Grilled cheese sandwiches are quite possibly the easiest comfort foods you can make. The amount of satisfaction you get eating a piping hot, golden, crunchy, oozy grilled cheese is tenfold the amount of effort you need to exert to make it. When I make this sandwich, I tend to enjoy going the extra mile and putting in all sorts of wonderful things to make it even tastier.
I suppose that’s the reason why I had the idea of going the same extra mile writing about it on my blog. I even made a video and wrote such a long post, as though making grilled cheese was some sort of science! Whatever you may call it, I will say making it is a lot of fun. As satisfying as it is to eat, I love building the sandwiches and taking it to the pan, listening to the sizzle of the butter as it toasts the bread. Watching the cheese bubble and melt. Even the act of flipping the sandwich is a fun challenge! Check out this video to see what I mean:
There are no rules when it comes to making grilled cheese, but there are quite a few factors that come into play when we’re talking about making a REALLY good one. Even though I’ve given some tips in the video, there’s nothing quite like a post like this to express absolutely EVERYTHING I have to say about making grilled cheese sandwiches, which you know, could be an art if you wanted it to to be. Anyway, let’s get into the nitty gritty of it!
Bread. For me, a good sourdough bread is the best choice for grilled cheese. When toasted, it gets a chewy yet crunchy texture that adds to the eating experience. Plus, its signature sour taste adds dimension but also balances the richness of the cheese. Most crusty European-style bread will also do. Some people prefer to use day-old bread because it has more of a crunchy bite.
That said, there is really no reason to be a snob towards normal loaf bread. I highly recommend buying those labeled Thick-Slice Loaf Bread. It holds in the grilled cheese sandwich more capably than normal thin-sliced bread, and it doesn’t turn soggy as easily.
Butter. Now that you’ve chosen your bread, it’s time to butter the sides in preparation for toasting. Some people like to add batter into the pan, followed by the sandwich, but I ALWAYS like to spread softened butter directly onto my bread slices. This allows me to control the amount of the butter better. The trick to getting that golden toast is to cover the entire one side of the bread.
I’m not saying to lay on the butter real thick, but don’t scrimp on the butter either. Just spread a good, even amount on the entire surface of the bread. Also, use a good brand of butter because it will make a difference in the end. I always prefer unsalted, but you are welcome to use salted butter if that’s what you like.
Some people like to use mayonnaise in place of butter, and while it also gives the bread that golden crust, it’s a matter of preference. I like butter better than mayonnaise so this was an easy choice for me. If you like mayo more, then use mayo.
Cheese. Which is the best cheese to use for grilled cheese sandwiches? For me, it really comes down to two things: First, the meltability of the cheese. Second, whether or not you actually enjoy eating said cheese. Personally, I like using Monterey Jack Cheeses the most for my sandwiches because I find it doesn’t produce as much oil. The only thing is it doesn’t quite have the punch that Cheddar Cheese does, so what I usually do is use a combination of cheeses to optimize flavor.
Some other yummy cheeses that melt well and are easy to find in local supermarkets include Fontina Cheese, Harvati Cheese, and Colby Jack Cheese. You can also use mozzarella, but I recommend it in conjunction with a stronger-flavored cheese. Blue cheese and mozzarella actually go really well together! If you want a more sosyal and expensive cheese for your sandwich, go for Gruyere.
I want to mention that it’s worth buying whole cheeses and shredding them yourself. Pre-shredded cheese usually has this weird powdery coating formed by the additives that stop it from clumping up in the package. There are good-quality pre-shredded cheeses in existence, but I think it’s always a better option to shred your own cheese, even if it adds a bit more time and effort to the cooking process. (Honestly though, does it really?)
One last thing about picking your cheese: Although there are a lot of good cheeses out there, I do recommend buying the ones with the ‘Real California Milk’ seal if available. (You can see it on the packaging of the Joseph Farms cheese photo above.) This post isn’t sponsored by Real California Milk, but since I have worked with them, went behind the scenes at cheese companies with them, and tried a lot of the cheeses they certify, I am confident about recommending cheese brands with their seal. You can find at least one brand with the seal in every major supermarket these days.
