Cheese expert Laura Werlin weighs in on how to make the perfect ooey-gooey grilled cheese
Can you ever get enough of the oozy, gooey goodness of a grilled cheese?
A grilled cheese: the perfect combination of crunch, butter, and melted goodness. People just can’t get enough. Grilled cheeses are the perfect example of why we love cooking; without heat and technique, you’d never be able to obtain the sandwich's crispy crust or oozing center. It’s a science, and it’s one of cooking’s greatest accomplishments. Whether you enjoy a Kraft Singles stacker version alongside a bowl of tomato soup or prefer an elegant restaurant creation of crusty sourdough bread with goat cheese and pecorino, you have to appreciate the culinary beauty of a grilled cheese and the impact it makes on our taste buds.
Click here to see the How to Make a Perfect Grilled Cheese Slideshow
Because a grilled cheese is such a perfect creation, it’s important to get it right. Forever searching for excellence, The Daily Meal sought out Laura Werlin, cheese expert and author of Grilled Cheese, Please!, to get the facts about how to make the perfect grilled cheese. Werlin’s book is loaded with pieces of advice for how to make the perfect grilled cheese, and each recipe is carefully thought out and planned, demonstrating to us that to her, making a grilled cheese is no joke. Along with her pieces of cheesy wisdom, Werlin includes excerpts for each recipe, explaining the inspiration for each, right down to the farm where she originally discovered the featured cheese. It’s a mouthwatering and entertaining read, not to mention informative.
We wanted to know the basics of how to make the best grilled cheese we’ve ever had. There’s plenty of choices to make — thick bread or thin, gooey cheese or nutty, toaster or griddle? Werlin broke it down for us, from the technique to use and the way to butter the bread to the perfect ratio of bread and cheese. She even shared a few recipes with us. With Werlin’s expertise and a few recipes of our own for inspiration, we’re certain that you’ll be able to succeed in making an absolutely perfect grilled cheese.
Perfect Grilled Cheese
Melted cheese between two pieces of toasted golden bread. We’ve fine-tuned a classic and the result is the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.
Grilled Cheese, Defined
Before we get to the specifics, we need to set up a few parameters relevant to the definition. Exactly what is and what isn't a grilled cheese, anyway? Obviously, cheese and bread must be involved, as well as some form of heat. But does an open-faced Reuben count? Or how about a Mexican pambazo, dipped in sauce and griddled, with a million other ingredients?
We've thought long and hard about this, and there are a few basic rules that we think everyone can agree upon.
A grilled cheese must.
- be a closed sandwich, griddled on both sides.
- have cheese as the primary ingredient. Other ingredients can complement the cheese, but none may overwhelm it.
- be made with sliced bread. Thus, a sandwich made with a whole, crust-on loaf, like a panino or a Cubano, does not qualify.
- be served hot all the way through, with the cheese thoroughly melted.
- be cooked on a flat, greased surface until golden brown. In extreme circumstances, it may be cooked on an outdoor grill over an open fire. A grilled cheese may never be baked or deep-fried.
Agreed? Let's lock some details down.
This Is Martha's Secret to the Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Her favorite ingredient might seem like an unexpected addition, but it's the best way to achieve a classic golden crust.
For something as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich, it seems every home cook has their own special recipe, with endless combinations of toasted bread and melted cheese. Martha, on the other hand, likes to keep it really simple-a blend of American and cheddar cheeses on thick slices of sourdough. But her secret toreating the perfectrust isn&apost just butter in a hot skillet. Martha uses an everyday condiment to toast her bread, and it&aposs probably sitting in your fridge right now.
Our founder took to social media back in 2017 to teach Kevin Sharkey, the executive vice president andxecutive design director of Martha Stewart Brand Management for Sequential Brands Group, how to make the perfect grilled cheese in a Facebook Live stream. Kevin&aposs favorite iteration of this sandwich is a little more complex than Martha&aposs-he incorporates bacon, tomatoes, and pickles on a bed of shredded Gouda cheese-but Martha made it even better by slathering the bread in mayonnaise.
