Ice Cubes Are The Secret Ingredient For Better Grilled Cheese

For such a simple sandwich, we've all had a bad grilled cheese that no amount of tomato soup or ketchup can salvage. Yes, the bread, cheese, and spread are important factors, but most of our grilled cheese mistakes come from the cooking method, not the ingredients.

If you're a fan of the movie "Chef," you're already aware that there's a technique to making the perfect grilled cheese. It's not as simple as throwing it in a frying pan and hoping for the best. The key is to ensure that the cheese melts before the bread goes from golden brown to burnt. While turning up the heat will quicken the process, you'll likely blacken the bread before your cheese has the chance to turn gooey. One way to achieve the ideal texture is to use an ice cube.

Preheat a griddle or frying pan over medium heat, add the buttered cheese sandwich, and drop an ice cube next to it before covering with a lid. As the ice melts, the trapped steam helps melt the cheese evenly while slowing the bread from toasting. Remember, moisture is the enemy of the Maillard reaction, so adding a bit of water buys you time for the cheese to melt. After a minute or two, lift the lid to check on your meal's progress. Allow the bottom slice to get golden brown before flipping the sandwich. Repeat the process if the cheese isn't lava-like.

Tips for assembling the perfect grilled cheese

We're not going to weigh in on the butter versus mayo debate, since both spreads can give your bread the golden-brown color you're looking for. Heck, even olive oil can yield tasty results. It comes down to personal preference and whether you want the fat to influence the sandwich's flavor. With that being said, you can't go wrong with softened butter.

Cheese is the star of the sandwich, so it's essential to choose the right one, since some varieties melt better than others. American cheese is a classic choice — it's a favorite on burgers and grilled sandwiches for good reason. The additives used to process American enable it to melt evenly, providing the ideal gooeyness. If you're looking for a more sophisticated flavor, cheddar, Gouda, fontina, mozzarella, and Gruyère are also great options. If you want to use a sturdier cheese, like feta or goat, combine it with another melting cheese to achieve the right texture.

Although it takes a few additional minutes, avoid using pre-shredded cheeses. They contain additives like potato starch that prevent clumping in the package, but also prevent the cheese from melting smoothly. Plus, you're paying more to have the manufacturer shred the cheese for you. You're better off buying a block of cheese and shredding it at home.

A note about grilled cheese fillings

Nine times out of ten, the classic, no-frills grilled cheese on white bread hits the spot, but occasionally, you might crave something more substantial. There are obvious additions like bacon, but it's important to keep a few things in mind to avoid ruining your sandwich. Aside from a perfectly ripe August tomato sprinkled with sea salt, avoid adding anything too watery to the sandwich, or you risk making the bread soggy. Greens like spinach release water as they cook, so it's advisable to saute leafy greens before adding them to your grilled cheese.

It's also a good idea to place the filling between the cheese slices, creating a barrier that protects the bread from becoming moist. Condiments like pickled veggies, jalapeños, or kimchi (which are delicious in grilled cheese) are soaked in vinegar, so drain most of the liquid before adding these wet ingredients to your sandwich. Remember, whatever you add to the grilled cheese won't have time to cook, so ingredients like macaroni and cheese should be at room temperature or warmed before assembly. If adding meat, ensure it is fully cooked.

For a salty and sweet sandwich, try placing thinly sliced Granny Smith apple wedges with cheddar for a tart addition that adds a nice crunch. If you're looking for something sweeter, consider pairing fig jam or honey with a smelly cheese to balance the pungent flavor profile.