As many of you may know, I am completely obsessed with grilled cheese sandwiches! They are so simple and yet so irresistibly good! Over the years I have made countless grilled cheese sandwiches and more recently I have been experimenting with them and sharing my adventures with you. I recently realized that although I have posted a lot of grilled cheese sandwich recipes, I have not written about the basic grilled cheese sandwich or gone into much detail about how to make a grilled cheese sandwich. Since I have picked up a few tricks along the way, I thought that it was about time that I shared them with you.
At its base a grilled cheese sandwich is pretty simple consisting of bread, butter and cheese. These three ingredients, when combined correctly, come together to form something that is truly magical! Now, I am not going to tell you that you need to to use expensive high end ingredients to make a perfect grilled cheese sandwich because you do not. Lets face it, a grilled cheese sandwich made with basic white bread and a slice of American cheese can be pure pleasure with the ability to instantly transport you back to your child hood days and even I get the cravings every once in a while. That is not to say that you cannot get better results using better ingredients but this post is more about the techniques to get that perfectly grilled cheese sandwich.
Lets start with the bread: What you are looking for in the end result with respect to your bread is a light, crispy, and toasty outside with a moist and tender inside that has soaked up all of the buttery goodness while still retaining the ability to hold in all of the melted cheese. I like a nice light sour dough for this but there are a lot of different types of breads that work well in grilled cheese sandwiches. In general, I prefer to use day old bread for your basic grilled cheese sandwich as it holds together better than fresh bread. If your grilled cheese is going to include some ingredients that are on the wetter side then you can very lightly toast the bread before using it in your sandwich. Keep in mind that the thicker the bread is, the longer you will need to cook to allow the cheese in the middle to melt so thinner is generally better.
Next up is the butter, and salted works best. I prefer to spread the butter on the bread rather than melting it in the pan and the adding the bread as I can ensure that the entire surface of the bread is covered. One thing that you want to do is make sure that the butter is at room temperature so that you do not damage your bread while spreading it on.
The cheese is perhaps the most important part of the grilled cheese sandwich and the one and only thing that you need to ensure is that it melts! It is almost a sacrilege to bite into a grilled cheese sandwich where the cheese is not fully melted! There is one caveat here and that is that you do not want to burn the outside of your bread while waiting for the cheese to melt so you need the cheese to melt before your sandwich hits the golden brown point. To that end, it is best to bring your cheese up to room temperature before cooking your sandwich and grating or shredding the cheese will help ensure that it melts faster and more evenly. (Using grated cheese has the added benefit in that you invariably spill some into the pan when sprinkling it onto the bread and lets face it those burnt pieces of cheese are the best part of the grilled cheese sandwich!)
Now that we have all of the ingredients ready it is time to cook the grilled cheese sandwich. The basic steps are: butter your bread, place a slice into the heated pan, sprinkle on the cheese, top with the remaining slice of bread and cook until golden brown on both sides making sure that the cheese has fully melted. The key to getting that golden brown bread and melted cheese is the heat. The higher the heat the quicker your bread is going to brown and the lower the heat the longer it will take. This means that cooking at a lower temperature will allow you to cook for longer and thus give the heat time to penetrate into the sandwich and melt the cheese. I find that pre-heating my pan to medium heat and then lowing the temperature to one notch below medium works best for your basic grilled cheese sandwich. You can use this knowledge to your advantage when cooking grilled cheese sandwiches with different fillings for example you might want to cook this caprese grilled cheese sandwich at a slightly higher temperature as the fresh mozzarella will melt quickly and you do not really wan the pesto or tomatoes to cook all that much. One more tip for making sure that the cheese is completely melted is to place a lid on the pan while cooking the sandwich
What if your bread is perfectly golden brown and your cheese still has still not melted? You can transfer your sandwich to a preheated 200F oven for a few minutes until the cheese melts.
Tip: If your grilled cheese sandwich is looking a bit over stuffed and you can just see all of the filling spilling out as you flip it, just throw a plate on top of the sandwich, hold onto it and flip the pan and then lower the plate with the sandwich on top of it and slide it back into the pan.
Now that your grilled cheese sandwich is done, it goes great with some ketchup for dipping and a crispy crunchy pickle on the side.
Of course grilled cheese sandwiches are even better with a nice bowl of fresh homemade roasted tomato soup or chicken noodle soup for dipping!
Once you have mastered the basic grilled cheese sandwich it is time to move on and experiment with them! A great place to start is with my Top 10 Grilled Cheese Sandwich Recipes or with some of my other grilled cheese sandwich recipes .
The Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich
A perfectly golden brown toasty, buttery grilled cheese sandwich filled with ooey gooey melted cheese.
- 1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
- 2 slices bread, day old
- 3 ounces cheese, grated/shredded, room temperature
- Heat a pan over medium heat.
- Completely butter one side of each slice of bread.
- Place one slice of bread in the pan, buttered side down, sprinkle on the cheese and top with the remaining slice of bread, buttered side up
- Turn the heat down a notch and cook until golden brown, about 2-4 minutes.
- Flip and cook until golden brown on the other side, about 2-4 minutes.
Caramelized Cheese Covered Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Mushroom Grilled Cheese Sandwich (aka The Mushroom Melt)
Breakfast Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Maple Syrup
Jalapeno Cornbread Grilled Cheese with Chipotle Caramelized Onions, Refried Black Beans and Guacamole