Recipe Review

I Tried 4 Popular Grilled Cheese Recipes and the Winner Is Perfection

published Jan 21, 2022
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

There are few foods as nostalgic as a grilled cheese sandwich. It was one of the first things I learned to make for myself at a young age, and it represents my first baby steps into independence in the kitchen.

For many of us, including myself, our earliest forays into grilled cheese consisted of two slices of American cheese sandwiched between whatever kind of sliced bread you could find at home. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to appreciate the small touches that elevate a grilled cheese: plenty of butter (perhaps even some mayo), quality bread, and basically any type of cheese other than American.

Because it’s hard to make a bad grilled cheese, I was excited to use this showdown as an opportunity to hone in on the components that take a grilled cheese from good to great. I began by researching popular, highly rated recipes online, and narrowed it down to four by looking for ones with unique elements. In the end, I found the recipe for the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

Meet Our 4 Grilled Cheese Contenders

Although I was looking for recipes with a distinct point of view, I also wanted this to be a fair comparison. That meant they couldn’t be too fussy or over-the-top: a variety of cheeses or surprising cooking techniques were fine, but no major add-ins (such as bacon or jalapeños) were allowed. Here are the recipes I landed on.

Taste of Home’s Best Grilled Cheese Ever calls for five different types of cheese. Yes, five! Four of them go inside the sandwich, and the fifth (Manchego) is mixed with mayonnaise and onion powder before being spread onto the bread to create a crispy, cheesy exterior. I was confident that a grilled cheese sandwich with this many fun components was sure to be a knockout.

While A Cozy Kitchen’s Fancy-Ass Grilled Cheese isn’t written out as a typical step-by-step recipe, her post is full of great techniques for making the perfect sandwich. Because the recipe is so simple, she’s able to really dial in the details: She uses brioche, which I hadn’t seen many other recipes call for, and insists that grating the cheese is the way to go. She also instructs you to cover the pan as the sandwich cooks.

Another recipe that stood out to me was Natasha’s Kitchen’s Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Natasha’s recipe is the first one that comes up when you Google “grilled cheese sandwich recipe,” and it has a 5-star rating on her blog, too. Unlike other recipes, her grilled cheese calls for sliced cheese rather than grated. It also calls for a lot of butter.

Just the picture of Cookie and Kate’s Favorite Grilled Cheese Sandwich was enough to lure me in. I was curious to find out what the bits of green were (spoiler alert: they’re green onions), and I liked that her recipe includes instructions for a cheesy crust. Kate also uses a bit of Dijon mustard to really kick things up a notch.

How I Tested the Grilled Cheese Recipes

Wherever possible, I used the same brands of cheese and bread for all four recipes. I cooked all the sandwiches back-to-back, and with the exception of the bread, I kept the ingredients refrigerated until I was ready to make the sandwich (unless the recipe specifically called for softened butter). I tasted each sandwich immediately after making it so that I could judge them while they were hot and fresh.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

1. The Extra-Cheesy Grilled Cheese: Taste of Home’s Best Grilled Cheese Ever

While I had high hopes for this recipe, it was ultimately a reminder that sometimes less is more. The extra-cheesy recipe called for sharp white cheddar, Gruyère, Monterey Jack, and Brie inside the sandwich, with a Manchego coating on the outside. Unfortunately, the mixture of cheeses simply wasn’t a win for me: Rather than complementing one another, I felt they were competing.

My other major gripe with this recipe is that it calls for a 10- to 12-minute cook time, which is entirely too long. By the time the sandwich was done, the sourdough was far too hard for my liking, and pretty charred, too. If I were to make it again, I’d cover the skillet with a lid to help the cheese melt faster, and add more butter to the skillet between batches.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

2. The Easiest Grilled Cheese: Natasha’s Kitchen’s Ultimate Grilled Cheese

What I appreciated most about Natasha’s recipe was the ease from both a cooking and cleanup standpoint. But while I was initially excited about not having to dirty a cheese grater, I found that the sliced cheese didn’t melt nearly as well as grated. Grating the cheese would have also helped the flavors of the cheddar, Havarti, and Gouda mix together more seamlessly.

I did appreciate Natasha’s use of Texas toast, as I think thicker slices of bread are better for grilled cheese sandwiches. Next time, I’ll keep the cheese selection the same but grate it instead of using the sliced stuff.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

3. The Flavor-Packed Grilled Cheese: Cookie and Kate’s Favorite Grilled Cheese

Cookie and Kate’s grilled cheese was packed with flavor. The swipe of Dijon mustard on the bread was unconventional, but so smart. It paired nicely with the cheddar, and gave the sandwich an extra oomph. This recipe also gets points for technique. Kate instructs you to cover the skillet as the grilled cheese cooks, which is crucial to getting a perfectly browned exterior while making sure the cheese has fully melted.

The only thing I didn’t love about this recipe was the addition of green onions. They weren’t offensive, but they ultimately felt a bit unnecessary and didn’t add that much to the sandwich.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

4. The Perfect Grilled Cheese: A Cozy Kitchen’s Fancy-Ass Grilled Cheese

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about A Cozy Kitchen’s recipe, given that it’s more of a series of tips than a structured recipe. But ultimately I think it’s the perfect format for a grilled cheese sandwich. While she includes specific ingredient suggestions, like using brioche (which was the perfect bread) and a mix of grated sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack, Adriana really focuses on the details that make a grilled cheese taste great. For example, her recipe emphasized the importance of cooking the sandwich low and slow and covering the skillet, and also makes it clear that grated cheese will melt better than sliced.

When it comes to making the perfect grilled cheese, you should really be able to customize it to your liking, while also knowing what techniques are crucial for gooey, cheesy success. That’s why Adriana’s recipe came out on top. It gives you everything you need to make a grilled cheese sandwich that’s perfect for you.

Do you have a favorite grilled cheese recipe? Let us know in the comments!