The Best Grilled Cheese You Will Ever Make In Your Entire Life

June 12, 2012 8:40 PM EDT | By Anthony Smith
Grilled Cheese
The absolute perfect grilled cheese sandwich. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Grilled Cheese: your mother cooked it for you when you came home early from school; the local diner serves it up with salty fries, a slice of tomato, and a cup of piping hot coffee; even dive bars are starting to add it to their offerings, so you have something greasy and nice to nosh on with your double whiskey-soda (for those of us who are extra thirsty).

But now you're here, in your kitchen, totally stupefied about how to get that gooey, golden-brown goodness for yourself. Let's demystify what your mother did. Here is absolutely everything you need to know to make a perfect grilled cheese each and every single time. These are just the basics, simple and clean and condensed into four basic steps. I encourage every home cook with an adventurous spirit to build up from this gooey, golden-brown foundation.

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1. Don't Waste Your Money On Good Cheese

This will probably come as a relief to some and total blasphemy to others. Yes, it's being touted by Mark Bittman and the minimalists that the better your ingredients are, the more fantastic your end product turns out.

This extends to just about everything but comfort foods like our sandwich du jour, which is equal parts technique and nostalgia. If you were raised by epicureans, then by all means feel free to put a triple creme between two slices of bread. I'll even give you some extra advice on that later. But for the rest of us who grew up in a house devoid of truffle oils and their ilk, a simple slice of yellow American cheese will not only suffice; it will shine.

2. A Good Bread Is Easy To Find

Don't use Wonder Bread. That's really the only rule here.

Any other bread at all will do. Use your favorite. I don't like breads with too many whole grains for this, just because they tend to upstage the cheesy star of the dish. My absolute favorite bread for this is Trader Joe's Canadian White Bread. I've used it for a very picky eater who remarked, eyes rolled back into her head, that it was the best grilled cheese she'd ever had. I agree completely.

3. Not All Fats Are Created Equal

Now that you have your bread and cheese chosen, it's time to assemble the sandwich. This part's easy; just put the cheese slice between two pieces of bread. Next, spread your browning fat over the outsides of the sandwich. The most common browning fat is butter softened at room temperature over time.

Well, I don't have the time to soften butter by leaving it out. When I get a hankering for grilled cheese, I want it immediately. That's why I use Shedd's Spread Country Crock Original for the simple fact that it comes ready to spread, and it's perfectly salted for grilled cheeses. That browned butter compliments a nice, cheap slice of American Cheese perfectly-- giving your sandwich not only a necessary complexity, but contributing directly to that overall 'yum' factor.

If you're going against my advice and using a nice cheese (anything better than the stuff that comes pre-sliced) use a very, very thin layer of mayonnaise instead. Mayonnaise adds a very subtle, gentle flavor to your finer cheese-- making sure the extra cash you're spending on a nicer sandwich isn't drowned in butter.

4. Technique: It's All in the Wrist and the Plate

Now that we've gone into the ins and outs of assembling the sandwich, it's time we get to the actual cooking. Put a non-stick pan or skillet on the stove and heat it up on medium-high heat for oh, let's say, one minute. Put your sandwich down and-- here's the part where this gets culinary-- put a plate on top of the sandwich and give it a reasonable push. You're not trying to make roadkill out of your sandwich, you're just giving it the extra weight it needs to make sure that the cheese melts before the bread burns. It also ensures grilled cheese gets into your mouth much, much faster.

If you're using butter or Country Crock, weigh down the plate for forty-five seconds. If you're using mayo, it browns faster-- it'll be just under thirty seconds. Flip your sandwich over, and don't mind the fact that the top slice of bread is probably stuck to the bottom of your melting plate.

Check out how golden brown that bottom slice is. Now cook the other side the same way.

Serve immediately with tomato soup, ketchup, or whatever you need to remember all the best parts of growing up. Enjoy!


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