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 sourdough 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. An alternative to butter is to use mayo (mayonnaise) to ‘butter’ the outside of the bread!
The cheese is perhaps the most important part of the best 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 melted 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. You can use either cheese slices or shredded cheese. (I like 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 toasted 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 melted 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 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
The White Elephant says
ohhhh the sandwich looks sooooo yummy… I love your blog Kevin….
I love grilled cheese and have been perfecting my technique recently too. I made an awesome Spinach and Gouda grilled cheese last week and then tried it again yesterday but instead of butter, I had just made bacon to crumble on top of a soup so I made the sandwiches in the leftover bacon fat. Delicious!
I just had grilled cheese today! I used swiss and added spinach, mushrooms and peppers to mine though. 😉
[email protected] German Kitchen...in the Rockies says
Anything grilled/ sandwich/ gooey cheese sounds absolutely fabulous. We make panini all the time, but it is funny that I have never blogged about it.
Ketchup and pickle would never be combined with my delicious grilled cheese.
Cookin' Canuck says
There is nothing better than a really good grilled cheese sandwich and you hit the nail on the head with the simplicity of the formula.
Sophia Grace Aprons says
Thanks for all the tips, with November here there is nothing that I enjoy more then making grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for the kids. This is one of those simple meals that is packed with memories and a feel-good meal!
oh how I do love a good grilled cheese. This one makes me hungry!
Kinda sad but i saw you are a Carrie..my 29 year old daughter Carrie passed away 6/7/11 so she was no alive at the time of your posting to enjoy a yummy grilled cheese in winter 2011 but she loved them growing up. I plan on making myself one tonight. you look like a beautiful girl.happy grill cheesing!
This DOES sound perfect! Yum!
Amy: Bacon grease is definitely a decadently delicious way to go!
At first I considered it sacriledge, but I have learned that using (good) mayo instead of butter makes a nicer crust. I also use mayo and mild dijon inside, and gouda plus whatever else I have.
Or I did, before I went paleo. I am now deleting the images of crispy, hot, gooey grilled cheese from my memory, lest I crave, cave and suffer for it!
DreamFulfiller: That is a tasty sounding grilled cheese sandwich!
Lauren: I am so going to have to try the mayo grilled cheese!
I love that you use ketchup for your grilled cheese!!! :)It's just a thicker consistency of tomato soup. 🙂
It has been entirely too long since I've had a grilled cheese sandwich.
This has me wanting a grilled cheese for breakfast, thanks for posting, as I always delegate grilled cheese making to my husband!
Mrs. Measurement says
Grilled cheese reminds me of my childhood. My mom used to make it with American bread (slices) and use the spatula to cut the sandwich into 4 smaller squares. Love grilled cheese!
Those pictures just made my mouth water! I don't think you can beat grilled cheese with tomato soup. I picked up two tricks from your post that I will absolutely be using in the future 1) butter the bread not the pan 2) use shredded cheese. Can't wait to try this out!
Linda Harding says
Oh wow, Kevin, this is a seriously delicious post. I am going to try your tips in the kitchen! There's nothing more comforting!
I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your recipes and pictures. Everything you make is delicious! Keep up the great work. Thanks!
P.S. you have elevated grilled cheese sandwiches to the "Penthouse" level!
Southern Elle says
This just melted my heart! I need one of these. Grilled cheese is my all time favorite thing to eat. Always has been. Thanks for making me drool mid morning at the office!
My grandmother taught me to butter BOTH sides of each piece of bread. You lightly toast one side in the grilling pan, then flip each, and then add cheese and close the sandwich. This ensures that the cheese has a warm surface of bread right away to start the melting, and it is richer for the butter as well as faster.
I like using mayonaise instead of butter for a slightly different flavor!
That's the way I do my basic grilled cheese. We love them here. Tried different recipes over the years but I go back to this simple recipe all the time.
helen ethel studio says
First time commenter here. I just have to tell you: Heaven. On. A. Plate! My fiancé made me grilled cheese just last night. I commented to him that he has perfected his grilled cheese with his addition of garlic to the bread. A-mazing. Besides my fiancé's grilled cheese sammiches, my mom's top the charts for me. There is something about a mom's grilled cheese that is unbeatable. Also, I eat mine with ketchup too!
The picture has me drooling, I loveeee grilled cheese!
Rocky Mountain Woman says
Grilled cheese is my all time favorite fast food! I make it a lot in the winter after work when I'm tired and hungry.
Thanks for the wonderful tips!
Your grilled cheese sandwiches always look perfect so it was good to hear how you go about getting that perfect golden look.
Grilled cheese is my fav ! Add tomato soup for a bonus ! I made your Jalapeno grilled cheese .. it was awesome .. keep those grilled cheese comin' !!
sara sunshine says
buttering both sides of the bread is definitely key!!
Quirky Jessi says
Mmmm, now *that* is an awesome looking grilled cheese.
