We’re all needing a bit of comfort right now, and why not indulge in one of the easiest, tastiest classic comfort foods of all time: Grilled Cheese!
Most of us have a memory deep down of having this meal stemming from our childhoods that invokes feelings of deep nostalgia. Remember dipping it into a bowl of steaming hot Campbell’s Tomato soup? Ohhh, the best! Grilled cheese need not be a meal only enjoyed by your younger self, it has a timeless quality to it, so much so, that there are even grilled cheese parties, and fancier versions of this classic sandwich on fancy restaurant menus. One of my favorite things about grilled cheese is it that it is fast to make, and the fillings are almost endless and can be tailored to your tastes. Even though you are probably whizzes at making your sandwiches by now, let me walk you through a couple pointers I’ve learned throughout the years about this amazing sandwich. Let’s make our sammies!
Pointer 1: Cheese
Quality ingredients mean a tastier sandwich. There is definitely something to be said about using American cheese slices, I’m certainly not knocking it, however, branching out and using a combination of different cheeses have elevated this sandwich to a whole new level. Through the many different varietals of cheeses throughout the years to build the ultimate classic, I have settled on a duo of Sharp Cheddar cheese and Colby Cheese for the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. Four slices of each type of cheese per sandwich gives a perfect amount of ooey gooey cheese. Using pre-cut quality cheese slices melt better as opposed to using grated cheese, as the grated cheese tends to be messier, and falls out the sides when you flip it. There are many other combos of cheeses too, more on that below.
Pointer 2: Bread
Bread is the walls to your golden cheesy middle, and like cheese, there are many options to this as well. If stove top grilling, choose pre-sliced artisan bread such as French, Sourdough, or Pullman bread. Make sure your slices are not too thick though, don’t get the thick cut slices, as you don’t want your bread to burn on the outside before the heat gets to the middle to melt the cheese. If using a Panini maker to grill your sandwiches however, that is the time where thicker, sturdier bread is best, such as thick, crusty slices of rustic bread which is perfect for pressing grilled cheese paninis.
Pointer 3: Heat and getting that soft, golden crust
The best way to grill your sandwiches is by using a cast iron skillet or a non-stick skillet. That way, your sandwich will brown evenly and release easily for turning. One big no-no is to get your pan screaming hot before you put your sandwich on it. Doing that will definitely burn your bread instantly instead of melting your cheese resulting in the boo-hoos. Instead, have your sandwich all ready to go, then preheat your pan by turning your heat up to low-medium at the very highest setting, or low, if using a cast iron pan, then put on your sandwich once your pan is gently heated. You want to heat your sandwich slowly rather than a quick sear, so the heat has time to reach the cheese before burning your bread if your skillet is too hot. If using a Panini maker, this is the easiest method, and the perfect gadget for heating up your grilled cheese. You can find a Panini press on Amazon here:
Pointer 4: Butter or Mayonnaise??
I’ve seen many people put butter directly into the pan before grilling their sandwiches instead of buttering the top slices of bread. Maybe that is something you’ve always done? Although it may be an old habit to break, this can result in the butter unevenly browning your bread. There is a more effective way to get that golden brown crust by greasing the top of each slice before it touches the heat. Now, here is where personal preference comes to play, and most people feel a bit passionate about this: Do I use butter or mayonnaise to spread on the outsides of my bread? My recommendation, I use each one for different methods. I definitely favor the use of mayonnaise when I grill up my sammies on the stove top as it has a higher smoke point, and I use butter when using the Panini press. Totally personal preference my friends! Both seem to work just fine. With butter though, because of its lower smoke point, you do have to watch it more carefully when grilling on the stove top.
So, we’ve covered the pointers, now let’s get to flavors! Here are some of the combos and methods we favor in our house. Feel free to omit ingredients or substitute with your favorite flavors
- The Classic: Sourdough bread + Sharp Cheddar + Colby Cheese/stove top skillet method
- The Caprese: Rustic Panino bread + Pesto + Sliced tomato + Fresh Mozzarella (my favorite!)/ Panini method
- The Easy Cheesy: Pullman bread + American cheese slices + dill pickle slices/stove top skillet method
- The Spicy Monster: French bread + a smear of pureed canned chipotle peppers + Jack cheese + Mozzarella (another fave!)/Stove top skillet method
- The BTG: Sourdough bread + Bacon slices + Tomato + Gruyere/Stove top method
- The breakfast for dinner: Pullman bread + Pepper Jack + White cheddar + pickled jalapeño’s + a fried egg on top/Stove top skillet method, grill the sandwich first, then use the same pan to fry up your egg and plop it on top of your grilled sandwich. Serve with fresh slices of avocado.
- The fancy pants: Rustic Panino bread + Gruyere + Sharp white cheddar + prosciutto + sliced pepperocinis/Panini method
And, there you have it! Now, your creative juices are flowing, and your mouth is ready to dig into the delectable crunch of that old childhood favorite. Remember, plenty of cheese, good quality bread, low heat, and a thin smear of mayonnaise, Happy Grilled Cheese day!