Wonder Bread, Kraft Singles, and margarine make up the grilled cheese sandwich that many of us grew up with. While this grilled cheese offers great memories, the lackluster and often soggy sandwich is far from perfect.
My idea of the perfect grilled cheese is flavorful, melty cheese, sandwiched in between two thick, buttery slices of bread, cooked until golden brown. Follow my tips below to find out how you can make your own.
1. Start with quality ingredients
Use a hearty slice of bread, but not too thick. I find that 1"-1.5" is best depending on the type of grilled cheese that I am making. Anything less than 1" will make a flimsy, soggy grilled cheese and anything too thick will not allow the cheese to melt properly.
Thick-cut classic white bread that you find in the super market can work, but avoid Wonder Bread or similarly squishy bread. Some of my favorites include sourdough, brioche and farmer's bread.
You may be tempted to grab those individually wrapped little processed orange cheese slices. They are quick and easy, but will not give you the best-tasting grilled cheese. Go for a block of natural cheese that tastes good and melts well.
My favorites are sharp cheddar, Gouda, Gruyere, and Havarti. Be sure to thinly slice or shred the cheese so that it melts evenly. DO NOT use pre-shredded cheese. It contains a coating that prevents the cheese shreds from sticking to each other, which is not ideal for melting.
2. Bring ingredients to room temperature
Cold butter will tear up the bread and cold cheese will take too long to melt. If additional ingredients are being used, they may not heat all the way through. If you use ingredients straight out of the fridge, your grilled cheese may be golden brown on the outside but cold and unappetizing in the center. So make sure all ingredients are room temperature before starting.
3. Don't forget the butter
Be sure to butter the outside of the bread. Use real butter, preferably salted. Butter adds great flavor to your grilled cheese and helps to create that golden brown exterior. Some people may opt for mayonnaise instead because they believe that butter will make their grilled cheese soggy.
As long as you use real butter, a substantial slice of bread, and follow my directions below, this will not be the case. While mayonnaise does create a nice crust, if you love butter as much as I do, there is no comparison.
Trying to be a little more fancy? Make a compound butter for your grilled cheese. Try mixing butter with herbs, honey, mustard, ranch, etc. to bump up the flavor.
4. Add Steam
Steam is the key to a melty grilled cheese. Place a cover over your grilled cheese while it is cooking to help melt the cheese. This is especially important if you are using a lot of ingredients or thicker slices of bread.
5. Be Patient
Making the perfect grilled cheese takes longer than you think. Keep an eye on the heat. If your crust is getting too dark and the cheese isn't melting fast enough, turn the heat down. Allow time for the cheese to melt and to develop a golden brown exterior.
Ready to put it all together? Check out the recipe below:
Basic Grilled Cheese
- Prep Time:5 mins
- Cook Time:10 mins
- Total Time:15 mins
- 2 slices bread
- 2-3 oz cheese thinly sliced or shredded
- 2-4 tablespoons salted butter softened
Butter one side of each slice of bread.
Layer cheese on top of the un-buttered side of one slice.
Heat a non-stick pan over medium-low heat. Place grilled cheese in the pan (buttered side down) and cover with a lid to allow the cheese to melt. Cook the grilled cheese for two to four minutes. If the grilled cheese begins to brown too fast, lower the heat.
Remove lid and place the second piece of bread on top of cheese (buttered side up). Press down gently so the bread sticks to the melted cheese.
Flip the grilled cheese and cook the other side for another 2-4 min, or until golden brown.