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- The Anatomy of a Perfect Grilled Cheese
- 🛠 Tools Needed:
- 🛒 Ingredients Needed:
- 🧀 How to Make the Best Sourdough Grilled Cheese:
- Sourdough Grilled Cheese Variations & Additions
- ❓Sourdough Grilled Cheese FAQs:
- Sourdough Grilled Cheese
- Other Recipes You Might Like:
A good grilled cheese sandwich is one of the ultimate comfort foods. And while it may be a basic recipe, this recipe guide will walk you through how to make the best sourdough grilled cheese using only a few ingredients and some helpful tips!
The guide below includes information on my favorite sourdough bread to use, some great cheese combinations, grilled cheese variations and inclusions, and lots of tips on how to get the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.
While I do provide a recipe for my favorite sandwich, think of this post as more of a general guidebook to help you make a better grilled cheese. Use your own favorite cheeses, inclusions, and creativity to make something you’ll enjoy!
The Anatomy of a Perfect Grilled Cheese
Anyone can make a decent grilled cheese. In fact, it’s often one of the first recipes many learn because it’s so low effort, with a high reward.
And while it seems easy enough to make, some don’t have enough cheese, have burnt slices of bread, and become soggy quickly. These are things I do not like!
So let’s break down the anatomy of what I look for in a perfect grilled cheese:
- First, the bread should be a little buttery, be evenly toasted, and have a crunchy exterior. These qualities will offset the gooey, cheesy interior and will help it hold its own if it’s dipped in tomato soup. Plus, it’ll retain other sandwich ingredients like tomatoes if they’re added.
- Hence, sourdough bread is the best conduit for a grilled cheese. I’ll talk about it more and what other bread options you can choose from in the ingredients section below.
- To get that evenly toasted exterior, I use both butter and mayonnaise. Butter adds richness and the mayonnaise is a not-so-secret trick to help the bread brown evenly in the pan. And I need you all to know that I am not a fan of mayonnaise, but it really does work here, so trust me if you’re skeptical! You don’t taste the mayonnaise in the final product, but it really makes all the difference to get a crispy, brown exterior.
- I prefer a combo of at least a couple of cheeses for flavor and texture. Preferably, I like a large amount of something sharp and semi-hard like cheddar or monterey jack paired with a smaller proportion of creamy cheese like gruyère.
- I also like a lot of cheese! This recipe is for two large slices of sourdough bread (about 7-inches wide), so you need a lot of cheese to make a cheesy, gooey sandwich.
- Lastly, the cheese needs to be freshly grated! That’s largely because freshly grated cheese will melt quicker and evenly, making a better grilled cheese. That’s because pre-sliced or pre-shredded cheese often contains additives, preservatives, and anti-clumping agents that hinder melting. Melted cheese that’s too processed can also leave a slight aftertaste, in my opinion.
Those are the only components of a perfect grilled cheese, in my opinion! Simple, yet classic. Next, we can talk about the specific tools and ingredients to use for making it all come together.
🛠 Tools Needed:
Click the links below for my tool recommendations.
- Box Grater
- As I mentioned above, freshly grated cheese is going to give you the best flavor and texture for your grilled cheese. Thus, I use a box grater to grate the blocks of cheese, typically using the largest holes available.
- A box grater is a useful tool to have around that I use to make these Sourdough Biscuits with Cheddar and Chives, Sourdough Strawberry Shortcakes, and Sourdough Zucchini Bread.
- Cast-Iron Pan
- Cast-iron cooks and bakes extremely evenly, which is why it’s such a beloved item of chefs and home cooks. A cast-iron skillet will ensure there aren’t any hotspots in your pan, which can result in parts of your bread being browned too quickly. Likewise, I use one to make my Sourdough English Muffins for even cooking.
- If you don’t have one, use a non-stick skillet.
- Placing a lid on top of the skillet during cooking on low heat helps the cheese melt more evenly and prevents the bread from burning too quickly. It’s a great little tip to help you make a better grilled cheese!
- I prefer using a fish spatula to flip the bread because it has a large surface area to slide under and pick up the sandwich easily. However, any spatula will work!
🛒 Ingredients Needed:
Click on the links below for my favorite ingredient recommendations.
- Homemade Sourdough Bread
- Sourdough bread is the best option for making grilled cheeses because it has the best flavor, texture, and can hold any sandwich ingredients without getting soggy.
