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The Perfect Grilled Cheese

I know this is fairly basic and may be a dumb question but though I am fairly deft at cooking, I cannot get a grilled cheese to be perfect, in the way I remember my mom's ones being. I am looking for the methods of cooking a Perfect grilled cheese sandwich. Though I know that there are many new flavor combos that people are trying, I am just wondering about the most basic of grilled cheeses: cheese slapped between two slices...

Just wondering if you 'Hounds could use your expertise to give me any tried and true methods for making it perfect.

-What type of bread and cheese?
-What type of pan do you cook it in?
-Butter, oil, both, something else?
-How high should the heat be set?
-How many times do you flip? How long should you wait before you flip?

Any ideas or methods? Thanks y'all!

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  1. Once a month I throw a grilled cheese and poker night at my place. You know 20 to 40 of my nearest and dearest. Right now I have a Garland range with a 2 foot flattop griddle. We cook the GC's on that. We always have many different cheese and breads on hand. We always use butter.

    1. For us, it's 2 slices of bread...kind of crappy, Nature's Own Honey Wheat (hey, it's what my son loves and I'm not usually the one to eat these)...but have also done it on rye bread.
      Softened butter or Smart Balance is spread on one side of each piece of bread, not glopping it on but making sure it's a thin coating all the way to the crust.
      Skillet is either my cast iron OR my new green pan (which so many on the cookware board totally dissed but to me, it's awesome!!!) I use a dry pan, not sprayed or greased in any way because you have the butter on the bread and that's all you need.
      Cut the bread slices in half...put one slice butter side down in skillet.
      Cheese: regular deli-sliced Boar's Head White American or Muenster cheese, one entire slice to each half.
      Top with other piece of bread, buttered side up.
      Turn on heat to medium and cover. Check after a few minutes to see if the bottom is browned yet; if so, flip it over, cover and then check to see if other side is now brown and crispy.
      That's it for the way we make our grilled cheese. I've never used oil, nor have I ever greased the pan. Quite Spartan, true but they come out crispy and not greasy. (when our sons were 5-ish, one of their friends moms said "Valerie, I've seen your beautiful fluffy crispy grilled cheese and my daughter keeps asking me to make it like yours!!" I think she just made hers like put cheese on bread, run under broiler...end of discussion...she hated cooking.)

      3 Replies
      1. re: Val

        Great, thank you for the tips! I must remember to cover it. I think a lot of my problem is impatience and I keep checking to flip it too early, so it sticks from all the moving around. Also I think you're right about muenster cheese. That's what my mom used to use. Unfortunately they don't sell it anywhere near me! :(

        Thanks again for the tips.

        1. re: wahwahweewee

          I agree mostly with val I grew up with my mom melting the butter in the pan. When I was about 20 a friend introduced me to the butter the bread method and that is far superior.

          The only thing I might disagree about is coverig the pan. The way I know when to flip is when the butter on the top slice has melted. Then it is time to flip. You don't need to check underneath.

          Once you flip wait till the cheese inside looks melted before checking.

          For a classic, IMO, it has to be white bread with American cheese.

          That's not to say I don't do a lot of variations, the most likely to be adding sliced tomato. But classic is classic.

        2. re: Val

          Val, I cook GC sandwiches on my GREEN PAN too!!!

          My method is simple, no oiling of the pan or buttering of bread. Place two slices of Extra Sharp cheese on some type of whole wheat bread. Place on medium heated green pan. Take parchment paper and cover top of GC sandwich and then place heavier pan on top of paper. Heat for a few minutes, flip sandwich, reapply parchment and place heavier pan on top.

          PUURRR-FECT toasted, grill cheese cooked on a "eco" pan :)

        3. Just what I like--
          Using rye bread with caraway seeds
          The seeds work well with the cheese
          Slip a tomato slice in there and sprinkle salt and pepper on it before grilling...I use the toaster oven

          2 Replies
          1. re: zzDan

            yep, I didn't mention that to jazz ours up, we love adding a schmear of salsa in the sandwich...oy! But I was just trying to answer OP's question without embellishment. And adding crisp bacon, well, of course...that's a whole other thread of what to ADD to the grilled cheese to livey it up.We've had long threads on that topic, too.