Celia & sara sunshine: You cannot go wrong with even more butter! I will definitely be trying buttering both sides of the bread!
I love grilled cheese, too! And I didn't know anyone else ate ketchup with their grilled cheese. You made me feel less weird. Thanks, Kevin!
I'm reading this as my daughter grills herself a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner. Somehow my salad did not entice. I'm pleased to report she seem to have good grilled cheese instincts! (And don't use fat-free cheese – that stuff doesn't melt – really – it's unnatural).
Forget the ketchup and spread a bit of grape or strawberry jelly on top and you'll be amazed!
OMG… totally craving a grilled cheese now!!!
That is almost exactly the way I make grilled cheese sandwiches for my daughter, who loves them. When she comes home for a visit, I buy a loaf of sourdough bread just for grilled cheese sandwiches. I like to use Tillamook Medium Cheddar, which melts beautifully. (No connection with Tillamook; I just love it.) I butter the bread, as you do, and use a cast iron pan. Carrie likes to dip hers in French's mustard.
Becky Smith Kuk says
That is truly a beautiful grilled cheese sandwich — nice and golden! "Low-end" grilled cheese sandwiches also remind me of my childhood, and I love both traditional and gourmet versions. If you want more grilled cheese ideas, I have some on my blog: akukskitchen.blogspot.com
haha! I love grilled cheese sandwiches too but you are the expert! You've inspired me to make some because that's the one thing we can all eat while our kitchen's under construction! We have a panini grill!
i did everything here but shred the cheese – definitely going to start doing that as i HATE when the cheese isn't totally melted. also sometimes i add cajun seasoning or garlic powder to the buttered side of the bread before i cook up the sandwich for a little extra flavor, its delish
Jess Wirth says
LOVE this post 🙂 Excellently done
I don't think I ever saw such beautiful pictures of a toasted cheese sandwich! I need to get some bread and make one!
You have some good tips here, but ketchup with grilled cheese? That's just gross. I would like to add that when you are having a hard time getting the cheese to melt it is useful to sprinkle some water in the pan, but of course not touching the sandwich, and then cover it to let the steam do the work.
I like to use a mixture of different cheeses, especially adding some blue cheese to make it tangy. In the UK we tend to just melt the cheese on a slice of toast under a hot grill.
That's pretty much how I make mine and I always have it with a dill pickle on the side. I've never tried ketchup, now I'm curious…
cooking grill says
wow! SO JUICY! i want to taste this one.
Jenna-Lynne Duncan says
Yes! Thank you google for helping me find this site. I am about to make my grilled cheese using your tips! You are great writer as well 🙂
Making grilled cheese myself i use to make it so basic. After reading what you have to offer and reading every single comment i am going to try every way that the comments had.
If there was a god then cheese wouldn't be so fattening.
I just ate one of these delicious toasties. There goes my six-pack!!!
I used to go to a restaurant where I got a sandwich that was grilled. One thing they did was put Parmesan cheese on the bread. It was really good. So you can either butter your bread and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on the buttered side or soften some butter and mix with some Parmesan cheese. Spread on the bread. Adds another depth of flavor.
Tammy: Yes, covering a grilled cheese sandwich with even more cheese is so good! I normally just use more of the cheese in the sandwich, but using Parmesan would definitely add depth of flavour!
The Finder says
Excellent post, thanks for all the grilled cheese ideas….I have several of my own, I love FETA cheese and mix it with the cheddar on sour dough bread and it is excellente!….i enjoyed all the comments also…great site, thanks again.
I do love ooey gooey cheese, but what I love doing is taking each slice with cheese and turning it over and letting the cheese "toast" right on the pan. The cheese is nice and crisp.
Thanks so much, Kevin! We just used your tips to make proper grilled cheese sandwiches for the first time (crazy, right?). I went with your caramelized cheese variation, pretty spectacular, my husband was jealous. Thanks again!
Wow — I thought I was the only one that dipped my grilled cheese in ketchup! I actually had to buy some yesterday knowing I was going to make g.c. tonight. Kevin I've loved your blog for years now and it just keeps getting better, nicely done!!!
sometimes instead of butter i use mayo, it comes out just as good and a bit less greasy, also sometimes i sprinkle parmesan cheese on the mayo while grilling and is gives it that restaurant flavor.
Sibilant Storm says
I have a trick for the "butter" portion that is simply scrumptious. In place of the butter, I use mayonnaise — YES, on the OUTSIDE of the sandwich!!! It grills up with a tasty, puffy, crunchy sort of crust, something along the lines of what you get when you make a Monte Cristo sandwich. It is simply wonderful! (Came upon this trick by accident one day, when I'd run out of butter and desperately wanted grilled cheese, and we've been doing it this way ever since!)
Sibilant Storm: I have been meaning to try grilled cheese with mayo on the outside instead of butter! It sounds really good!
Anonymous: The parmesan is also a great idea!
