Best grilled cheese technique

Well, with winter setting in I am finding myself craving more and more comfort foods. And what is more comforting to the average American other than a grilled cheese sandwich, except perhaps a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup?

On one of his DVD episodes, Alton Brown illustrates how to make a grilled cheese (faux panini style) in under four minutes. I’ve got it down to three minutes due to my range’s heat, and I have added my own variations to suit my personal tastes. Regardless of individual flair, though, the skeletal culinary structure remains the same. You will need 2 cast iron 10″ skillets, or one 10″ skillet and one 10″ comal. You can do two sandwiches at one time, perhaps three, and definately one.

Go into the kitchen and put both pans (which should be dry, otherwise they will smoke excessively) on high. While they heat, grab your bread, select and grate some decent cheese, such as some aged or sharp cheddar, or even a combo of brie and Reggiano, or some havarti or mozzarella (if you make grilled cheese with American cheese, well, whatever, and what the heck are you doing on this site, anyway?), pick out some mustard from the fridge and spread a thin coat over one slice of bread with it. Put the cheese onto the other piece. Here is where I go for my own flair. I grind some fresh black pepper over the cheese, I splooge some Rooster sauce (Vietnamese chilli sauce) over the mustard, and lightly butter both sides of the bread. It is not uncommon for me to throw some diced onion or gherkins into the mix, but it depends on my mood. The butter is necessary to prevent the pans from sticking to the bread. Alton Brown uses a spritz of olive oil on the contact surfaces of the pans, but I find I prefer butter spread on the bread better.

OK, your pans are hot and smoking. Your sandwich is assembled. Turn off the heat (and if you have an electric range, move your pans to a different (cool) burner or the counter (use a trivet!). Put the sandwich on one pan, and put the second pan on top of the sandwich to replicate a panini press. Set a timer somewhere (though you won’t need it other than to confirm that I am right). It might take two, or it might take three minutes, but when you hear the melted cheese hit the pan with a sizzle, the cheese is fully melted, and the hot surfaces will have browned the bread by now. It’s ready to eat.

The only downside to this technique is that you end up with a pressed sandwich (you could even use a ridged grill pan to create grill lines on one side. Sometimes, I do not wish to put my bread under the duress of weight. When that is the case, I opt for the heat and flip technique. But if I want a mindless, foolproof sandwich in under 4 minutes, I use two cast iron pans.

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