The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich
on Sep 01, 2023
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This is the best grilled cheese, made on the stove in a griddle or in a skillet.
A perfect grilled cheese sandwich is hard to beat. It’s crunchy and gooey at the same time. It’s buttery, cheesy, and insanely satisfying. It’s a fast lunch or dinner when you are too tired to cook (about 10 minutes to make!), it’s the perfect comfort food after a tough day, and it’s the fastest way to any kid’s heart (and by a kid, I mean all of us). And it’s easy to make a perfect grilled cheese at home with just a few little tips.
There are a number of ways to make a good grilled cheese sandwich, but the best grilled cheese is made on a griddle or in a skillet. These sandwiches are best hot from the pan, though my kids actually like them at room temperature, too, so I packed them for lunch often! But that’s a very personal predilection.
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Laura Werlin, the author of many books on cheese, suggests covering the skillet at the beginning of the cooking process. and then finishing the sandwiches with the skillet uncovered. This way, the cheese melts all the way through, and then the outside of the bread gets nice and crisp.
This tip has forever changed my grilled cheese sandwich game. Try it, and never again will any of you suffer the disappointment of unmelted cheese in the middle of your sandwich or overcooked toast at the expense of perfectly melted cheese.
The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich: This is the best grilled cheese, made on the stove in a griddle or in a skillet.Tweet This
- Cheese – It’s up to you what cheese you use for grilled cheese. This is where the fun starts. This recipe is a blueprint, and the sandwich that results is your creation and yours alone. Intermingling different kinds of cheese results in some very special combinations. If you use a stronger flavored cheese, like Stilton, for instance, you may want to cut the flavor with a slice of milder cheese like Muenster, so the sandwich isn’t too intense. See my cheese suggestions below.
- Bread – Another choice, and a big one. I love using chunky slices of a nice sourdough loaf for grilled cheese, but there are so many fun bread options out there. If you want to experiment with some brioche or multigrain or olive bread, go for it!
- Butter – Use unsalted butter. The salt in this sandwich will come from the cheese and a final sprinkle of salt at the end.
Best Cheese Options for Grilled Cheese
There are so, so many cheeses to choose from! Here are some cheese options to mix and match for your grilled cheese.
- American cheese – Basic, square-shaped, and orange, this cheese may not be the highest quality, but it gets the job done. And if you’re going for old-school diner nostalgia, well, there’s nothing more classic than an American cheese grilled cheese.
- Blue cheese – If you want a more intense, funky grilled cheese, add a few crumbles of blue cheese into the mix.
- Brie or a double cream cheese – Trim any thick rind off of these cheeses before using!
- Cheddar – Cheddar is a dependable cheese and one that plays well with others.
- Feta – Tangy and salty.
- Fontina – Semisoft, mild. An easy inclusion if you have it on hand.
- Goat cheese (chèvre) – If you use goat cheese, you might think about some other add-ins like sautéed onions or olives. Or maybe layer in a light drizzle of honey!
- Gruyère – Gruyère is a Swiss cheese that always reminds me of the cheese emoji — it’s full of holes — and is usually mild.
- Jarlsberg – Jarlsberg is a more-expensive cheese, but if you can get your hands on it, it will really send your grilled cheese to another level.
- Monterey Jack – This is a great cheese to use on kids’ grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s quite mild and very melty.
- Muenster – This smooth, very mild yellow cheese is a classic choice for grilled cheese.
- Pepper Jack – This variation on Monterey Jack cheese has a peppery flavor to it, so it’s a fun one to include to spice things up.
- Provolone – Nutty and somewhere between mild and sharp, sometimes with a bit of smokiness.
- Swiss cheese – Depending on the age and origin of the Swiss cheese, you might get a mild or nutty flavor.
How to Make the Perfect Grilled Cheese
- Apply butter: Spread one side of each slice of bread with the butter, dividing it equally.
