Adventures in Home Charcuterie: Corned Beef, Part 3- The Reuben Sandwich

If you want to cook and write about food, it is good to have kids. They lack the same “filter” as most adults and if they don’t like a dish they let you know, often in crushing detail. Such was the case with our Reuben Sandwiches. We had a lot of left over corned beef and I was excited to make the Reubens, but as it turns out details really matter, particularly in a classic sandwich like the Reuben.

Our first batch, while good, had some “issues”. And Sam, our eldest, let me know about it. “The meat is too stringy” and “needs more sauce and kraut”. He thought the flavor was good but I lacked in execution. He was right. I did not cut the meat completely across the grain, and I discounted that Reubens are messy and a lot ends up on the plate. What makes the Reuben so good is the perfect bite; tangy rye bread, nutty swiss cheese, creamy sauce, tart and crunchy kraut and tender, salty beef. This version did not deliver the “complete” bite. Fail (small, but still a fail). But the good thing about making 5 pounds of corned beef, is that you have enough to try again.

And so we did. The second batch of Reubens was downright awesome. Only this good in New York awesome. I just gave up being a vegan awesome. You get the idea.  A few refinements made a ton of difference. Sam was very pleasantly surprised, ”this is great, Dad, you got it”. Even better, he voted with his feet, and finished the whole thing in 5 minutes. The changes were simple, cut the beef thin and directly across the grain and load up on the sauce and kraut.

As for the recipe, it has a twist. The sauce is our take on the famous Shake Shack burger sauce. It is similar to the traditional Thousand Island dressing, but with a lighter consistency and much, much deeper flavor. This is the sauce that makes the Shake Shack burger so good, so why not put it on a Reuben? Try it, and you will be converted. I will put our Reuben, with this sauce, up against anybody’s. And I mean anybody’s.

Reuben Sandwich:

(Makes 1 sandwich)

Notes Before You Start:

–       You can use your homemade corned beef or store-bought. But be sure to cut across the grain when slicing the meat.

–       You can also use Thousand Island dressing instead of our sauce. It will still be great.

–       Grill the sandwich using medium-low heat. It takes a little longer, but gives you more control and allows the cheese to melt without burning the bread.

What You Get: One of the best of the classic sandwiches. Reubens combine multiple flavors and textures better than almost any other sandwich.

What you need: No special equipment required.

How Long: 20-30 minutes to assemble. Making a Reuben is not hard but it requires some work across a few steps. It is worth it. But it is tough to try to make a Reuben at home if you are in a hurry.

Simple things combine for an awesome sandwich


–       2 slices of good rye bread

–       1 tablespoon of butter

–       ½ pound of corned beef, thinly sliced across the grain (add more if you like)

–       2 slices of Swiss cheese (or gruyere, comte’ or emmentaler)

–       ½ cup of sauerkraut, drained of liquid

–       ¼ cup of Shake Shack sauce (see below for recipe) or Thousand Island Dressing


  1. Heat a griddle, skillet or cast-iron pan over medium-low heat.
  2. Butter each slice of bread on one side. Place bread on griddle, butter-side down. Add cheese. Add corned beef to one piece of the bread.
  3. Allow the cheese to melt on both pieces of bread. Then add the sauerkraut and sauce on top of the corned beef. Place other piece of bread on top.
  4. Remove the sandwich from the griddle. Cut in half and serve. Serve with extra sauce, if you like.

Our Shake Shack Sauce:

(makes ¾ cup of sauce)


–       1/2 cup mayonnaise

–       1 tablespoon ketchup

–       1 tablespoon yellow mustard

–       4 slices kosher dill pickle, chopped

–       ½ teaspoon kosher salt

–       1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

–       1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

–       Pinch cayenne pepper

–       Pinch of salt


  1. Place all sauce ingredients into a food processor, blend until smooth (an immersion blender will also work).

3 thoughts on “Adventures in Home Charcuterie: Corned Beef, Part 3- The Reuben Sandwich

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