15 Tips For Making The Best Grilled Cheese

Making a grilled cheese sandwich may seem simple, but there are plenty of ways to mess it up. There is also a massive difference between a plain American cheese and white bread sandwich with minimal butter and a gourmet creation. Whether you want to make a quick bite to pair with a hearty soup, enjoy a gooey snack, or wow guests with a delectable grilled sandwich, there are several things you can do to ensure you're making the best version. 

From using the right kind of bread and cheese to perfecting the cooking method, you don't want to skip any of the tips described below. My experience enjoying and experimenting with many ingredient variations and cooking techniques allowed me to come up with the following list of 15 tips for making the best-grilled cheese. Keep reading to learn all about them so you can take this meal from boring to outstanding, regardless of the occasion.

1. Start with top-quality bread

First things first, to make the best grilled cheese, you want to start at the base. The tastiest versions of this meal start with flavorful, delicious bread. This means you want to forget about using your typical low-quality white bread. Sure, it gets the job done, but no one will say it is the greatest grilled cheese they've ever tasted. So make sure to use hearty, top-quality varieties. 

Even though what constitutes good bread will vary from person to person, thicker slices are always best for grilled cheese sandwiches. Thick loaves create a delicious cushion for melted cheese and also soak up lots of butter or mayo, leading to a crispy and tasty exterior. One of the absolute best for the job is Texas toast. It is thick, soft, and the ideal density for a delicious sandwich. 

If you prefer a more nutrient-dense version, whole-grain bread with seeds on the crust also makes an outstanding choice for this meal. Ultimately, whatever bread stands out to you as delicious at the grocery store or bakery will do, so feel free to experiment. You may be surprised at which type you prefer.

2. Don't skimp on the butter

Butter plays several roles when it comes to making the most delicious grilled cheese, so it is best not to go easy when slathering it on the bread. An ample amount of butter will soak into your loaf while it melts and cooks, helping prevent it from sticking to the pan. It also enables a deliciously crispy exterior and allows the bread to develop a beautifully golden brown color. 

In addition, generously applying butter is one of the easiest ways to infuse your grilled cheese with yummy flavor throughout and can upgrade lower-quality bread. Health-conscious people may try to minimize their use of the spread, but when it comes to making grilled cheese, skimping on it is a big mistake. The bread will likely be dry, bland, and significantly less crispy if you do not use enough. Salted butter is also recommended since it helps bring out the other flavors in the sandwich nicely. 

3. Make sure butter and cheese go all the way to the edges of the bread

Another place people often get it wrong when making grilled cheese is neglecting the entire surface of the bread. Often, people spread butter, place cheese quickly, and focus on the middle of the slices. While this will turn out fine, taking an extra moment to spread the butter and place the cheese all the way to the edges of the loaves produces a highly beneficial change in both taste and texture.

Complete coverage of cheese and butter ensures the crust isn't too dry while also ensuring every single bite is packed with flavor. When we say complete coverage, we mean it. Don't stop short of the crust. Make sure to spread both ingredients over the edges of the crust, but not necessarily on the sides. That way, when the sandwich cooks, the cheese will melt over the sides a tiny bit and add extra crunch to the crust.

4. Use more than one kind of cheese

Using two or more kinds of cheese on this sandwich goes a long way when you're looking to enhance flavor. Sure, you can add other ingredients, like meat and veggies, but cheese is supposed to be the main component, so why wouldn't you use more than one? Many shredded versions even come in a blended mix, so using more than one kind is practically effortless. A bag of cheddar, Mexican-style, or Italian cheese all work exceptionally well. However, when you're thinking of delicious combinations, keep in mind the flavors and the sharpness. 

Is a particular cheese funky? Nutty? Extra sharp? And how will they go together? Gruyère and extra sharp cheddar is the flavorful combo Alton Brown swears by. Combined, they are sharp and nutty, giving your sandwich a well-balanced taste. They also have the right gooey texture when melted. Just remember that two or maybe even three different kinds will help you make the best sandwich possible.

5. Don't go overboard on the cheese

As we just discussed, more than one kind of cheese on this type of sandwich is ideal. Even so, you want to make sure you do not use too much of a good thing. The main idea is that you don't want the cheese to take over and detract from the crunchiness of the bread. Otherwise, you wind up with a gooey mess and cheddar seeping out every edge, not a delectable balance of crispy and gooey. Of course, with thicker loves, you can use more but don't underestimate how easy it is to go too far.

To avoid disrupting the perfect balance, make sure to cut thinner slices of cheese. If they are too slim, you can always add a second layer. Thinner slices also help you blend multiple kinds and they melt quickly and easily. If you use shredded varieties, just make sure not to pile it too high.