            1. re: Val

              Heh.... I limited myself too. Definitely would add a little ham or bacon with a preference for Swiss cheese. Not ye old Kraft singles

          2. Bread-seeded Rye
            Cheese-Sweet Munchee
            Heavy Cast Iron Frying Pan
            Butter
            Medium
            Flip Once
            ====
            I butter the botom slice of bread and put in pan, then add cheese and cover with top slice of bread. I do not butter this. I cook about five minutes on medium (gas range). I then lift the sandwich out on a spatula and put a pat of butter into the pan, then flip and return the sandwich to the pan. Cook approximately another 2-3 minutes. Remove, place on paper toweling to remove a little excess grease,transfer to plate, cut in half and serve.

            I do not like any tomato or meat added into the sandwich.

            If planning on dipping in tomato soup, I prefer to use a dark pumpernickel and swiss.

            I also like Harvarti, but on non-sseded rye

            1. I've had good success with a cast iron pan. There was another earlier Chow post about adding jams to grilled cheese sandwiches. There were lots of great combos in that post! Check it out!

              1. Grilled Cheese sandwiches are what we all grew up with, so I go back to the family standard- Mom always made the grilled cheese sandwiches on the waffle iron. When I eat a pan-fried grilled cheese, I feel like I'm settling for second-best, and I think I was 40 years old before it dawned on me that the rest of the world really does use a pan or griddle. We have made them on the George Foreman Grill (close the lid) for a similar result as the waffle iron, but you know, for tradition's sake, I prefer it from a waffler. So, dig out the old waffle iron for something different, spray Pam on the surfaces, put a little butter on both bread surfaces, and fill in with your favorite cheese. I think Mom usually used a sharp American, cut from a block of cheese, not the individually-wrapped slices. We have tried Velveeta, but it made a gooey mess (delicous, but a mess.)

                1. Grilled cheese is awesome and one of the best comfort foods around. I use a cast iron skillet, challa bread, old chedder and butter. I put the pan on a really low heat (I find this way the bread gets perfectly golden brown and the cheese gets perfectly melty without being too greasy), and then flip only once. The flipped side cooks much faster than the original side. I also like a little bit of thinly sliced onion in my GC, but perhaps I'm abnormal.

                  1. Grilled cheese sandwiches allow for a great degree of interpretation, but IMHO, if you're looking for good ole U.S.A. apple pie comfort food, then the grilled cheese sandwich cannot vary much if it hopes to rank among the best of the American breed. I think it has been fairly well standardized by diners around the U.S.

                    Bread: Basic American White Sandwich Loaf (e.g Wonder Bread). Slightly staler than fresh helps.

                    Cheese: American (Pref. Kraft American Singles). 1 or 2 slices (to your preference)

                    Pan: Any pan with bottom thicker than 1/4". Non-stick helps. Low sides help. Griddle meets criteria. Cast iron is overkill.

                    Fat: Margarine or Butter. Not critical. Dropped in pan is traditional, but spread on bread also works - but with a decidedly different texture.

                    Heat: Low. This is the most critical factor. Too high and your bread is burnt before the cheese is melted. If you add the butter to the pan and it browns before you add the sandwich, it's already ruined.

                    Flips: One. Feel free to peek before you flip. Don't expect the cheese to be melted before you flip. The flip time is only about the color of the bread on the bottom.

                    Oh, and one more thing. Flip after to remove it from the pan so that the most recently heated side is up. That way it won't steam itself from below.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Carbert

                      Carbert that is almost exactly how I made GC sandwiches. Has to be on wonder bread with kraft singles.
                      I melt the butter in the microwave (or pan) and then brush it onto the bread (1 side only). Then I add 2 slices of Kraft singles. As a kid, I absolutely adored adding corn kernals in between the 2 Kraft singles.
                      Then I put it in the pan and leave it at medium low. Carbert is right, the cheese will not be melted on the flip but it will have started to slightly stick to the bread. You shouldn't have to flip it again, but I make sure to leave it in the pan until the cheese is fully melted...just lift one corner of the bread to check.
                      I find that the low heat makes sure that you have a nice melty sandwiches without the bread getting too brown.