Cooking tips. Every sandwich starts out with two pieces of buttered bread. You butter only one side of the bread, then flip one of them so that the clean, unbuttered side is facing up.
Start constructing your grilled cheese sandwich on the clean unbuttered side of the piece of bread you just flipped.
Once you’re done, take the other piece of buttered bread and place it on top, buttered side up, to sandwich everything in. Just remember that the sides with the butter should always face outward, and the clean unbuttered sides should always be on the inside.
Now heat up a pan over medium-low. You don’t want the heat too high or you may burn the sandwiches. Place your sandwich onto the pan, then cover. (Not necessarily with a small glass cover like the one I’m using, but it’s the only transparent lid I have.) This method helps the cheese melt before the bread browns too much, thanks to the heat and steam trapped inside the lid.
You want to leave the sandwich covered for about a minute or two, until you see the cheese begin to melt. Use your spatula to gently press the sandwich against the pan, smooshing the two pieces of bread into each other. You want to make it stick together since this also helps make the flipping process a little easier.
Then, flip the sandwich and cook the other side the same way, for another minute or two. (I sometimes forget to put the lid back on for the other side. It should be fine either way.) The sandwich should become golden on both sides. Now it’s ready to be served!
Slice it in half whichever way you please, diagonally or horizontally or vertically. I like a diagonal slice. I give myself a moment with the melty cheese before I devour.
Now that I’ve covered the basic building blocks and cooking tips to make a great grilled cheese sandwich, I will now share five of my personal favorite ways to up your grilled cheese game! Don’t worry, nothing fancy or complex here. Most of these sandwiches are made with ingredients you may already have in your pantry.
Jam Grilled Cheese Sandwich
This is possibly the easiest combination ever: jam and cheese. You can use sweet jam or savory jam, and you basically just spread the jam onto your bread then add the cheese. You can absolutely put jam on both pieces of bread if you like a very strong jam flavor to permeate, but I prefer just putting a good generous amount on one bread. Just remember to strike a balance between the jam and the cheese you decide to use.
Although I do prefer a savory jam in my grilled cheese, sweet jams also work. It’s the same principle as how cheese tastes great with honey. My personal favorite fruit jam to use with cheese is Cherry Jam. The tartness of the jam gives the grilled cheese an oomph, and it holds its own against the cheese really well. I do have to say that you have to pick up a good jam here. Artificially-flavored jams are usually just sweet and not nuanced enough to give you the best experience.
I realize the jams I used in the video are not exactly readily available, so I found myself a local gourmet jam purveyor called Whisk. I just ordered a couple of their savory jams so I will update this space once I try them out. As for the fruit jam, I recommend Bonne Maman.
Nori Grilled Cheese Sandwich
I’m not sure how much of a surprise this is to you, but cheese and nori are actually a great match! Nori adds this great umami taste that kind of elevates the savoriness of the cheese. I honestly don’t know why this isn’t a more normal thing lol.
Again, you can put some nori on the top and bottom of your cheese layer if you want a stronger nori taste, but since I used flavored nori from Thailand here, I decided to go with just one. You can use Japanese or Korean nori sheets as well. Personally, I find that the giant crispy Thai nori sheets work best for this because they don’t get super soggy once cooked, compared to the others.
I feel like this sandwich should be paired with some nori fries, don’t you think?
Spicy Kimchi Grilled Cheese Sandwich
This one is inspired by my trip to a cheese farm, as I mentioned, but I’m pulling out all the spicy stops here. See, I’m the type of gal who makes a sandwich with sliced cheese and lots of Sriracha, so putting hot stuff on cheese is like a normal day in the office for me. This one is pretty legit though, because gochujang or Korean red pepper paste can be really spicy if you add a lot. It’s also salty, so with this sandwich, a mild cheese would be best. It will also allow the kimchi to shine.
