny, so you end up with several tiny sandwiches for a bit, but this is all part of the fun.

Crunchy healthy peanut butter, on one piece, with honey drizzled on top.

Some sort of jam on the other- raspberry, blackberry, apricot, something like that.

Aug 3, 2004 at 9:17 pm

Warm Chunky, soft middles, rose jelly.

Aug 3, 2004 at 9:47 pm

Depends, depends, depends. But a good moderately thin raspberry jam and moderate peanut butter sandwich on two intact slices of seven-grain whole wheat bread, with a glass of whole milk, is terrific. We never had standard white bread (instead, Olympic Meal or the like) and I can’t get used to the squishiness of it, and we never had chunky peanut butter and it just isn’t right.

Aug 3, 2004 at 10:34 pm

1. Multi-grain toast, preferably something light and with interesting texture. Trader Joe’s “sprouted multigrain” is my new favorite. Crusts on. With creamy unsalted natural peanut butter (again, TJ’s). No jelly.

2. Sandwich (much less common than toast): slightly squishy multi-grain bread, creamy or chunky peanut butter, raspberry jam. Not cut (the edges look all icky!).

When I was a kid my mother decided to do blind taste-tests of peanut butter. We decided Peter Pan was the best. Now all the commercial brands taste sweet, thick, and fake. Funny. It’s still my comfort food in any form, though.

Aug 3, 2004 at 11:46 pm

i like most forms of pb & j, but i’d say one of my favorites is soft whole wheat (middle, with crust) with extra crunchy pb and wild blueberry preserves.

Aug 3, 2004 at 11:47 pm

oh! and cut in half, vertically.

Aug 3, 2004 at 11:49 pm

Salt free peanut butter
Only with chocolate milk
Home made jam
Wheat bread

Aug 4, 2004 at 3:05 am

Whole grain bread. One heal (on the bottom), one middle (on the top).

Strawberry jam, a thin layer, but covering it all.

Almond butter, crunchy.

Glass of unsweetend soy milk.

I have no idea when I accuired it.

Aug 4, 2004 at 4:38 am

hm. I concede that the PB&J experience might be Very Common in your world, but you sure do have a a funny definition of “everyone.” ;)

[I am possibly unfairly reacting both to your post and another one I just read, which among other things states “you should all do thing X.”]

Aug 4, 2004 at 5:38 am

But thing X is so very universal! If one in every four people everywhere would just do thing X, the world would be such a better place. Thing X is the be-all end-all of solutions, it will feed starving peoples, melt the icy hearts of conservatives, provide limitless energy for transportation and manufacturing, expand the horizons of human achievement beyond your wildest imaginings. Thing X will give us infinite insight into our history, while sending our thoughts deep into the future.

Thing X. Do it today.

Aug 4, 2004 at 5:35 am

For the full-on traditional PBJ, it’s gotta be wonder bread, extra-chunky peanut butter, and concord grape jelly. And a glass of milk. The milk is mandatory.

But my health-conscious decision to replace the wonder bread with wheat hasn’t dampened the impact *too* much in recent years.

Peanut butter on one side, jelly on the other. Not enough jelly to come out, and it doesn’t really matter if the jelly soaks in on one side.

Do not refrigerate the bread.

Aug 5, 2004 at 10:33 pm

For the full-on traditional PBJ, it’s gotta be wonder bread, extra-chunky peanut butter, and concord grape jelly.
wow, that’s pretty classic..

And a glass of milk. The milk is mandatory.

hmm.. I often forget that important point..

Aug 4, 2004 at 5:57 am

taosted whole wheat, crunchy skippy, and raspberry jam makes the one true PB&J

Aug 4, 2004 at 7:04 am

lightly toasted white bread. (thomas english muffins a good backup).
I’m a crunchy kind of girl. Homemade Jellies are great, my sister’s are the best.
I know the carry over from my childhood is LOTS of jelly. there is a story of my grandmother making a PB&J for me as a toddler (high chair age) and that I painted the walls that I could reach from the chair with all the jelly that spilled out.

Todd is weird. He blends is PB&J together first.
Creamy P and usually grape J.

So we end up with both crunchy and creamy jars in the house. And lots of Jam selections. Which is convenient since Todd make AMAZING crepes.

