Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Grilled Cheese (but were too busy to ask)
Everyone (?) knows how to make grilled cheese—college kids make them on their desks using a clothes iron—but not everyone knows how to make a perfect one. Longer slow cooking makes for delectably crunchy bread and thoroughly melted cheese. There is no reason why the everyday can’t be perfect.
2 slices wheat or white bread
3 slices (about 2 ounces) easily melted cheese, such as American, muenster, or white cheddar
1 tablespoon softened butter or olive oil
Optional Fillings (pick one)
3 slices bacon, cooked until crisp
3 thin (less than ¼-inch) slices tomato
2 thin slices ham or smoked turkey
Heat a heavy, flat (cast iron is perfect) skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. Make the sandwiches, placing one of the fillings, if using, between slices of cheese, not next to the bread.
Butter Method: Spread the butter over both sides of the sandwich, dividing it evenly. Set the bread into the skillet; there should be barely a sizzle. Cook until crisp and deep golden brown. This should take a full 4 to 5 minutes. if the sandwich is browning faster than that, lower the heat. Flip and repeat.
Olive Oil Method. Pour enough olive oil into the skillet or onto the griddle to make a thin even film. Grill the sandwiches as in the butter method, but lift the sandwich and replenish the oil before flipping.
Grilled Cheese Gone Fancy
Here are dressed-up ideas for an everyday favorite. If butter is your grilling medium of choice, any grilled cheese sandwich can be dressed up by pressing herb leaves onto the butter before grilling. Match the herb to the filling: perhaps parsley for a plain grilled cheese, basil for a grilled cheese and tomato, or cilantro for the grilled pepper Jack and chicken below.
Each makes 1 sandwich
Sun-dried Tomato Goat Cheese – Beat ¼ cup softened goat cheese with 2 tablespoons finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes (soaked and drained if necessary) until smooth. Season liberally with freshly ground black pepper. Spread over one slice of bread, top with another and grill as directed above.
Smoked Gouda and Mushroom – Toss ½ cup coarsely grated smoked gouda and ¼ cup coarsely chopped sauteed mushrooms together in a small bowl. Pile onto one slice of bread, top with another and grill as directed above.
Pepper Jack and Chicken – Toss ½ coarsely cup grated pepper Jack cheese and 1/3 cup shredded cooked chicken (or turkey) together in a small bowl. Pile onto one slice of bread, top with another and grill as directed above.