Grilled Cheese (Wow I Feel Uncreative!)

I haven't made anything new in a long time, just old standby items, and not even many of them. I'm trying to finish up two papers, class prep, and move, which seems to suck up all available brain power....

But just because there's been a lack of content, I'll discuss an old standby, the grilled cheese sandwich. According to a family legend, my father---who is no cook---lived for six months on grilled cheese, popcorn and beer, as these were the only things he knew how to make. I'm not sure I believe it but grilled cheese is very adaptable.

Based entirely on experimentation, the keys to success are:

-Standard width slices of bread, not too thick or thin. Make the bread good, so a nice pane, sourdough, etc. Bread with fillings like olive loaf might be good, too, if it complements the cheese.
-Pick between one and three cheeses. Nearly any of the obvious ones will do, cheddar, mozzarella, provolone, etc. If a cheese doesn't melt well, it's not a good candidate, at least for the dominant component of the sandwich.
-Cut the cheese into uniform pieces and arrange on the bread uniformly (get the pattern? :).
-Fillings such as ham, bacon, olives (or ???---whatever you think matches the cheese) are optional but do make for a nice sandwich. Don't overload the sandwich, though, or it'll never melt on the inside before the bread is incinerated on the outside.
-Lube both sides with butter or, if you're lazy, no stick spray. (Butter tastes better, no question.)
-Medium to medium low heat in a skillet. A lid is helpful to make the cheese melt but you don't want to let the bread get soggy so finish without the lid.
-Don't crowd the pan!
-You will have carryover, just like for anything else. So if the cheese isn't absolutely perfectly melted but the bread is GBD, turn off the heat and let it stand in the pan for a few minutes.


Due to working with frozen bread, I just tried something:

Don't put the sandwich in the pan straight up. Instead put both pieces of bread in the pan with half the cheese on one piece and half on the other. Any filling can go on both or one as the case may be. When the bread is done, chances are good the cheese will melt. This cuts the cooking time in half, keeps the bread from getting soggy (which lets you use a lid for even more rapid cooking time!) and you avoid having to flip, which can be... messy. The only downside is you need a pretty large pan to do this.

Stuart Broz's picture

  • If you have a griddle, use it.
  • If you have some garlic butter, herb butter, or even honey butter around, using that on the bread can lead to some amazing results (depending on the cheese you choose). Alternately, a bit of grated parmesan (or other hard, salty, umamiriffic cheese) works wonders when mixed in with the butter on the bread.
  • Don't be afraid of using fancy cheeses. Sometimes I'm left with a wee bit of something in the fridge. Grilled cheese is a great way of using it up in a really indulgent manner.
  • Tomato soup.
  • Extra-sharp cheddar with a few thin slices of apple or pear.
  • In the past, when I've wanted to make sure my grilled cheese was perfectly melted, I've started it open-faced in the oven (sometimes using the broiler a bit), before finishing it in a pan or on a griddle.

Griddle: Good idea. I don't have one but I do have a cast iron pan and a nonstick one. They both work fine.

Flavored butter: Yep, that works, assuming it matches the cheese and bread. Olive oil is also good.

Fancy cheeses: Agreed, the main problem being the fact that they often don't melt well, so you would use them to accent, not as the main component.

Tomato soup: The natural complement.

Apple or pear filling: Yes, these would work well. I've seen a pineapple ring, a tomato slice, and some others. I'd say the main thing is nothing that's likely to be watery.

Broiler: Yep, or a toaster oven. I don't have a toaster oven (lacking counter space big time, though not in my new place). I made some Chicago style Italian beef using the broiler (baguette and provolone in the broiler, thin sliced roast beef and hot giardiniera with jus heated).

When you come right down to it, the grilled cheese is simply the most basic grilled sandwich. You want to make a patty melt? Add a hamburger. You want a reuben? Add pastrami and kraut along with the swiss cheese. etc.

The main principle I think is "not too much." Don't overload the sandwich or you'll need a knife and fork (at best) or it won't get cooked properly (at worst).

He actually makes the grilled cheese near the end of this segment:

Not sure I buy the need for all that---it does melt the cheese really well---but I guess I should try it sometime....

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