6. Choose melty cheeses for the ultimate in gooey deliciousness

There are three main types of consistency regarding cheese — soft, semi-hard, and hard. The best sandwiches use soft kinds because it melts better. When melted, softer cheeses also give you a good stretch when you pull the two halves of a sandwich apart, denoting gooey yumminess. Semi-hard versions also work well, particularly when paired with a softer type. Either way, you want to avoid harder varieties because they won't melt the same way and the oil and cheese are more likely to separate when heated up.

All the different kinds of cheddar, like mild, sharp, extra sharp, Irish, and white, melt easily and taste great on this type of sandwich. The best meltable versions for cheese-pull perfection include gouda, asiago, taleggio, fontina, reblochon, mozzarella, gruyère, and provolone. Manchego, Colby, Monterey Jack, American, Swiss, brie, and camembert also make excellent choices. As you can see, you have lots of drool-worthy options. Experiment with various combinations until you determine your ideal grilled cheese configuration.

7. For the freshest cheese, slice or grate it yourself

In addition to choosing a soft, meltable cheese, you can also help ensure the perfect sandwiched outcome by using a fresh version. The best way to do this is to always shred, grate, or slice it yourself. You either want to buy cheese from your grocery store or buy it from the deli. Although it might be a bit more expensive, the freshest type comes from the latter and they'll even slice it for you. 

Aside from freshness, pre-sliced and pre-grated cheeses contain unwanted additives and preservatives that can alter the way it melts. For example, many pre-shredded kinds contain potato starch and cellulose, which prevent caking and clumping. While this is good for when it is in the bag, it can hinder how it melts on your sandwich. Pre-shredded and sliced cheese will melt down, just not as easily. Besides, cellulose is a tasteless powder derived from wood pulp, so it's not doing your sandwich any favors.

8. Add some veggies to the mix

A classic version of this meal requires nothing more than butter, bread, and cheese. However, lots of veggies taste amazing on these types of sandwiches. Adding veggies also makes for a heartier, more filling snack. Anything from onions to tomatoes to broccoli turns up the flavor. Sliced avocado, olives, bell peppers, and mushrooms also make outstanding additions. Just make sure to cut thin slices of whatever type you use so they don't accidentally tear the bread or lead to uneven browning.

With many vegetables, you will want to cook them a bit first to maintain the right texture throughout your sandwich. For example, grilled cheese with onions will taste much better if the onions are cooked before adding them to your sandwich. Sauteing them for a few minutes allows them to soften and brings out a richer flavor. Caramelized versions also taste great on grilled cheese. Tomato could go either way, but broccoli will also benefit from a quick saute beforehand. 

If you want some roughage on your grilled cheese, all kinds of leafy greens also taste great, but you want to add them after the sandwich is cooked. If you add them in the initial construction, they will become soggy and slimy.

9. Turn it up a notch with sliced fruits and jams

Another fantastic way to upgrade your grilled cheese sandwiches is to add fruit, either in the form of jam or sliced pieces. Fruity flavors taste especially appetizing with brie and camembert cheeses. The most delicious types include pear and apple since they are sweet and crisp, giving your meal a pleasant texture and taste. 

For jam, you can use just about any flavor you like. Anything from fig to strawberry to blueberry, adds yummy flavors to a grilled cheese. Just make sure to use it sparingly so it doesn't become too messy while you are eating.

Lastly, pineapple goes great if you're tossing in some ham with your grilled cheese. Just make sure the fruit isn't overly juicy or it can make it challenging to crisp the bread. If you leave pineapple slices or small chunks on a paper towel for a couple of minutes before adding them to your sandwich, it will soak up excess juice and you should be all set.

10. Make it more filling with tasty meats

Similar to fruits and veggies, an array of meats can be added to grilled cheese sandwiches to add more complex flavors and make them more filling. The trick is to use thinly sliced varieties, like bacon and ham. Thin slices of turkey, roast beef, and chicken also turn a bland grilled cheese into a hearty, tasty creation. For a gourmet treat, try making a maple bacon grilled cheese. It blends sweet and savory flavors to perfection.

Bacon already comes in thin slices, even if it has a thick cut, so it won't cause you any trouble. However, deli-style slices are typically best for other kinds of meat. They are the perfect thickness for a grilled cheese because they still allow cheese to be the main event, as long as you don't pile too much on. 

Pre-packaged deli slices are available in every grocery store, but ordering from the actual deli counter ensures better quality and increased freshness. The deli also can cut meats into paper-thin slices that are ideal for this meal. Just like with cheese, the deli counter will likely be a bit more expensive, but the increased price is generally worth it when it comes to quality.

11. Be patient and don't rush the cooking process

Cooking the perfect grilled cheese requires patience. You want to cook it slowly on a low setting to avoid burning the bread or crisping it up too much before the cheese has a chance to melt. The pan should also be hot before you put the sandwich in. It may be tempting to cook it on medium or high heat, especially if you are pretty hungry, but you must resist.