"[Mayo has] supposedly fewer calories, and it&aposs very tasty, and the bread doesn&apost burn," Martha says.
But Martha doesn&apost omit butter altogether. She later tells Kevin that she&aposll smear a small amount of butter on the inside of her bread before adding the rest of the ingredients. It adds a smoothness to the melted cheese and makes the interior of the grilled cheese much softer, regardless of which bread you choose. "They&aposre all good for a grilled cheese sandwich," Martha says.
You can watch Martha and Kevin make an impressive grilled cheese sandwich here, and then try your hand at Martha&aposs favorite grilled cheese with our recipe. Like Martha says, any combination of cheese and bread will make for a great grilled cheese-but Martha&aposs mayo-first approach is what makes your sandwich that much more toasty.
There are two kinds of cheese I would use for the perfect grilled cheese. Either cheddar cheese (you pick either mild, medium or sharp) or good ‘ol American cheese. There’s no need to look beyond these choices. Sure, you can use just about any kind of cheese that melts well, and some of them can also make a great grilled cheese. For this perfect grilled cheese, we are sticking to either cheddar or American.
To Shred or to Slice the Cheese?
Shredding the cheese is a great option, but not always necessary. If you are using cheese that is harder like a gruyère and doesn’t melt quite as easy as cheddar or American, then shredding is your best bet to an even melt before burning the bread. If it’s cheddar or American, then slicing the cheese is totally fine.
There is a little hidden benefit to shredding cheese though, and that’s eating the little pieces of melted cheese that have fallen out of the sandwich and crisped up on the griddle.
How to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich plus 7 lip-smacking recipes
Happy Grilled Cheese Day! Yes, there’s an entire day dedicated to the best comfort food there is – the cheese toastie! And we’re here to tell you how to do it justice on 12 April.
1. The best bread to use
Choose a bread that’s sturdy enough to hold excessive amounts of cheese without falling apart. White bread and sourdough work well.
2. Butter it up
Don’t be shy when it comes to the butter. Butter your bread on both sides and, to prevent your sandwich from burning, you can also mix a little bit of mayonnaise into your butter.
3. Cheesy matters
A flavourful cheddar is a must, but you can add any other cheese you have on hand for extra oomph. The most important tip, either way, is to not be shy! Grate your cheese to ensure it spreads evenly and pile it in so that every bite you take is a cheesy mouthful.
4. Cooking your grilled cheese
Some people swear you have to start it in the oven to get a perfectly gooey, cheesy delight, but the same effect can be had in the pan – just start on low heat with your sandwich open so the cheese has a chance to melt. Place your two slices of bread in the pan over low heat and top each slice evenly with a generous amount of cheese. Once you see the cheese start to melt at the edges, flip one slice over the other and continue to cook until golden brown on both sides.
Have you perfected your grilled cheese and are ready to try something new? Then check out these variations of the cheese toastie:
Air Fryer Grilled Cheese
Using the air fryer is a very simple way to achieve a crunchy grilled cheese. It cooks your food in minutes and is a very low maintenance way to prepare a perfect grilled cheese!
- : This crunchy take on the childhood classic will make you never want to make a grilled cheese any other way! : Adding bacon makes just about anything taste better, but bacon and grilled cheese are a match made in heaven. : This loaded grilled cheese is packed with flavorful veggies. : This grilled cheese recipe has all of the flavor from your favorite philly cheesesteak but in a crispy panini! : This sophisticated adult grilled cheese tastes amazing with granny smith apples and your favorite jam.
30+ Gourmet Grilled Cheese Recipes to Make Your Mouth Water
All the most delicious and creative grilled cheese sandwich recipes your heart could desire.
Even the most unskilled of cooks usually know how to make a basic grilled cheese decently well. It's a classic comfort food recipe &mdash one that's hard to dislike, easy to assemble, and costs almost nothing. Its simplicity is also why it's such an simple dinner recipe to kick up a notch. Simply add a few more ingredients here and there and you have endless ideas for gourmet grilled cheese sandwich recipes at your fingertips.