Speaking of kimchi, I highly highly recommend making your way to a Korean grocery to buy homemade kimchi. Supermarket kimchi is not good! My brothers and I all love kimchi so we tend to have some at home on a regular basis, but we always make our way to one of the Korean stores in Quezon City to stock up. If you use mediocre kimchi for this sandwich, you will definitely taste it. If you’ve invested on some good cheese, might as well do the sandwich right!
By the way, am I the only one totally in love with the fiery red center of this particular grilled cheese sandwich? As a lover of spicy food, this color makes my mouth water.
Pesto & Tomato Grilled Cheese Sandwich
This one is pretty self-explanatory. It’s pesto plus tomato, and I would’ve added some chicken except I got lazy to prep some lol. It’s still pretty good though. Of course, the taste of this sandwich will be hugely dependent on the pesto you use. There are quite a lot of good ones out there. The one I used for this recipe is by a local brand called Chili Asylum, and it’s not bad. I do find it expensive though, for something made with malunggay. Still, #supportlocal.
With this one, I do not recommend putting pesto on both pieces of bread. Pesto usually has such a strong flavor and scent, so I’m pretty sure it will be too much. If you add a lot of cheese to compensate, then the sandwich itself will be too much of everything. We’re gunning for something fresh-tasting but a bit indulgent, with the crunchy tomatoes and nutty pesto and melty cheese. We’re not looking to overwhelm our tastebuds!
I always refer to this sandwich as a date-worthy sandwich because it turns out so neat! You can see the layers, with lovely contrasting colors, very clearly. It’s a grilled cheese you can eat with poise. Maybe.
Basil, Egg, & Ham Grilled Cheese Sandwich
I don’t like to play favorites, but this one might be it by just a smidge. It’s because I love sunny-side up eggs, which this has. Obviously, you can take a pick between scrambled or sunny-side up when you make this, but there’s nothing like that golden yolk oozing alongside the cheese. NOTHING. I love the way the basil kind of balances everything out, which is why even though you can use whatever greens you please here, I still recommend using basil.
You can use whatever ham or bacon you like when you build this sandwich. If you use a particularly salty or sweet ham, maybe use a milder tasting cheese. If it’s a normal ham, I recommend a mixture of cheddar plus a mild cheese.
The way this sandwich just oozed and oozed reminded me of a waterfall. If waterfalls were yellow and shiny and delicious, that is. It was a terrible idea to be writing this post late at night. I cannot wait to wake up tomorrow morning and make myself some of this!
BONUS! Cheesy Gochujang Pork Sandwich
This is a recipe I made for Real California Milk last year. It’s basically spicy gochujang pork smothered in cheese, but you can make it grilled cheese style or Philly cheesesteak style. Go check it out!
Okay, this might have ended up being an excessively long post just about grilled cheese sandwiches, but guess what? I am not ashamed lol! When I first had the idea of putting this post together, I felt a twinge of excitement at all the combinations. But it could not compare to the realtime excitement I felt when I was in the moment of actually making the sandwiches.
After the shoot, when my two brothers and I sat down to eat the five grilled cheese sandwiches I’d just made for lunch, I was already thinking about how I would store the leftovers. As it turns out, I didn’t need to think about any of that. Five sandwiches versus three people? Somehow we managed to finish every bite, every crumb, of these grilled cheese sandwiches! They are all so good in their own ways. <3
Because I am totally enamored with this entire grilled cheese thing, I geeked out and read what the experts had to say about the fascinating world of grilled cheese. Here are my favorite articles:
- This article from Huffpost actually highlights one of California’s best Toma cheese makers, Point Reyes. Having tried it, I completely agree!
- Many will not agree with the first point in this Spruce Eats article, but this is still the easiest read for those who just want an idea what cheese to use for their sandwiches.
- This Forbes article has some pretty great and detailed tips!
- Finally, this article from The Kitchn tells you what to avoid when making grilled cheese!