Warm, gooey cheese sandwiched between crunchy, grilled bread – what’s not to love about the classic grilled cheese sandwich? It’s delicious on its own, and arguably better when paired with soup (namely, tomato soup).
Such a simple and delicious sandwich does have its definitive characteristics, and in order to make a grilled cheese sandwich up to par, it must suit the following criteria:
- Be a closed sandwich, griddled on both sides.
- Cheese must be the primary ingredient. Other ingredients can complement the cheese, but none may overwhelm it.
- Be made with sliced bread. Thus, a sandwich made with a whole, crust-on loaf (ex. a panino or a Cubano) does not qualify.
- Be served hot all the way through, with the cheese thoroughly melted.
- Be cooked on a flat, greased surface until golden brown. In extreme circumstances, it may be cooked on an outdoor grill over an open fire. NOTE: A grilled cheese may never be baked or deep-fried.
Now let’s take a closer look at the components of a grilled cheese sandwich.
As mentioned, the bread should be sliced. In addition, the bread cannot be too perforated with air bubbles or else the cheese will drip out. Nor should the bread be sliced too thick – it will take too much time to get the heat to the middle to melt your cheese.
For most, white bread and American cheese made up the grilled cheese sandwiches we grew up on. However, there is room to be creative and fancy. You can try hand-sliced ciabatta, sourdough, or a French boule. You can even use day-old bread as it may be revived by the grilling process.
You may also get creative with your cheese, however, it should possess just the right melting characteristics. For example, dry, crumbly, fresh cheese (think goat cheese) won’t melt properly. The same goes for overly aged cheeses, such as Parmesan or hard pecorino.
Good choices include the classic American, young cheddar, Swiss-style cheese (Gruyère or Comté), and young Italian and French cheeses (Taleggio or Brie). As long as it melts, it can be part of a grilled cheese.
If you want the flavor of a non-melting cheese, you should treat it like a topping and pair it with a melty cheese. For example, mozzarella and feta make a great pair, as does Fontina and Parmesan.
- Griddle both sides of your bread – Cook two slices of bread in butter, then flip them over so that the browned sides are facing up. Add your cheese and close your sandwich so that the cheese is in between the browned surfaces. Your bread will be more infused with butter and your cheese can get a head start on melting.
- Use butter and salt your skillet before adding the bread - Skip this if you used salted butter, but after melting the butter in your skillet or griddle, then lightly sprinkle with salt. If you’re feeling adventurous, try spreading mayo on every surface of your sandwich before cooking. It’ll melt and brown while adding another element of flavor.
- Low and slow is the way to go – Cook your sandwiches at medium-low heat. Patience is key. If you try to speed up the process, you’ll end up with a sandwich that’s hot on the outside, but still cool and unmelted in the middle. Additionally, it will be harder to brown properly.
- Keep things moving – Applying light pressure while moving the sandwich around the griddle during the cooking process helps to get that even, deep-brown color.
- Serve ‘em while they’re hot! – Enough said.
Looking for a little more from your grilled cheese sandwich? Trying dipping it in different condiments (ex. mustard) or add another ingredient into the mix.
- Fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs – Depending on your preference, you can try tomato, fig, tart apples, pears, or even kiwi. Hot peppers, avocado, or fresh basil leaves can also make tasty additions.
- Pickles and other cured things – The acidity and saltiness of pickles beautifully complement grilled cheese sandwiches. You can try dill or bread-and-butter chips, pickle relish, sliced pickled jalapenos, capers, olives or muffuletta-style olive salad.
- Deli meats – An easy and common addition.
- Jams, chutneys, and other condiments – Things that you put on your cheese plate are destined to work well in a grilled cheese. Some great ideas include cranberry relish, fig jam, red pepper jelly, olive tapenade, honeycomb, grainy mustard, or even hot sauces like sriracha or buffalo wing sauce.
- Other things – Pretzel pieces and potato chips are somewhat out of the ordinary ingredients. You can even try melted milk chocolate or Nutella. The possibilities are seemingly endless.
Do you keep it classic or add more to your grilled cheese sandwiches? Share your favorite grilled cheese upgrades and additions with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest!
If you haven’t tried our 3 Cheese Grilled Cheese sandwich yet, what are you waiting for? Join us weekdays 7:00am-4:00pm and Saturdays 8:00am-4:30pm. We’re located on the northeast corner of Garey Avenue and East Arrow Highway in Pomona (next to Johnny’s).