Aug 5, 2004 at 10:34 pm

mmmm… crepes.

haven’t made crepes in forever. maybe this weekend :)

Aug 4, 2004 at 8:37 am

homemade bread rocks… the best bread i’ve made is whole wheat with 1 c cornmeal, 1 c toasted sesame seeds, and 1 c toasted walnut pieces. i also love the fresh store-ground peanut butter — some texture without any large chunks, great flavor, unsalted. i hate too-sweet jelly! has anyone else ever had red currant jelly or jam?

of course, when i was a kid, my mother used wonder bread, jif, and cookie cutters to make no-crust sandwiches of just the right kid-size. :)

Aug 4, 2004 at 8:39 am

But what if one doesn’t like peanut butter? :)

(I’m weird in that I have what I am coming to think of as a very “spatial” experience of taste. For example, food *textures* bother me as well as taste. What I like in one form, I may not like in another. So: I like peanuts, but dislike peanut butter; like hot chocolate and chocolate ice cream, but don’t like chocolate bars, chocolate cake or chocolate syrup; adore potatoes in any form, including raw, _except for_ mashed potatoes; etc. Go fig.)

Aug 4, 2004 at 8:40 pm

“spatial” taste experience

I don’t think that’s terribly unusual. I know quite a few people with food texture issues. I have it with some things.

I like peanuts, but dislike peanut butter

Funny, I like peanut butter, but I hate eating peanuts. :)

Aug 5, 2004 at 7:20 am

I dislike peanut butter in most forms, chunky or plain. And I like peanuts. But I will eat celery sticks or apple quarters dipped in peanut butter (preferably smooth), go figure. And I’ll eat peanut butter cookies.

Aug 5, 2004 at 10:35 pm

I had that problem with tomatoes for the longest time.. I’d eat ketchup and tomato sauce fine, but never a tomato. too slimy.

Aug 4, 2004 at 8:40 am

Wegman’s Light Whole Wheat, chunky peanut butter spread thickly, a nice generous smear of blackberry jam on the other half, cut straight across, packed in aluminum foil for a few hours and then eaten when the whole thing is a lump. SO GOOD.


Aug 5, 2004 at 10:36 pm

mmmm, blackberry jam..

Aug 4, 2004 at 8:47 am

Toasted whole wheat bread, something soft, like Homepride
Smooooooth peanut butter, Skippy is our preferred brand
Marshmallow fluff
served with steamy rich hot cocoa.

can you say comfort food…

Aug 4, 2004 at 9:37 am

whole wheat bread, not toasted
Simply Jif (the lower salt, lower sugar, NOT reduced fat one)
Smucker’s Low-Sugar (not sugar free) Strawberry preserves

good amounts of both, sandwich uncut

For peanut butter and banana sandwiches, I cut the banana into at least a 1/4″ thick slices and then eat the leftover half banana before eating the sandwich. Crunch peanut butter would be ok here.

My favorite, healthier version of a peanut butter sandwich, I cut up crisp apple slices, put them on the peanut butter, and then sprinkle with cinnamon.

When we were little we’d have Teddie unsalted on bakery light rye, with honey, openfaced.

Aug 4, 2004 at 3:15 pm

my favorite is toasted English Muffin bread (I haven’t seen it here on the east coast.. I think the closest thing would be semolina bread) with creamy peanut butter and orange marmalade.

I’m all about creamy peanut butter, despite my beloved swearing by crunchy.

I also like somewhat weird jelly.. like sour cherry preserves or orange marmalade. No crunchy bits anywhere (excep the bread. yeah. what you said)

Aug 5, 2004 at 10:38 pm

my favorite is toasted English Muffin bread (I haven’t seen it here on the east coast..

order some from Wolferman’s

Aug 5, 2004 at 7:18 am

I dislike peanut butter sandwiches, as they are entirely too dry. This cannot be remedied by adding more jam/jelly (or as I grew up with, honey). So my perfect PB&J would skip the PB entirely, toast some fresh scala bread, add butter and grape jelly. Yum.

Aug 5, 2004 at 7:49 pm

I don’t necessarily care what kind of bread is used. A decent white or whole wheat is fine. I’ve even been known to have my PB&J on light rye. Fresh or toasted doesn’t matter, either. It’s a mood thing.

However, the peanut butter should be creamy, if it’s going to be the commercial kind. When I was a kid, the jelly had to be grape, usually, but sometimes it could be apple, apple butter, raspberry, or apricot, or honey. No strawberry. I would not eat strawberry things as a kid. No orange marmalade, either, then or now.

Now, though, I prefer not to have grape, and would rather have any of the berry jams or preserves (preferably seedless), or cherry, or apricot, apple butter, or the honey.

Aug 5, 2004 at 10:40 pm

ya, I’ve never liked Marmalade, either.. too something. I don’t think it’s the tart; I generally like tart.. but just never liked it..

Aug 5, 2004 at 7:52 pm

Oh, and I don’t cut my sandwiches. I eat them going around the crust in a circle until the crust is gone, then I keep going around and around until my sandwich is gone. :)