From adding in fruit (apples and cheese go well together for a reason!) to piling on the meats to swapping out traditional American slices for a more surprising combination of cheeses, there are endless possibilities when it comes to grilled cheese if you're willing to get a little creative. Once you have your favorite classic grilled cheese recipe down, try experimenting by adding some sautéed onions, slices of ham, a dab of mayo, or all of the above. Whether you tend to lean more savory (bacon grilled cheese , anyone?) or you want something on the sweeter side (s'mores grilled cheese, perhaps?), odds are there's a grilled cheese recipe out there for you that you haven't dreamed up quite yet. Looking for some inspiration? Here are some easy recipes to get you started.
How to Make the Perfect Grilled Cheese
April is National Grilled Cheese Month and I appreciate an entire month devoted to my love of crispy bread and melted cheese. Is there anything better than a grilled cheese sandwich? I really don’t think there is.
The thing about grilled cheese is that it’s so simple and yet so divine, but to make an EPIC grilled cheese, you can’t just throw a cheese sandwich in a pan and call it good. There are thoughts and techniques that go into creating that angelic cheese icon.
Follow these rules for making the most EPIC and delicious grilled cheese sandwich and you will have your mind blown by just how good the grilled cheese can be.
(With such simple ingredients, make sure to use the best quality ingredients you can get your hands on. I splurge on bakery-fresh artisan bread, Irish or French butter, and lots of Roth Cheese.)
01. Use really good bread. Go to the bakery and get a loaf of crusty, hearty bread. You can add some flavor here too. An olive bread, a sweet bread with fruit (I’m not a fan of raisins, but a fruit and nut bread is actually a really delicious base for grilled cheese), baguette, ciabatta, whole wheat – whatever looks good to you. Have the bakery slice it for you and save yourself the terror of cutting off a finger with a serrated knife. (Just me? This hasn’t happened to you?)
02. Use super soft butter. You want butter on every surface of your bread. (Both sides!!) There is nothing more frustrating than trying to spread too cold butter and tearing your beautiful bread. Make sure that it is softer than room temperature, you want spreadable butter. Some people swear by mayonnaise for grilled cheese. If you’ve been here for a while, you know I’m phobic about it, so it’s not something I
keep allow in my house, but it’s really good for this job because it spreads well and has enough oil to crisp up your bread.
03. Use a variety of cheeses. Is one kind of cheese good? Absolutely. Are two or three varieties mixed together even more incredible? You betcha. All cheese tastes good, there is no debate about that. But some cheeses have incredible melting qualities. Some have unique flavor profiles. Pair up cheeses that melt really well with ones that have unique flavors. Like Havarti and Gouda, for example, in my Open-Faced Hot Honey and Ham Grilled Cheese. Both are delicious on their own, but Havarti is an excellent melting cheese and Gouda is a flavor explosion. Together they are a dynamic duo.
04. Shred your cheese. Slices are fine, but I really like to shred my cheese and mix them together in a bowl before putting them on my sandwich. I think that this is the best way to get a good mix. I also really love how the cheese melts when you put shredded on a sandwich instead of hand-cut cheese. I just don’t cut my slices as thinly or evenly as my sandwich deserves.
05. Shapes and sizes. Sometimes a regular old sandwich cut in half is what you are after. But if I am eating one with soup, I want it cut into fingers. If I am feeling really fancy, I want an open-faced toastie and want to knife and fork it. My kids like it cut into quarters without crust. I like how when you think outside of the box a little, it changes the grilled cheese experience entirely.
06. Flavor and texture. I think that the perfect bite has all or most of the flavor elements — sweet, salty, sour, bitter, umami. We also can’t forget about texture — creamy, crunchy, smooth, crispy. When you are looking in your fridge for grilled cheese ingredients, anything goes. But I like to think about the perfect bite. Is there a fresh element? Is there going to be some crunch? Am I feeling spicy?
07. Resist the urge to turn up the heat on the pan. You’re hungry and want a sandwich NOW, I get it. It has taken me years to break this habit with my husband. He used to think that the only way to cook pancakes was on high heat. The outside would burn and the inside would be raw. Medium-low and slow is actually the ideal heat setting for pancakes AND grilled cheese. The bread will crisp and turn a luscious golden brown and the cheese and toppings inside will be hot and melty.
