Great Grilled Cheese
Discover the best techniques for making this simply perfect sandwich.
Buttered, toasty bread. Oozing, milky cheese. The grilled cheese sandwich is simple yet perfect in every way, even down to how quickly it can be prepared. Somehow, though, it is possible to mess up this timeless and modest dish: you could burn the bread, or even fail to melt the cheese. The horror! Working too quickly on too high heat is usually the culprit. "Slow and low" is the name of the game. The following techniques will lead you to the promised land!
Equipment: cutting board; butter knife; 8-inch sauté pan, cast iron skillet or griddle; spatula
Ingredients: 2 slices bread 1 tablespoon butter, softened 2 slices cheddar, Swiss, Munster or other cheese
1. Butter each slice of bread on one side with ½ tablespoon of butter and set aside. This might seem counterintuitive, but it is in fact the very best way to achieve a uniform taste and color. It actually helps to reduce the amount of butter needed to get the job done. If you spread soft butter on the outside (the side that touches the pan) of each slice of bread, you apply only as much as is needed, and at that you do it evenly. This means that each bite will look and taste the same. Consistency–literal and figurative–is always a goal.
Attention, Tomato Lovers!
If you enjoy a slice of tomato with your grilled cheese, place very thin slices of tomato (not with too many wet seeds) between the cheese slices. This keeps the tomato from moistening the bread, and allows the cheese to melt better by being closer to the toasting bread and thus the heat source. The same method is equally good for bacon, caramelized onions, or sliced apples.
2. Place one slice of bread in the pan, butter-side down, and place the pan over medium-high heat. Top the bread with two slices of cheese, then top with the second slice of bread, butter side up. Once the pan is warm, after about one minute, place
a lid on top of the skillet and lower the heat to medium-low. After about 2 minutes, remove the lid and flip the sandwich to toast the second slice of bread. Cover with the lid and cook for 1-2 more minutes, or until golden brown.
Makes 1 sandwich.
Cheese and Bread Selection Matters
“Garbage in, garbage out. So, use the good stuff!”
Don't skimp on the cheese or the bread. Use a good quality cheese, and a tender and uniform slice of bread. Cheddar and Munster are my favorites, but I also love Havarti and Gouda, Comte and Swiss. Pre-sliced bread from the grocery store makes great grilled cheese; whole wheat, white, and potato are always good. Artisan breads like sourdough and pumpernickel add distinct flavor.