Ok, I know, this isn’t really groundbreaking. But I’ve discovered that there are a multitude of ways to really screw up grilled cheese sandwiches.
Fortunately, making a really fantastic grilled cheese sandwich requires only three ingredients.*
- 2 slices of Really Good Bread (I like sourdough. If all you have is Wonderbread… I’m sorry. Wheat breads are equally delicious, and stand up well to stronger cheeses.)
- Cheese – something melty. process American works, but Swiss or provolone or any of a number of other cheeses you can get in the deli will give you more flavor.
- Butter – the real thing people. This ain’t a sammich for your diet.
You also need three tools – a knife, a heavy bottomed flat skillet, and a spatula. Oh and a plate. And probably your fingers.
Take your heavy bottomed flat skillet and put it on the stove. Do not turn the stove on.
Take some butter, and smear it all over one side of a slice of bread. Do not be skimpy. You want delicious crispy brown goodness, you need fat. And that’s what butter is. So lay it on there.
Now lay that butter-side down on your skillet, and turn it on to MEDIUM HEAT. My stove goes from 1-10 + “HIGH”. I set it on 5.
On top of that slice of bread lay one layer of cheese.** If you’re using anything else, lay a thin layer of that on top. You don’t want your sandwich to get too thick, or it’ll not get hot and gooey in the middle before you burn the outside.
And burned grilled cheese is just a sadness that I’m not prepared for. And, as the saying goes, your patience will be rewarded.
Now, butter up another slice of bread, and lay it on top of the cheese butter side UP. While you’ve been adding to your sandwich, your heavy skillet is slowly heating up the sandwich. Slow heat is important at this stage, because you want to melt the cheese and not burn the bread. After about 5 minutes or so, start checking the bread for done-ness. I like a good deep golden brown. You might like more or less than that. Totally up to you.
When the appropriate level of grilled-cheese doneness has been reached, use the spatula to flip the sandwich. Do this quickly, so as not to spill sandwich goo everywhere. (Another reason not to put too much in your grilled cheese).
This second heat phase won’t take long at all – maybe 2 minutes. Watch it carefully. At this point the cheese is melted, and you’re just browning the other side of the bread.
Once you’ve reached Ideal Brown-ness on your other side, transfer the sandwich to a plate.
Cut it however you like, and savor the delicious goodness.*** The crispy, brown, buttery bread. The gooey cheese. The blistering roof of your mouth because you didn’t let the sandwich cool long enough.
Ok maybe not so much on that last one.
*You can add many things to this sandwich. Thinly sliced turkey or ham. Very thinly sliced tomato. Whole green chilis, sliced thinly. Sweet pickles. I’m fond of a little smoked turkey and a thin smear of country style mustard. But the original is the original, and you can’t go wrong there.
**Two layers of cheese is daring, but I tempt fate and do it sometimes. But just make sure it’s not TOO MUCH cheese.
***While I’m sure TJ will enlighten us with a poll on what is the proper way to cut a grilled cheese sandwich (across? corner to corner? into squares?), for now, I accept the zen of sandwich cutting, and believe that all sandwich cuts are created equal. The choice is yours.