08. Shop your pantry. I really like to put mustards, jams, fruit butter, honeys, chutneys, pickled jalapenos, pestos, tapenades, and relishes in my grilled cheese. It’s a great way to add sweetness or a huge pop of flavor or spice. My favorite combination is salty and sweet, so I love adding a thin layer of jam to my bread before adding the cheese. It’s incredible!
09. Shop your fridge. I think that a fresh element is always good in something that is, well, super rich. I like to add fresh herbs (thyme, basil, even the humble parsley), arugula, a few tomato slices, anything that will cut some of the fattiness in the grilled cheese. Fresh ingredients add bite and an entirely different element to the sandwich.
10. Change the cooking vessel. You probably are cooking your grilled cheese in a nonstick skillet. That’s fine, but if you have a cast-iron skillet use that. If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, get one. They are super cheap and will last forever. They conduct heat better than anything else and can go in the oven. I cook everything I can in one of those. My next favorite cooking vessel for grilled cheese is, wait for it… a waffle iron. There is a place that used to be on Cape that had the best grilled cheese and it was made with good bread, cheddar, and cooked in a waffle iron. It makes for the BEST crevices and crunchy bits. Don’t sleep on trying to cook your grilled cheese in a waffle iron.
Best Melting Cheeses For Grilled Cheese //
Roth Grand CruⓇ is an alpine-style cheese similar in style to Gruyère. It melts like a dream and is slightly sweet and nutty. It is an American-made cheese that is a delicious all-around cheese for eating, melting, and flavor.
Roth Original Havarti is super creamy and mild. It’s perfect for grilled cheese and also a perfect one to pair with a stronger-flavored cheese. You can also make killer combinations when you use flavored Havartis like Dill Havarti, Chipotle Havarti, or my personal favorite — Horseradish Havarti.
Best Cheeses for Adding a Punch of Flavor to Grilled Cheese //
Roth Gouda is a great melting cheese as well, but also has a distinct flavor that can only be found in a Gouda cheese. Punch it up even more and use a Smoked Gouda. I love this with thin slices of apple and Dijon mustard.
Buttermilk BlueⓇ is creamy, tangy, and mellow. I love the unexpected punch of blue cheese in a grilled cheese sandwich. It is too much for me on its own in a sandwich but paired with Havarti, there is plenty of blue cheese kick that is mellowed out by the creamy cheese. For this sandwich, I like a thin layer of fig jam and some prosciutto slices on a fruited bread with some finely chopped rosemary inside.
Chèvre might not be the first cheese you think of in a grilled cheese, but believe me when I tell you, it works. This goat’s milk cheese is tangy, but also mild. (Truth be told I don’t love goat cheese, but I really do like this one.) This is particularly delicious on an open-faced grilled cheese. I like to melt Gouda on the bottom, spread Chèvre on top of that, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and a handful of arugula. It’s a knife and fork-er, but a perfect brunch sammie.
Delicious Accompaniments to Add To Your Grilled Cheese Repertoire //
Otherwise known as: shop your pantry and fridge for things to put inside your grilled cheese. Just about anything is fair game, but get creative with your ingredients.
Jams and jellies
Fruit butters: apple, pumpkin, pear
Fresh fruit slices
Flavored butter: garlic herb butter, truffle butter, chipotle butter
Meats: bacon, prosciutto, sopressata,
These are just a few ideas to get you started. Once you start to play with ingredients, the possibilities are endless.
Ingredients for Open-Faced Hot Ham and Cheese //
This Open-Faced Hot Honey and Ham Grilled Cheese is my current go-to combination.
Hot Honey: I cannot get enough hot honey. Nothing is safe, I put it on and in everything. It is very easy to make at home, but I usually buy it. If you’d like to make your own, simply mix together 1 cup honey and 2 tablespoons hot sauce. Heat on the stove for a few minutes and then transfer to an airtight container.
Gouda and Havarti cheeses: I love this combination of cheeses. Roth Gouda is my favorite cheese and I love mixing it with Roth Havarti for its melting qualities.
