I hate making a peanut butter sandwich. While I thoroughly enjoy the end product, there’s something extremely annoying about creating what many view to be the world’s easiest lunch. My biggest issue is the knife, which must be washed or wiped down after applying the peanut butter to avoid getting any errant PB into the jelly jar, and if you don’t clean it up immediately after, you’re left with old peanut butter that’s been sitting around in your sink, with a texture that is absolutely stomach-churning.
Enter the Uncrustable, my go-to snack when I find myself hangry in the middle of a busy workday. They’re always waiting for me in their cheery box in the freezer, and sometimes even have encouraging little notes — who doesn’t want a reminder that “you can do it!” in the middle of the day? — emblazoned on the packaging. I set it out on the counter for a while, then unwrap a snack that both fulfills my need for carbs and fat and gives me a comforting dose of nostalgia. Grape or strawberry, it’s impossible to go wrong with an Uncrustable.
First developed in 1995 and purchased by the J.M. Smucker Company just four years later, the Uncrustable has achieved frozen food iconic status in just a couple short decades. The Smucker Co. briefly held a patent on the “sealed crustless sandwich” before the United States Patent Office realized that smashing together sandwich bread had probably existed since the beginning of time, with Smuckers’ real innovation being those adorable crimped edges. The agency rescinded the patent in 2006, but that didn’t stop Smuckers. The company has been selling Uncrustables at a remarkable pace since 2013, and in 2020, the humble frozen PB&J earned the company $365 million.
There’s a reason why these sandwiches are eminently popular, and most of them have to do with kids. There’s no easier snack to hand a cranky, starving child than a slightly defrosted Uncrustable; no one wants to whip out a loaf of bread and dig Jif out of the depths of the pantry in the midst of a full-blown meltdown. But as a full-grown adult who is responsible only for her own temper tantrums, let me assure you that Uncrustables are for anyone who needs to occasionally satiate their bodies with as little thought possible.
The only forethought that the Uncrustable requires is remembering to take it out of the freezer before you want to eat it. The box recommends leaving the sandwich out on the counter for an hour, or thawing in the refrigerator overnight, but I’ve found that it only needs about 15 minutes to thaw enough to eat. At that point, the bread will be nice and soft and the peanut butter will have mostly softened, but the jam inside will still be a little chilly. That gives the Uncrustable a bit of an ice cream sandwich vibe, but don’t try to push that too far — eating it right out of the freezer completely screws up the texture of the sandwich. But when properly thawed, the Uncrustable may actually be better than a homemade PB&J. The proportions of jam and peanut butter are pretty perfect, and the bread is impossibly soft, a marvel of modern food science.
Thanks to the popularity of Uncrustables, there are a slew of products to help people make their own. Thousands of results for “Uncrustables maker” pop up on Amazon, products that promise to make a sandwich that looks just like the real thing. Other options offer to make your DIY Uncrustable into a dinosaur or star or heart, all of which are extremely adorable. And the Smuckers company has also expanded the Uncrustables line into the savory world, selling versions stuffed with pizza toppings, barbecue chicken, and taco beef.
Unless you really need to save cash or consume an inordinate amount of Uncrustables (like, say, a family of six might) there’s really no reason to DIY something that exists to make an easy-to-make food even easier. When you buy an Uncrustable, you’re not buying them because you love the bread or think the grape jelly is priced reasonably. It’s because we live in a world where sometimes — maybe even often! — convenience is something worth paying a premium for.