- Of course, I recommend making your own sourdough bread and it’s easy to freeze slices that you can use for grilled cheeses any time you want. This is a sourdough blog after all! But I know that’s not always convenient when you’re craving a good grilled cheese. Thus, you can certainly purchase a (hopefully!) decent sourdough loaf from a bakery or store near you.
- I think thick slices do best for a sourdough grilled cheese so slice the bread into ½ inch slices.
- Other sourdough bread recipe variations that would make yummy grilled cheeses include this nutty Spelt Sourdough Bread or this unique Buckwheat Sourdough with Pumpkin Seeds.
- Spread a light, exterior layer of mayonnaise onto the outside of the sourdough bread slices to evenly brown the bread. I mentioned it before, but I don’t like mayonnaise! I know for those that don’t like it, it’s a big ask to use it. But I promise you do not taste it, and it makes a huge difference in getting a perfectly crispy bread.
- Ultimately, mayo is eggs, an acid, and oil, so it makes sense that it would help brown the crust so well instead of just using butter (which can burn).
- Unsalted Butter
- Just a tablespoon of butter here lubricates the skillet, helps the bread get golden brown, and adds a subtle richness in flavor. I almost always use unsalted butter because that’s what I use in most baking, but you can use salted as well.
- Two Freshly Grated Cheeses
- There are endless combinations of cheeses that work great in grilled cheese, but I like to keep things simple with only a couple of cheeses. I mostly use a medium-sharp cheddar and then a smaller amount of gruyere or gouda. The cheddar provides most of the cheesy flavor, whereas the gruyere or gouda makes it a little more gooey and adds a slightly nutty flavor.
- A couple of of my favorite brands for cheese include Cabot and Kerrygold.
Other Popular Cheese Options
There are many other great and popular grilled cheese options like havarti, fontina, muenster, colby jack, goat cheese, etc. that can all make delicious grilled cheese! In the end, the cheese options are up to you and what cheese you prefer.
- American cheese: A grilled cheese classic, American cheese will give you that signature bright orange color in a grilled cheese and melts well for a gooey interior. If you use, I recommend only using a couple of slices at the most and pairing it with another freshly grated cheese.
- Brie: If you want ooey-gooey and lots of rich flavor, opt for a bit of brie in your sandwich. This pairs well with something sweet like a fig or cherry jam in the grilled cheese.
- Cheddar: Sharp cheddar is probably my favorite all-around cheese, but mild and medium-sharp cheddar will actually be less greasy in a grilled cheese. You can use yellow or white cheddar in grilled cheeses without much noticeable taste differences.
- Gouda: Gouda is a Dutch cheese, but sometimes doesn’t melt as well. It can still be used in a smaller quantity for a slightly caramely flavor.
- Gruyère: I love pairing gruyère with cheddar in a grilled cheese for a slightly nutty flavor. It usually melts well and is creamier than cheddar.
- Monterey Jack: This is a great semi-hard option that you can use in large quantities like cheddar in a grilled cheese. Monterey Jack is buttery and melts extremely well. Pepper jack is the same, but has a bit of spice to it if you want a slight kick.
- Mozzarella: A small amount of mozzarella can give you a great grilled cheese pull for those Instagram-worthy images. However, it doesn’t provide much in terms of flavor to a grilled cheese.
- Swiss: Swiss cheese melts extremely well and is a great option in grilled cheese for a milder flavor than cheddar.
🧀 How to Make the Best Sourdough Grilled Cheese:
Follow this visual and detailed recipe guide as you make this sourdough grilled cheese sandwich. The recipe makes one large grilled cheese.
1. Heat Pan, Prep Bread, and Grate Cheese
Preheat your cast-iron skillet over low heat. Remember, low heat will melt the cheese more evenly and won’t burn the bread quickly.
As the skillet heats up, prep your sourdough bread. Slice two slices of sourdough bread about ½ inch thick.
Spread one tablespoon of mayonnaise on one side of each slice with a butter knife so the slices are evenly coated.
If you haven’t already done so, use a box grater to grate 3.5oz (100g) of cheddar cheese and 1oz (30g) of gruyere cheese into a bowl or cutting board.
Note: This recipe is for a standard large sourdough loaf, so each slice is about 7-inches wide. If you’re using a smaller loaf, you may not need as much cheese!
2. Add Bread and Cheese
Add one TBS of unsalted butter to the preheated cast-iron skillet and swirl it around until it’s completely melted.
