In this world, there are two types of perfect grilled cheeses. The first is the kind you make when you get home at 3 a.m. after a few too many drinks, when all rules are thrown out the window and anything tastes good, including burnt bread with unmelted cheese.
Then there’s the perfect grilled cheese you should be making all the time: golden-brown bread, melty cheese, supreme satisfaction. The rules are strict but justified in order to obtain this type of sandwich. Because there’s not much wiggle room between a perfect grilled cheese creation and a subpar, last-minute snack when it comes to something so simple.
This is where we come in. Look no further for the rules of perfect grilled cheese.
Rules For a Perfect Grilled Cheese: Carefully Consider Your Fillings
Complete disclosure: There was a lot of debate about whether or not we should put fillings on our perfect grilled cheese. This is a sandwich that doesn’t require fillings, but it does enjoy them. But not just any filling will do. You’ll have to be strategic in your selections. To keep your sandwich from getting soggy, avoid anything watery (unless it’s a summer tomato in peak season).
Remember that anything you wouldn’t eat raw on its own (mushrooms, yellow onion, bacon) will not cook in the sandwich; you’ll have to cook it ahead of time. Finally, consider flavor balance: Something bright and sharp to counteract the fatty cheese and buttery bread.
We tossed around a lot of ideas before Molly Baz settled on her final recipe, including pickled red onions, kimchi, spicy tomato jam, sauerkraut, and cilantro chutney. Our hearts were won over by the combination of sweet-toasty charred scallions and fiery-fresh spicy pickled jalapeos.
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So make as many of your late-night, five-minute grilled cheeses as you want. We’re not going to stop you. But in the light of day, when you’ve got ten minutes, a jar of mayo, and the desire to do something special for yourself, this recipe is for you.
Rules For a Perfect Grilled Cheese: Use Bread with a Tight Crumb
That is to say, no holey sourdoughs or light focaccia here. You don’t want your cheese to spill out and burn on the bottom of your pan, do you? We prefer white of the best bread on most days and save grainy loaves, ryes, and whole-wheats for other sandwiches, but the choice is yours.
Rules For a Perfect Grilled Cheese: Use a melting cheese
We love parmesan, Manchego, and feta as much as the next person, but we’re not making grilled cheese with them. Some cheeses are made to melt, while others aren’t. Our recipe calls for a combination of American (for its creamy consistency) and sharp cheddar (to counteract all of the mildness). That’s a fail-safe combination, but if you want to experiment, go ahead. You’ll be fine as long as your cheeses are in the melting family.
Rules For a Perfect Grilled Cheese: Be Patient
If you rush the grilled-cheese process, two things can happen. In one scenario, you remove the sandwich from the pan before the bread turns a deep golden-brown color. You may be hungry and tired, but accept that getting perfectly toasted bread takes some time. We’re also not sorry because it only takes a few minutes (5–7 minutes).
But, more often than not, the bread is toasted (or worse, burned!) before the cheese melts. When your heat is too high and your pan is too hot, this happens: The outside blackens before the inside becomes gooey.
Here’s how to do it correctly: Begin with a cold pan (same as you would if you were trying to get crispy skin on a filet of fish or chicken thighs). This allows the pan to heat up slowly, evenly distributing the heat as the cheese melts gently but steadily and the bread develops the perfect crunch and color.
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