How to Make the Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich, According to Our Food Editors
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April is National Grilled Cheese month, and no matter how old you are, this classic comfort food never goes out of style. While it's easy enough to layer two slices of cheese between white bread and cook it in a pan on the stove top, we asked our food editors for tips on making the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. Editorial director of Food Sarah Carey and assistant food editor Riley Wofford both agree that sourdough bread makes for a flavorful base. "Sourdough sandwich loaves are great because they are more flavorful than regular white bread, but still nice and soft," says Riley. However, the whole team agrees that soft sandwich bread—whether white or whole wheat—is a delicious option. "I like a super soft, slightly sweet sandwich bread like butter bread or potato bread or Sweet Hawaiian sandwich bread," says deputy food editor Greg Lofts.
As for the type of cheese, Riley believes that there is no other option than American cheese. Greg also considers American to be the best option, but he likes fontina or a young Gouda, both of which will melt easily and create an irresistible pull, too. Sarah likes to change it up between extra-sharp cheddar or Swiss cheese. Occasionally, our editors will add additional layers of ingredients, such as sweet jam or marmalade for Riley and all the fixings—mustard, ham, bacon, jam, or sautéed mushrooms—for Sarah.
One of our editors' favorite tips for achieving an even golden-brown crust on both sides of the bread is smearing it with mayonnaise, or a combination of softened butter and mayonnaise. "It creates an uber crisp, thin shell with a buttery mouthfeel while the interior remains soft and fluffy," says Greg. Senior food editor Lauryn Tyrell likes to spread Dijon on the outside of the bread, a trick that she learned from her mom. "I think the sharpness of the mustard helps cut through the richness of the cheese," she says.
From here, they all prefer to cook their grilled cheese sandwiches in a cast iron skillet. For the perfect grilled cheese, Greg recommends preheating the skillet over medium heat. Place the sandwich into the hot, dry skillet (there's no fat needed since there's a layer of mayonnaise on outside of bread), cover immediately, and cook, flipping once, until both sides are crisp golden brown and the cheese melts. Sarah says that cooking it low and slow—generally for about five to seven minutes total—is key. "You want to make sure the cheese melts around the same time your sandwich is evenly golden brown," she says.
Their final tip: Always serve a grilled cheese sandwich with a bowl of our Test Kitchen's Favorite Tomato Soup. Greg takes this combination one step further by making a modified grilled cheese sandwich, like a tartine, that's easier for dunking. "Just spread a little mayonnaise on a piece of bread, top with cheese, and broil until melted," he said. Celebrating National Grilled Cheese month has never been so delicious.