In addition to cooking on low heat, make sure you don't remove it from the heat too soon. Patiently wait for the loaves to start browning and develop a golden color before flipping and repeating the process. Otherwise, your sandwich will be soft and soggy. The cheese may not get a chance to melt all the way, either. If your bread starts to turn black before you notice the cheese softening, this is a surefire sign that the heat is too high. Turn the heat down and remove the pan from the burner for a minute before continuing to cook it.

12. Try cooking it open-face with a lid and then stick the pieces together

If patience isn't your thing, there's a handy trick you can use to cook your grilled cheese sandwiches twice as fast. Instead of putting the pieces of bread together, cook them individually, side by side, with a lid covering the pan. When you cook the two halves of the sandwich open-faced, both sides of the loaves start browning right away, so you don't have to do it one side at a time. Placing a lid over the top also traps heat, which helps the cheese melt faster and at a similar rate to the browning of the bread. 

As a bonus, you'll have a clear view of the cheese while it melts, so you don't have to pry the bread slices open to see if it is melted enough. Of course, this method requires twice as much space in a pan or flattop, but with both sides of the bread cooking simultaneously, you'll easily save a bunch of time and the finished product will taste just as great. This cooking hack is well-known and often practiced by professional chefs. It speeds up preparation time and allows them to pump food out of the kitchen more efficiently.

13. Try alternate cooking methods

The go-to method for cooking grilled cheese at home is on the stovetop in a pan, but that doesn't mean it is the only way. After all, they are typically cooked on a flattop in restaurants. If you don't have a flattop at home, which most of us don't, you can try a couple of other methods. 

The first method is on a panini press. Making grilled cheese as a panini leads to perfectly toasted bread and aesthetically pleasing grill marks while also eliminating the need to flip it over halfway through. Most panini presses also make it pretty difficult to burn a sandwich.

Air fryers also do an outstanding job of cooking this meal. They circulate hot air while cooking, leading to evenly browned bread and gooey cheese throughout. They also alert you at the halfway mark and speed up the cooking time overall. 

You can even make grilled cheese on a backyard grill quite easily. It only takes about three or four minutes on either side and gives the ingredients a nice smoky flavor. The only drawback is that achieving and maintaining a precise temperature can be challenging, so make sure to check it after the first minute. 

14. Let your grilled cheese sit for a moment before cutting

After your grilled cheese is cooked to perfection, there's just one more thing you can do to ensure it not only tastes but looks unbelievably appetizing. Give it a minute to rest once you take it out of the pan. If you cut into the sandwich the moment it comes out of the pan, the cheese starts to seep out the edges and onto the plate and will ruin the perfect ratio you've created. Fortunately, you can avoid this fatal flaw by simply giving it a minute while the cheese cools and thickens slightly. 

This final step also helps reduce the risk of burning your mouth when you finally bite into the sandwich. We know it's difficult to wait any longer after diligently cooking your grilled cheese on low heat and patiently waiting for it to become crispy and develop the ideal brown color. But if you can delay gratification for just a few more moments, you'll see why this step makes such a huge difference.

15. Substitute mayo for butter to get extra crunch

Many people agree that for the crispiest grilled cheese, you should be using mayo instead of butter on the outside of the bread. If you don't particularly like the taste of mayonnaise, this may not sound very appealing at first, but wait until you learn about the many benefits before making a final judgment.

First, it has a higher smoke point than butter, so it can be cooked at a higher temperature. As a result, it crisps the exterior of the bread faster while still leaving the inside pillowy and delicious. Second, mayo spreads on loaves much easier than butter, allowing you to get even, ample coverage from edge to edge. Third, this ingredient gives grilled cheese a tangy, light flavor that is not achieved with butter. Lastly, you can easily infuse mayonnaise with tasty herbs and spices to further enhance flavor throughout the sandwich.

If you want to give mayo a try, make sure to opt for a full-fat version. Don't use a low-fat kind because the texture isn't the same and it won't stick to the bread as well while cooking. If you still crave a buttery taste, you can always spread it on the inside of the sandwich in addition to the mayo on the outside. The butter will still melt nicely while cooking, even if it isn't applied directly to the heat source.

16. Methodology

Like many of you, I love a good grilled cheese sandwich. In fact, I remember a time in my childhood when it was basically a main food group for me. As a result, I've had plenty of time to experiment with how they are made and what ingredients to use. I considered my personal expertise to help me come up with the above 15 tips for making the best-grilled cheese sandwich. I also tapped into my decades of restaurant experience, where I not only served grilled cheese to people with varying tastes but chatted with various chefs about what enabled them to make the most delicious version of this meal.

Give some or all of the tips a try the next time you make a grilled cheese sandwich and you may be surprised at how much of a difference a few small changes can make. Either way, your mouth is sure to rejoice at the enhanced taste and perfectly crispy texture. Enjoy!