Grilled cheese has evolved into its own culinary genre. No longer is it just a couple slices of bread with melted American cheese inside. For a truly unique grilled cheese, the key is to not get pigeonholed into traditional cheese choices. We’ve put together a simple guide for making the best grilled cheese sandwich.
Be sure the bread isn’t too perforated with air bubbles (the cheese will drip out) or sliced too thick (the cheese will not melt). White bread and American cheese is the traditional grilled cheese staple, but for something more grownup, use hand-sliced Italian ciabatta, sourdough or a French boule. Grilled cheese is also a great way to use up day-old bread, since the grilling process will resuscitate it a bit.
Use a cheese with the right melting characteristics. Dry, crumbly, fresh cheeses like goat cheese won’t melt properly. Neither will overly aged cheeses like a Parmesan or hard Pecorino. Instead, use cheeses that are made for melting like American slices, young Cheddar, Swiss cheese, or young French cheeses like Camembert or Brie.
For perfect grilled cheese, butter the bread on both sides. Place two slices of buttered bread on a hot griddle or skillet until golden (a few minutes), flip them over so that the browned sides are facing up, add cheese and any other ingredients, and close the sandwich so that the cheese is nestled between the browned surfaces. Cook on medium-low heat to ensure even browning. Trying to speed up the process with high heat will lead to a sandwich that’s hot on the outside but still cool and unmelted in the middle.
Pair It With Soup
Few side dishes can truly complement a grilled cheese sandwich quite like a warm bowl of soup. The classic grilled cheese soup pairing is creamy tomato soup. Try amping up the flavor with a roasted tomato version. If you’re not too fond of tomatoes, try a broth soup instead such as minestrone, beef barley, chicken noodle or mushroom barley. Creamy soups are also perfect for sandwich dipping such as roasted red pepper, broccoli, pumpkin or chowders.
Grilled Cheese Upgrades
Upgrade any grilled cheese sandwich by putting more ingredients between the bread slices. Fresh Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs: Choose fresh juicy vegetables or fruits with a distinctive sweet or tart flavor such as slices of tomato, figs, tart apples, sweet grapes, kiwi, hot peppers (like jalapeños), avocado or strawberries. Add some flavor with fresh herbs like basil, tarragon, sage or rosemary. Pickles and Other Cured Things: Pickles are the perfect complement to grilled cheese. The acidity and saltiness of pickles cut right through the rich cheese. Try dill or bread & butter chips, pickle relish, sliced pickled jalapeños, olives (or better yet, Muffaletta-style olive salad), chopped French cornichons or capers. Jams, Chutneys and Other Condiments: From something sweet like fruit jams, apple butter or orange marmalade to the savory like grainy mustard, to the spicy like red pepper jelly, sriracha or fruit chutney, anything that will go well on a cheese plate will go well in a grilled cheese sandwich.