- Layer on cheese: Place 2 slices on a cutting board, butter side down (a bit messy, yes), and layer 3 slices of cheese or sprinkle 2⁄3 cup of grated cheese on each slice of bread. If you are using more than one kind of cheese, divide the different kinds as you like between the sandwiches.
- Finish your sandwich: Top the sandwiches with the remaining slices of bread, butter side up.
- Cook sandwiches in a covered skillet: Heat a large skillet, either a nonstick skillet or one that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, over medium heat. Carefully place the sandwiches in the skillet, cover it, and cook the sandwiches until the bottoms start to turn golden brown, about 2 minutes.
- Flip: Uncover the skillet and, using a spatula, turn the sandwiches over (be careful if you’ve used grated cheese to make sure the filling stays put).
- Press: Press down on the sandwiches a bit with the spatula, and cook them uncovered until the second side is golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes.
- Flip again: Turn the sandwiches one more time, and cook them until the bottom is fully golden brown and crispy, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
- Take off the heat: Transfer the sandwiches to the cutting board. Let them sit for 1 minute so that the cheese firms back up a bit.
- Serve: Cut the sandwiches in half and serve.
Best Grilled Cheese Add-Ins
Everyone should pick the add-ins they like best for the grilled cheese of their dreams. Here are a handful of ideas:
- Spread of tapenade (olive paste)
- Sun-dried tomato paste
- A thin slice of ham or prosciutto (For a great grilled ham and cheese sandwich, I like to use a mix of cheddar and Swiss cheese.)
- Slices of cooked bacon, crumbled or whole
- Thin slices of tomato
- Sautéed onions
- Pickled onions
- Roasted bell pepper
- Jalapeño (also check out this Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese!)
- If you’re out of butter, you can use mayonnaise as a butter alternative.
- You can make grilled cheese in a toaster oven or a regular oven, but you won’t have that amazing griddled taste and texture.
- An air fryer grilled cheese is also surprisingly successful!
While some people may be confused, there’s only one clear answer to this essential question. Microwaved grilled cheese and baked grilled cheese (are people actually doing this?) will never be able to hold a candle to grilled cheese cooked in a skillet. Add in the trick of covering the skillet during the first half of cook time and then uncovering it in the second half for cheese that is gooey and toast that is perfectly crunchy. Yum.
Yes and no. Yes, you need something like butter to boost the flavor of the cheese and to make sure the bread gets all toasty; but no, it doesn’t have to be butter. You can also use mayo or vegan butter.
It really depends on the texture of your cheeses: If you’re working with soft cheese, slices are great, but hard cheese will take longer to melt if you put a thick slab of it on your sandwich, so go for grating it instead.
What to Serve With Grilled Cheese
More Cheesy Recipes to Try
- Air Fryer Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
- Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks
- Sheetpan Macaroni and Cheese Squares
- Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese
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The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich
- 4 slices bread (of your choice)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- 1 ⅓ cups grated or crumbled cheese (or sliced cheese)
- Nonstick cooking spray (optional)
- Kosher salt (to taste)
- Spread one side of each slice of bread with the butter, dividing it equally. Place 2 slices on a cutting board, butter side down (a bit messy, yes), and layer 3 slices of cheese or sprinkle 2⁄3 cup of grated cheese on each slice of bread. If you are using more than one kind of cheese, divide the different kinds as you like between the sandwiches. Top the sandwiches with the remaining 2 slices of bread, butter side up.
- Heat a large skillet, either a nonstick skillet or one that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, over medium heat. Carefully place the sandwiches in the skillet, cover it, and cook the sandwiches until the bottoms start to turn golden brown, about 2 minutes. Uncover the skillet and, using a spatula, turn the sandwiches over (be careful if you've used grated cheese to make sure the filling stays put). Press down on the sandwiches a bit with the spatula, and cook them uncovered until the second side is golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Turn the sandwiches one more time, season lightly with salt, and cook them until the bottom is fully golden brown and crispy, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
- Transfer the sandwiches to the cutting board, let them sit for 1 minute so that the cheese firms back up a bit, then cut the sandwiches in half and serve.