Sometimes only a grilled cheese sandwich will do. You know what I mean? Likewise, sometimes a grilled cheese sandwich is the only vegetarian option I can find.
I’ve been disappointed by some grilled cheese sandwiches in my life, so I set out to create my ultimate grilled cheese recipe. I aimed for a favorite grilled cheese sandwich that I could make any time the craving strikes. I wanted gourmet flavor without any complicated ingredients or methods. Grilled cheese now, or bust!
I should also confess that I want to be famous for my grilled cheese sandwiches someday. Not internet-famous, but neighborhood-famous as the mom who makes the best grilled cheese. I want my future children to brag about my grilled cheese sandwich skills. Is that too much to ask?
So, here we are, and here is my favorite grilled cheese recipe. It is truly epic, as far as I’m concerned. Keep on reading for my tips and tricks, because I have a few!
General Grilled Cheese Sandwich Tips
I’ve sampled a lot of the grilled cheese ideas out there (including mayo on the outside), and these are the ones that work for me.
1) Start with great bread.
Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t use any bread that you have in your pantry already. If you have the option, however, I suggest buying some crusty whole grain or regular sourdough for maximally awesome flavor.
2) Top with high quality, sharp cheddar cheese.
Sharp cheddar has a lot of flavor, and that’s what we’re going for. When it comes to a grilled cheese, you really can’t go light on the cheese, or you’re going to be disappointed.
3) Don’t skimp on the butter.
You need enough butter to achieve the crackly-crisp, buttery, golden exterior that we all crave. If you always keep a stick of butter on the counter, you can simply spread the softened butter generously over the outside pieces of bread. If you don’t (I don’t), you can melt a pat of butter in the skillet before you add the bread.
4) Grate the cheese yourself.
Pre-shredded cheeses are lightly coated in starch so they don’t stick together, but the starch prevents your cheese from melting into gooey oblivion. We want gooey oblivion.
5) Cover your grilled cheese while it cooks.
This helps trap the heat, which ensures that your grilled cheese has time to melt all the way through without burning on the outside.
Grilled Cheese Bonus Tip
Finish your grilled cheese with a crispy, cheesy outer crust.
This is a trick that my grandmother Mimi used to pull off, and it is only possible if you have a truly non-stick skillet.* Maybe you have encountered it at a restaurant and wondered how it works. It’s so easy!
Simply sprinkle some additional grated cheese over your buttery skillet, and flip the hot sandwich over on top of it. Listen, and once the cheese has stopped sizzling, wait a few more moments longer before flipping it back over. Ta da.
*Non-stick skillet notes: I have always recommended using cast iron or stainless steel skillets when possible, since they’re non-toxic. I’ve been testing out this non-toxic, non-stick skillet set since December (courtesy of Food52/affiliate link) and I think it deserves a shout-out.
These skillets are awesome, and I haven’t babied them at all—I’ve been washing them in the dishwasher, and stacking them when not in use. In fact, I like them so much that I just bought a set for my brother for his birthday.
How to Make My Favorite Grilled Cheese
Here’s how to turn a basic grilled cheese into a grown-up, gourmet grilled cheese. Take my basic methods (described above) and add a couple more ingredients. You will not believe how much of a difference they make! That said, if you’re serving a picky kid, you can leave these out.
Spread a light layer of Dijon mustard over your bread.
I mean, a really light layer over one slice of bread. Even if you don’t love mustard, this adds a little je ne said quoi to your sandwich. It’s a little salty and complex, and I think you’re going to love it.
Add green onion.
Alliums (the garlic and onion family) have the power to transform ho-hum recipes into totally irresistible. I always have green onions in my fridge, and adding some chopped raw green onion (green parts only) is an easy way to infuse your sandwich with major flavor.
That’s it! Ready to make the best grilled cheese sandwich you’ve ever had? They’re perfect for chilly or rainy days, and even better with a side of classic tomato soup.
Please let me know how these sandwiches turn out for you in the comments! I hope you love them as much as I do.
Craving more meatless sandwiches? Here are a few of my favorites:
- This roasted vegetable and balsamic grilled cheese sandwich puts these principles to work, but replaces some of the cheese with roasted veggies. You can’t go wrong here.
- This fresh hummus and pickled vegetable sandwich is absurdly tasty. The components are worth the effort, and you can make these sandwiches all week long.
- My broccoli pita sandwiches feature a fresh broccoli and chickpea salad stuffed into warmed pita slathered with mashed avocado.
Favorite Grilled Cheese Sandwich
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: 1 sandwich 1x
- Category: Main dish
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American
This gourmet grilled cheese sandwich recipe is so easy to make at home! Make it when the craving strikes, and it will become your new favorite. Recipe yields 1 sandwich; multiply as necessary. You can make two at once in large skillet, if you’re careful when you flip them.
- 2 large slices of whole grain sourdough, or your favorite crusty bread
- Enough Dijon mustard for a thin layer across one slice of bread (about 1 ½ teaspoons)
- 1 cup lightly packed (3 ounces) freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese, plus a little more for sprinkling on the outside (optional)
- 2 teaspoons chopped green onion, green parts only
- Unsalted butter, for melting in the pan (about 2 teaspoons)
- Spread Dijon mustard lightly across one side of one slice of bread. You’re aiming for a very thin layer. Stir the green onion into the grated cheese, and set aside.
- Melt a pat of butter (about 1 teaspoon) in a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat (or a large skillet, if you’re planning on making two sandwiches at once). Once melted, place the mustardy slice of bread into the skillet, with the mustard side facing up.
- Top the slice with the oniony cheese (aim for about a ¾-inch layer of cheese). Then place the remaining slice of bread on top. Cover the skillet with a lid, and cook for several minutes, or until the underside of the bread is golden.
- Remove the sandwich from the skillet with a spatula, and add another pat of butter to the skillet. Once melted, carefully flip the other side of the sandwich against the buttered pan. Cover and cook until the underside of the bread is nice and golden, and the cheese is all melted. If the bread is browning before the cheese has melted, dial down the heat as necessary.
- Optional, if you want a cheesy crust on the outside of the sandwich and you’re working with a truly non-stick skillet: Remove the nearly-finished sandwich with a spatula. Sprinkle a bit more grated cheese into the pan in a toast-sized shape, and flip the sandwich back over onto the cheese. Let it cook until you no longer hear any sizzle, and then a few seconds longer.
- Remove the sandwich with your spatula. Place it onto a cutting board and let it cool for a minute or two. Gently cut it in half down the middle using a serrated knife, and serve warm.