I am also a grilled cheese lover!! I make mine the exact same way.. but.. when it's finished I spread grape jelly on top then sprinkle it with cayenne and season salt! It sounds extremely odd but it is soooo delicious!
cmdrico7812 I missed your comment… but you rock!
Anonymous: I also enjoy making a breakfast out of it by smothering the grilled cheese sandwich in maple syrup. The sweet and savoury combo really works well with grilled cheese! I will have to try it with the jelly spread!
Another vote for mayo on the outside – crisps up beautifully and gives it a funky taste!
Carol Single says
I've always made my grilled cheese with slices of tomato in between the cheese. I also add a little slice of onion sometimes. That is the way I was first introduced to grilled cheese way back in the '50's.
Growing up, my mom always had a container of garlic butter in the fridge just for grilled cheese..she used garlic powder and Parmesan cheese (sometimes also using garlic salt for a bit mor salty flavor). She used margarine, as then it was spreadable straight from the fridge. As a kid, I thought this was always how grilled cheese was made. I had no idea people just use plain butter..ick, it has no flavor! Lol. I'm the same way and always have garlic butter in my fridge..a grilled cheese, no matter if plain American cheese, or using roast beef/provolone/green chilies/tomatoes (a fav combo) always tastes better with it!
Leslie: Plain, salted, butter is my favourite for grilled cheese but garlic butter is also good! I will have to try adding some parmesan to the garlic butter next time!
Jeff Davis says
That's a might fine look grilled cheese. Shaking a little onion salt on the outside of the buttered bread is also a nice flavor enhancer. Jeff Davis
Any tips on warming it up when taking it to work? I don't want it soggy from the microwave!
Anonymous: The best way to warm it up is in a pan on the stove with the oven being a close second, though you likely do not have either at work… If you have a toaster over there, that would work as well.
I use my Foreman or Sunbeam Grill to make grilled cheese sandwiches. I am notorious about burning the sandwiches when I use a skillet. With the grill I never burn any.
Using mayo on the bread instead of butter, makes for a crisper grilled cheese. Just use a very thin layer of mayo. You will have nicely toasted bread..
have you ever tried putting Parmesan on the buttered side before it hits the pan? I don't know if anyone else suggested this, there are way too many comments to read them all, but it is simply delicious. One more layer of flavor and crunch. Your recipes are absolutely amazing and I love your blog.
That is a terrific recipe, bread makes it! Better than butter though is to use Duke's Mayo instead. Adds a whole new dimension to the bread!
I grew up enjoying a grilled cheese sandwich with Tomato soup, mixed with milk not water poured over the sandwich and salt and pepper on top, delicious
If you pour tomato soup, mixed with milk not water over the grilled cheese sandwich, you will enjoy this very much I believe
When I make a grilled cheese sandwich I always pour tomato soup ( mixed with milk not water) over it and add salt and pepper
I love my plain grilled cheese with salsa 🙂 If you like it spicy, try it. I love it and I wouldn't eat it with ketchup ever again 🙂
No wonder American's are so fat.
Mayo on a grilled cheese? My God.
Mayo isn’t any more fattening than butter… and how much do you weigh?
Anonymous: Mayo actually has less calories than butter…
Ketchup for dipping? Blech! Why ruin a perfectly good sandwich?!
I had never heard of using mayo before last week and I tried it and it came out wonderful. I see a couple of people have suggested it on here and beat me to it. MY husband looked at me like I was crazy but it did a wonderful job on my black forest ham, gouda, pesto and creamy Italian grilled cheese. 🙂
The guidelines here helped me make the best grilled cheese sandwich I ever made. I like ketchup but I prefer yellow mustard with this.
Oregon Sue says
I love your recipes and it's been awhile since I have had a grilled cheese, but since today is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day, I will make one. I like to cook mine in the waffle iron! Works great!!!
I also love a good grilled sandwich. I make mine the same way. Sometimes I like adding thinly sliced tomatoes & Feta cheese and other times it’s spinach and Feta cheese. I have also added your mushroom melt.That last one especially I prefer to cook in my panini toaster than in a skillet. Either way always yummy. Thanks for your tips!
Carol Klinker says
First I would like to say that I love your blog. I have been a member for a few years now and always look forward to reading it.
Second – I love grilled cheese sandwiches but these are the steps I use in making one:
1. Heat a pan over medium heat. (I use an electric griddle)
2. Completely butter one side of each slice of bread.
3. Place both slices of bread in the pan, buttered side down against the griddle, sprinkle the cheese on top of one side or half on all the slices.
4. Turn the heat down a notch and cook until both sides are golden brown on the bottom.
5. Flip on side over the side – your sandwich is done in half the time.
Note: This does take up twice as much space so if you are making a lot of sandwiches for a group I would use your method or keep the grilled ones warm in a 200 degree oven on a rack over a pan.
I am going to have to try this!!!
We always use mayo on the outside of our bread.