Grilled cheese is one of those rare foods that is both universally beloved and also incredibly easy to make. The simple act of melting cheese between two slices of buttery bread results in a whole that’s a lot better than the sum of its parts, but we tend to not give too much thought to the cheese that’s going into them. But if you’re looking to take your grilled cheese game to new heights, we suggest you try some of these other cheeses the next time around.
Just about anyone, regardless of cooking prowess, can make a grilled cheese. You butter a couple slices of bread, slap some cheese in between them, and cook it in a pan until it’s all brown and melty. While American cheese is just about everyone’s go-to, if you expand your comfort zone and get a little creative with the cheese used, you might never make a ho-hum American grilled cheese again.
There’s actually a fair amount of science behind which cheeses melt better than others. As explained in this handy video from the American Chemical Society, the melt factor of a specific cheese comes down to its pH level, or the level of acidity. Cheeses with a high pH (less acidic) tend to melt better than cheeses with a low pH (more acidic), so it can be safely said that the “sharper” a cheese tastes, the poorer a job it’ll do melting into that gooey, stretchy pool we know and love.
But a perfect grilled cheese cheese isn’t judged by meltiness alone. It needs to have a lot of flavor and a certain rich, nutty quality that makes us keep coming back for more. All of these cheeses aren’t just perfect melters, they’re also flavor bombs that will take your grilled cheese into the stratosphere. And if you want to get really advanced, try mixing two or more. And don’t forget: If it works well on grilled cheese, it’ll work really well on a burger!
High-quality Swiss has that unique nutty flavor and melts perfectly, but make sure you use the good stuff; sometimes it can get a little oily. Emmenthal, true Swiss cheese, is one of the primary cheeses used in fondue.
Provolone is the star of many a sandwich, lending its unique brand of nuttiness to everything from Italian heroes to Philly-style roast pork. Its flavor is rich and buttery, and it more than stands up on its own.
Muenster has a great texture, and should be a part of everyone’s sandwich canon.
8. Mild Cheddar
Cheddar tends to get a bad rap when it comes to melting because it often gets oily and waxy. But that’s only a byproduct of being too sharp; a mild Cheddar will melt right up there with the best of them.
7. Pepper Jack
Pepper Jack doesn’t just melt well, it also brings a little bit of heat to the party.
This underrated Italian cheese is one of the best-melting cheeses on the planet, and its mild and versatile flavor leaves the door open for add-ons like pesto.
This firm, mild cheese tastes great and melts even better. Plus, you can find it in plenty of varieties, like flavored with dill and other herbs.
This Spanish powerhouse hits all the right notes: mild, nutty, buttery, and perfectly melty.
3. Gouda (Unsmoked)
While smoking cheese will mess up its ability to melt, young, unsmoked Gouda gets rich and creamy when melted, and its flavor is second to none.
Another major player in traditional fondue, Gruyère is rich and flavorful, and takes very well to heat (and ham). When melted, it takes on a rich, nutty creaminess that’s (nearly) unmatched.
The classic. For most of us, a grilled cheese without American cheese isn’t a grilled cheese at all, and with good reason. American cheese melts perfectly into a creamy, stretchy puddle of deliciousness, and whether it’s Kraft or Velveeta, there’s something about the flavor and texture of a grilled cheese made with American that sets it apart from all the rest.