Then, place one slice of bread, mayonnaise side down into the pan. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the bread. It will seem like a large pile of cheese, but will melt down quickly. Some cheese in the pan is okay, because it’ll crisp up and get lacy in the pan.
Place the other slice of bread on top of the shredded cheese with the mayonnaise side up.
3. Cover, Flip, and Cook
Cover the pan with a lid and cook on one side for 2-3 minutes until the bottom is evenly golden brown and crispy.
Remove the lid and use a spatula to flip the sandwich over. If you notice that the pan is dry, you can add another tablespoon of butter to the bottom of the pan, but I usually don’t find that necessary since the lid traps some steam.
Cover with the lid again and cook another 2 minutes until the cheese is totally melted and the other side is evenly golden brown.
Note: The second side usually cooks faster, so be sure not to walk away so it doesn’t burn!
4. Slice and Enjoy!
Remove the grilled cheese from the pan and use a serrated knife to cut it in half.
Enjoy immediately as a snack, lunch, or dinner! The grilled cheese is great alone or served with tomato soup for a classic combo, with potato chips, pickles, or a bright and acidic side salad.
Sourdough Grilled Cheese Variations & Additions
This recipe keeps things simple using only a couple of cheeses for a perfect grilled cheese, but there are lots of great toppings and additions you can also include!
- Flaky salt: Sprinkle the top of the sandwich with flaky salt after cooking for a little crunch and to bring out the flavors of the buttery bread and cheese.
- Caramelized onions are an amazing upgrade to include in grilled cheese. They’re sweet and match particularly well with gruyere.
- Fig Jam: A sweet jam like fig or sour cherry jam goes really well with brie for a sweeter version of a grilled cheese.
- Granny Smith Apples: Tart apple slices pair so well with cheddar and the acidity of the apples elevates the sandwich to a whole new level!
- Hot Honey: Of course, regular honey would be good on grilled cheese too, but a drizzle of hot honey will add sweetness and a little heat to your grilled cheese!
- Stone-ground Mustard or Horseradish: I love the pungent heat of mustard or freshly grated horseradish paired with grilled cheese. A little bit goes a long way!
- Tomatoes: While tomatoes are a classic grilled cheese addition, they can make your bread soggy if they’re particularly juicy. What I like to do is sprinkle a bit of salt on the slices of tomatoes and place them on paper towels to drain some of the juices before adding to my sandwich.
❓Sourdough Grilled Cheese FAQs:
What’s the secret to a good grilled cheese sandwich?
It may not be much of a secret, but the key components of a good grilled cheese sandwich are: using sourdough bread, using a couple types of cheese, cooking and covering with a lid over low heat, and adding a small amount of mayonnaise to the outside of the bread for even browning.
How do you get a grilled cheese pull?
A grilled cheese pull is the stringy strands of cheese that appear when you pull apart a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s a common goal for grilled cheese photographs and videos for dramatic effect.
Some cheeses do not pull well, including sharp cheddar cheese. Mozzarella, on the other hand, is extremely stretchy and melts well for a cheese pull. To get a cheese pull, you can make your grilled cheese, then slice it in half and put a slice or grate some mozzarella in hot sandwich. Then, push the sandwich back together and cook it on the pan for about 30 seconds. This will melt the mozzarella, and since it’s already sliced bread, it’s easy to pull apart and looks great in photos!
Sourdough Grilled Cheese
- Preheat the cast-iron skillet over low heat. As the skillet preheats, slice two 1/2-inch thick slices of sourdough bread and freshly grate your cheese into a bowl or cutting board.Use a knife to spread a teaspoon of mayonnaise on one side of each slice of bread.2 slices Sourdough Bread, 2 tsp Mayonnaise
- Add one tablespoon of unsalted butter to the skillet and swirl it around until it melts. Place one slice of bread mayo-side down in the pan and sprinkle the cheese on top of the bread. Put the other side of bread on top of the cheese, mayo-side up.1 TBS Unsalted Butter, 3.5 oz Cheddar, 1 oz Gruyère
- Cover the pan with the lid and cook on low heat for 2-3 minutes, or until the bottom of the bread is evenly golden brown and crispy.Remove the lid and use a spatula to flip the sandwich over. Cover with the lid again and continue cooking for another 2 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted and the bottom is golden brown.
- Remove from the heat and place onto a cutting board. Use a serrated knife to slice in half and enjoy immediately!
- Follow my guide for more detailed instructions and photos to make this guide step-by-step with more grilled cheese tips.