Baby arugula: I love the bite and freshness it adds to a hot ham and cheese sandwich.
Dijon mustard: Because you can’t have a ham and cheese without mustard.
Apples: The thinly-sliced apples add the perfect amount of sweetness and a little crunch.
How to Make Grilled Cheese in the Oven //
I used a crusty white bread that I got at a local bakery. I buttered one side and toasted it, then took it out and spread a light layer of Dijon mustard on the opposite side of bread. Then I topped it with shredded Gouda and Havarti, a few thin slices of ham and apple. Add a little more cheese to help it all stick together. Put it back in the oven and toast until the cheese is melted and gooey. Take it out and add a grind of pepper, a handful of baby arugula, and a generous drizzle of hot honey.
This sandwich hits all the notes that make me happy. Crispy, crunchy, salty, sweet, creamy, spicy. It’s absolute perfection. I hope you love it as much as I do.
8 Best Cheeses For Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
1. Medium Cheddar
Ah, the grilled cheese standard. There&aposs a reason for that! Medium cheddar is balanced, properly melty, and endlessly customizable. Add some hot sauce! Add some apple slices! Add some fresh herbs! It&aposs all excellent.
If you&aposve been on the internet anytime in the past few years, you&aposve likely seen the melty cheese being melted over meat, bread, potatoes. That&aposs raclette, and it&aposs both a cheese and a dish.
The dish dates back to when shepherds would carry hunks of cheese with them to melt onto bread over the fire for their dinner. The cheese is meaty and rich, with a hunt of funk that fades when it&aposs melted. Throw a few slices of cooked bacon onto your raclette grilled cheese sandwich and thank us later.
3. Young Unsmoked Gouda
Gouda melts as well as your standard cheddar, but offers a tad more sweetness. No, there&aposs no sugar (all the milk sugar, known as lactose, in milk essentially vanishes in the cheesemaking process), but its unique make process imparts sweeter flavors to the cheese.
If you like your grilled cheese with jam or honey, make it with young gouda for a real "gouda" time (sorry). Aged gouda is wonderful for its crystalline texture and butterscotch flavor, but the young stuff melts much better.
4. Organic American Slices
The con of American cheese slices: it&aposs basically fake cheese, only 25 to 30 percent cheese, plus filler. The pro of American cheese slices: it&aposs delicious and the holy grail cheese for grilled cheese.
Meet yourself halfway, and buy the organic version that can be found at Trader Joe&aposs. You get that wonderfully fake cheesy flavor and a goopy melt but are supporting better farming practices by going organic. Wins all &aposround.
5. Fontina Val D'Aosta
This is not the Fontina you&aposre thinking of. Coming from the unpasteurized milk of the Valdaostan Red Spotted cows who graze in Italy near the Swiss Alps, this cheese is savory, complex, and has been made here since the 12th century.
It may not be your go-to for a cozy midnight grilled cheese, but if you&aposre looking to upgrade your dinner grilled cheese, consider this historic Italian melter. Add some saut mushrooms for extra umami.
6. Pepper Jack
Pepper Jack is uber melty and will up your grilled cheese ante with a hint of spice. If you can find Maple Leaf Pepper Jack from Wisconsin, their version includes fresh peppers rather than dry, imparting the fruitiness of the peppers as well as the spice. Cabot also makes a Habanero cheddar with taco seasoning if you want more heat and a more Southwest-inspired flavor.
Yeasty, meaty Taleggio has a sort of egg custard vibe that gets even more divinely savory on a grilled cheese sandwich. Add slow-roasted tomatoes or artichoke hearts for a more Italian panini feel. Or, take it in a more dessert-y direction with a smear of fig jam.
France&aposs answer to Gruyère (also awesome on a grilled cheese, incidentally), Comté is more hazelnutty and nuanced than its rich, brothy Swiss cousin. Think of it as a hug hello from your grandmother, as opposed to being mobbed by your family&aposs new puppy. Both are great, but sometimes you need the more comforting hug-like flavors of Comté. For extra richness, add a drizzle of a dark honey like buckwheat or chestnut.