3 Rules for Making the Absolute Best Grilled Cheese

published Oct 10, 2023
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Angled view of a gooey grilled cheese cut diagonally on a blue cutting board.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Lauren Radel

A classic grilled cheese sandwich is the epitome of the saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and for good reason. It’s a super-simple and nostalgic dish that calls for the most basic of basics: bread and cheese. That said, though, to make a good grilled cheese, there are a few must-follow rules.

Of course, you can customize a grilled cheese sandwich according to your preferences, switching up the types of bread and cheese. But these rules are non-negotiable and absolutely crucial to make the best grilled cheese ever. 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Lauren Radel

3 Rules for Making the Absolute Best Grilled Cheese

  1. Use a mix of both mayonnaise and butter on the bread. The debate about cooking grilled cheese with mayo or butter is over. After very thorough grilled cheese testing, I discovered that a mix of the two is best. Here’s why: I found that the mayonnaise-only grilled cheese was crispy but not super flavorful, while the butter-only grilled cheese was super flavorful, but not incredibly crispy. Together, however, both butter and mayonnaise make for a grilled cheese that is equally crispy, flavorful, and rich.
  2. Use the “lid method”: Spread both sides of two slices of bread with a mixture of butter and mayonnaise. Add one slice to the skillet. When the side underneath is golden-brown, flip the slice of bread, and immediately top with your cheese. Then, add the lid to the top of the skillet to help the cheese melt quickly (this should take a couple minutes or less). Remove the lid from the skillet, add the second prepared slice of bread, pressing down gently, then immediately flip the sandwich over. Toast the second side for just a few minutes, until golden-brown. Transfer to a plate and serve!
  3. Cut it into triangles: Now, this might seem like a stylistic choice, but there is also a functional aspect to this method, too. Cutting a grilled cheese on a diagonal, rather than straight through the middle into rectangles, gives you more access to the melty cheese on the inside! Although it may depend on the bread you use, the distance between the corners of a slice of bread is longer than the distance from top to bottom. Not to get too geometric, this is all just to say that you get more cheese pulls and “ooze” when you cut diagonally into triangles. Plus, the first bite is easier to take. 

A Note About Cheese

Obviously, you need a good melty cheese to make a grilled cheese sandwich. And a cheese that “melts well” simply means a cheese that isn’t dried out and/or doesn’t have additives that make it more shelf-stable, such as anti-caking agents in shredded cheese. Certain cheeses, such as Parmesan, pecorino Romano, and asiago, are tasty, but they don’t melt well under indirect heat. Additionally, they often are sold with additives to prevent them from clumping together which, in turn, makes them very dry. 

Instead, it’s best to use cheese like American, cheddar, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, Gruyère, Swiss, or Colby Jack. These cheeses melt easily and make the process easier. I like to slice super-thin pieces from the block, but you could also grate the cheese.