FOOD

Starch Madness 2024 Bracket

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A five-year anniversary is a big deal. Some people go out to dinner. Others gift each other wood. At Serious Eats, we sit in a room and argue about whether we should troll our readers by putting a hot dog in a sandwich bracket.

Because this, dear readers, is the fifth year of Starch Madness and we need to BLOW IT ALL THE WAY OUT. Even if that means making some of you just a little bit angry.

If this is your first Starch Madness, welcome! We are so thrilled you’re here. It’s our favorite time of year in which we create an NCAA-style bracket of recipes centered around a singular starch and present two weeks of carb-focused voting fun. After two years of pasta-related competition, one spud-tastic go-around, and last year’s rice shenanigans, Starch Madness’s fifth anniversary edition will crown The Ultimate Sandwich, and whether it’s an upset, an outrage, or a foregone conclusion is entirely up to you.

We have 64 contenders. Some are classics, some are underdogs, and one—we refuse to apologize—is a hot dog. This time, the starch is the sandwich.

So let’s talk sandwiches. The definition of one has oft been debated but can never truly be settled. We landed on the following: Any food held between two pieces of bread or nestled in a split bun attached at one hinge. Can we defend this definition against any and all scrutiny? Of course not! But that doesn’t stop us from standing by it whole-heartedly, not borne of any real conviction but simply because that’s the fun of a bracket—to proceed with utterly undeserved certitude about something as arbitrary as which “sandwich” is the “best” in the world. Whatever those words in quotes may mean.

Oh, oh, and—happy anniversary! We’ve got a good thing going and are already thinking about next year. Here’s the promise: You bring the iron, we’ll bring the starch.

How to Vote

Keep an eye both here and on our Instagram page for voting announcements. The competition begins on Monday, 3/18, and voting will happen both on our Instagram stories (@seriouseats) and on this page combined. Every day of voting, the newest pairs of match-ups will debut at 10 a.m. EST.

At that time, you’ll get one set of votes per day on this page and one set of votes over on IG. You’ll have 23 hours to contribute your votes. We’ll take the in-between hour to tally them and bring you (1) the next round of voting and (2) updates on newly minted winners.

So print and fill out a bracket, post a picture of it on Instagram and tag us. Take your debates to group chats and our comments sections, plot out your best attempts to skew the results, and make sure to have fun. Oh, and vote. None of it matters if you don’t vote.


The Upper Crust


Great in Bread


Born & Bread


No Pain, No Grain

How We Chose the Recipes

We imposed rules to narrow down our selections. Per the aforementioned definition, open-faced sandwiches were banned immediately, partly on the totally unimpeachable grounds that we’d then be forced to open the bracket up to pizza. Hot dogs were included because they are almost always served on a split bun attached at one hinge…and also because the best way to get a competition going is to piss people off.

With those two most important decisions behind us, we turned to our existing catalog of recipes, dusted off some older-but-stronger contenders, drafted a list of sandwich recipes we somehow didn’t already have (how had we gone this long without a bacon, egg, and cheese??), and created new contenders from there.

The question repeatedly asked during the process was, But! is! it! a! sandwich!? This was particularly contentious when the question of bagel sandwiches came up. Not because a bagel sandwich isn’t a sandwich—it is!—but whether (according to at least one Brooklyn-born, bagel-raised staffer) anyone who stoops so low as to make a sandwich out of a bagel has any right determining anything at all about this bracket. The question of cookie sandwiches like Oreos was similarly resolved in the negative, because some of us can never have nice things.

How the Bracket Works

Again, we model our tournament after the NCAA’s March Madness. Once we’ve got the 64 qualifiers, we divide them into four regions. Each region contains 16 notable sandwiches, seeded 1 through 16. That means there are four number-one seeds, four number-two seeds, and so on and so forth.

As for the seeding, we slotted a bunch of heavy-hitters against each other and staggered underdogs throughout with the aim of creating suspense; our #1 seeds are a combination of some of our longest-standing top-performing sandwiches and ones we suspect will go far based on overall popularity in the United States.

Let’s be clear: A voting bracket is in its very nature a popularity contest. Winners are not necessarily the best, they’re just the most popular among those voting. This means that a lot of very deserving but lesser known sandwiches—in particular some international ones—will have a disadvantage against things like, you know, grilled cheese. Which is to say, if you all make something as vanilla as grilled cheese the winner, that’s on you. (No hate against grilled cheese! We love a good grilled cheese!)

Every round of voting will see the competition cut in half. The stakes are as high as you want to make them, folks, and the best part is that you’ll be calling the shots.

If you’re not pleased with the results of the last round? Don’t get mad. Get…leaven. (We’re not not cringing, but that’s part of the fun.)



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