                    2. combinations:
                      wheat w/ cheddar
                      pumpernickel with jarlsberg
                      sourdough with mozzarella, parmesan, and romano -- dipped into tomato basil soup

                      methods:
                      -one of the easiest and sure-fire ways to get a crisp bread is to use a toaster... you can butter the breads and turn those sides to the outside of the sandwich
                      -george foreman grills are great for doing both sides simultaneously -- butter the outsides and grill
                      -if in a pan, as others do, just butter the bread and not the pan; medium-high heat; put sandwich in, cover with pan or aluminum foil coated brick, then flip and finish

                      1. Of course traditionial is white bread and American cheese, Buttered griddled or in a fry pan. Dear ole Mom.

                        I have been doing kicked up versions with Pumpernickel and thicker slice Sharp Cheddar and twice with a Vermont White Cheddar--'gasmic.

                        And thats just straight. Of course you can add onion, tomatoe bacon. But straight is best.

                        Try dark rye also vs pumpernickel for a different taste.

                        1. plain store bought sandwich bread (white is classic, but we usually have wheat). spread Country Dijon mustard very thinly on one slice of bread. top with grated medium cheddar. I think grated is very important. the best thing is to spread the outside of the sandwich on both sides with melted butter, but I often melt in the pan. Cook over slow heat so that cheese canmelt thoroughly while outside crisps. I use a non stick or regular skillet. haven't tried it on cast iron-I want a light texture here, but crispy.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: cocktailhour

                            I knew someone else would mention a little Dijon mustard in there! Its my favorite addition to a great grilled cheese-unexpected kick! Esp if using a nice marble rye for the bread... I vary up the cheese selection :-)

                            1. re: fmcoxe6188

                              I love mustard also - usually put it on. Don't know why I didn't think to mention it.

                              I also like making pizza style grilled cheese - pizza sauce or leftover red sauce and mozarella... smoked mozarella in there too... YUM!

                          2. Being on a budget I eat alot of grilled cheese, not only are they money friendly but comforting.
                            I like rye or white. Wheat's ok too.
                            I've recently been using bacon fat as the lub, it adds a element of flavor and also grills the bread toa nice crispy brown. Better than butter or maragine. Spread directly on the bread.
                            Heavy cast iron frying pan, I have a flat cast iron griddle that works really well. Medium heat, preheated pan.
                            Boars Head American or sliced cheddar, its yellow Am. in NYC, white in NE.
                            Good flavored sliced tomato, you can lightly grill this first if you want. Hot tomato assists in melting the cheese.
                            At least three slices bacon or tuna salad for a tuna melt.
                            You really need to flip only once. Press down, diner style.
                            Enjoy.

                            1. - White bread (preferably homemade) and sharp cheddar. NEVER processed cheese slices, as I don't consider them food.
                              - Regular on non-stick frying pan
                              - butter, but I put the butter in the pan not on the bread. I live in a hot climate, so I have to keep butter in the fridge, so it's always hard when I start to cook.
                              - medium heat
                              - flip once, when the bottom is golden brown.

                              And I eat it with ketchup to dip in, and sliced dill pickles on the side.

                              My secret is to use butter, but put the butter in the *pan* not on the bread. You get a nice even coating that way. I use sharp cheddar, and put one slice of white bread, put on the sliced cheese and microwave for about 30 seconds. That softens the cheese slightly, so it's nice and melted before the bread burns.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                the sweetness of the ketchup is the perfect complement...

                              2. My roommate just had a wine and cheese party for his birthday - so that meant tons of left-over cheese! So the other day I made up a new grilled cheese sandwich for fun. It turned out pretty well.

                                -2 slices of crusty artisan "farmers" white bread (also left-over from party)
                                -Brie cheese
                                -Thinly sliced yellow onion
                                -Dried cranberries
                                -Butter one side of each piece of bread
                                -Cook on medium/low heat, have patience because the onions need time to get soft and delicious. Try to flip only once. Press sandwich down when cooking to make it flatter.

                                And that's it! For normal everyday grilled cheese I use the typical ingredients (white or whole grain bread, cheddar - not processed, butter) but I've ALWAYS added very thinly sliced onions to it. It's the way my dad has always made grilled cheese and I love it. Served with sweet bread n' butter pickles and ketchup on the side. Sometimes I'll add a little touch of sriracha to the ketchup because I'm addicted to the stuff. Yum!

