First thing’s first—pick butter, not mayonnaise.

Updated July 09, 2020
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Is there anything better than a crispy, melty grilled cheese? Obviously, no. It’s a delicious sandwich that’s notoriously easy to make. And yet, people still mess it up. Our associate food editor Kelsey Youngman points out that because it’s so simple, you need to pay attention to every aspect of the process to get optimal results, from ingredient choice to cooking technique. 

In our latest “The Best Way” video, Kelsey lays out exactly how to make that perfect grilled cheese, explaining her chosen bread and cheese, why she prefers butter over mayonnaise, and why aged cheese doesn’t melt as well. The end result is a gorgeously golden brown sandwich. Check out her tips below so you can make it, too.

Be patient

In order to get a golden brown grilled cheese with cheese in the center that’s actually melted, you’ll want to cook it low and slow.

Start with high-quality ingredients

A good sandwich starts with good bread, and in this instance, Kelsey uses thin slices from a boule of country white. As for the cheese? She picks a mix of medium cheddar and Monterey Jack. The cheddar has the perfect blend of flavor and texture, while the Jack is a younger cheese and will melt beautifully. 

You could use mayonnaise, but butter is better…

You might be wondering why Kelsey spreads butter on her bread instead of mayonnaise, since the latter is so popular and touted to create a “shatter-like crispiness.” However, she tested them both out on a slice of bread, and found that while they both browned evenly and got toasty, the mayonnaise slice ended up shinier and a little greasy. Plus, Kelsey says the flavor of butter can’t be beat.

…and you don’t need much, either

When you’re buttering the bread (one side of each slice), you don’t need a lot. You just want to make sure it covers the whole slice, so even browning can occur.

Checkerboard that cheese

On one slice of bread, Kelsey “checkerboards” the cheese slices so they mix together. First, she lays down medium cheddar, ripping a slice in half and staggering the two pieces so that they overlap, but aren’t on top of each other. Then, she takes the Monterey Jack slice, splits that in half, and places the pieces where the bread hasn’t been covered yet, creating a checkerboard-like pattern. You don’t need a ton of cheese, either—if you put too much on, it won’t melt well and will overwhelm the bread. 

Again, low and slow

While she was building the sandwich, Kelsey had a nonstick pan warming to medium-low (the low side of medium-low). She then places the closed sandwich in, buttered-sides outward-facing, cooking it on each side for five minutes.

Fun fact: aged cheese doesn’t melt as well

While it cooks, Kelsey explains that aged cheese doesn’t melt well, and compares Parmigiano-Reggiano with processed American cheese. American cheese has longer protein strands, resulting in cheese pulls, and it has a lot of moisture, so it melts beautifully. Parmigiano-Reggiano, on the other hand, is a dry cheese and has short protein strands, so you won’t get that melt and pull you were expecting.

Enjoy

The sandwich comes out of the pan golden brown, buttery, and melty. All that’s left to do is cut and eat it—Kelsey recommends triangles, since they "just taste better."