                                1. It's got to be low heat for me - sometimes take a half hour to make a grilled cheese. Bread and cheese type doesn't matter so much to me but as far as I am concerned the bread must be buttered on both sides of the sandwich. One flip when the sandwich reaches the right color for you on the first side.

                                  1. My perfect grilled cheese recipe comes from Laura Werlin's cookbook "Great Grilled Cheese: 50 Innovative Recipes for Stovetop, Grill and Sandwich Maker".
                                    You absolutely must use butter! I like it with sourdough or challah and a tasty cheddar. I use a nonstick pan at medium-high heat. Read the recipe for cooking times and flipping instructions (there are 2 "flippings").

                                    Laura has a few great tips:
                                    (1) Butter the bread not the pan.
                                    (2) Use shredded cheese (it melts much better).
                                    (3) Cook the sandwiches covered for two minutes to help the cheese melt thoroughly.
                                    (4) After flipping,press the sandwiches into the pan slightly.

                                    The recipe is here:
                                    http://www.recipezaar.com/the-best-gr...

                                    1. most important is to cook it on a very low heat. It can take a long time but it gets super crispy. Butter the outsides of the bread. Sometimes I weight it with a skillet on top; more often not.

                                      The rest is personal taste but I like real cheese as opposed to processed slices, a light grinding of pepper, and ever so thinly sliced onion. Next time I'm going to try Val's method of covering it (at least while it's on its first side). Sounds interesting. Oddly, it can take a while to make a good grill cheese: slicing and fitting on the cheese - just so, arranging thin onion - just so . . . long cooking time . . . kind of funny when you think about it . . . god is in the details i s'pose.

                                      1. Like many CHers, I like to try out whatever cheeses or breads I have on hand. But still my favorite is homemade white with cheddar or muenster. When I'm feeling fancy, I make GC with 9 grain bread, extra sharp cheddar, a few thin slices of granny smith apples and a dab of onion chutney.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Green Omnivore

                                          leftover croissants with raclette cheese and a dab of strawberry jam done on a pannini grill. I put it in the weird but good (not healthy) category.

                                        2. You have to try Comte cheese in a GC!!!!

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: bigfellow

                                            since this thread started I am threatening a GC only nite at home. I will try the Comte cheese, but have you ever tried a cave aged gruyere? it' s my cheese du jour, but being thrifty, I don't want to waste it in a GC if someone has already tried it and it's just so so....then again, how can you go wrong?

                                            1. re: bistrobabe

                                              I have. It is good, but Comte, Dubliner and Oka are my mainstays for a GC.

                                              1. re: bigfellow

                                                no one mentioned sides here...mine was always my mom's bread and butter pickles, but that might not cut it with my clan.

                                                1. re: bistrobabe

                                                  gherkins, really good quality bacon and of course mushrooms.

                                                2. re: bigfellow

                                                  I like to use a good English farmhouse cheddar,
                                                  or Midnight Moon goat cheese.
                                                  But I agree, Comte is sublime in a GC.

                                            2. my favorite way to do it is with seeded rye bread (unseeded i call "what's the point rye bread"), swiss cheese, thinly sliced red onion, tomato, salt and pepper. If i'm feeling self-indulgent, i'll serve it with the boars head peppered mayo for dipping. I cook it on medium, buttering the bread, and flip once, pressed often to melt the cheese. It gets crispy, golden, and with melty delicious cheese.

                                              1. In my opinion, a grilled cheese can have any number of cheeses and other fillings, but must always be made with buttered bread. REAL salted butter, not margarine or other substitute.

                                                I do make Italian panini with olive oil, but do not consider them to be the same as a grilled cheese.

                                                1. All right, all this talk of GC samaches has got me inspired. Going to do a tailgater in two weeks, GC samaches and a big pot of chili. Should do the job. We have a huge portable grill that should work.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: duck833

                                                    sounds great... I wonder if you could do a GC with cornbread? would be a great compliment to the chili..

                                                    1. re: bistrobabe

                                                      There's a local Venezuelan place that makes a "•Maize'Wich, a grilled cheese sandwich on sweet cornbread". It is terrific

                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                        and I thought I was being original...great name, though MaizeWich.

                                                  2. I also use Cashel blue cheese and pecans in a GC.