Happy Grilled Cheese Day!
The beloved grilled cheese sandwich.
It’s warm and soothing, like a savoury and non-liquid version of hot chocolate. Kids love it because it’s an incredibly simple and accessible food. Photographers love it because it’s awesome taking a photo of the moment when you pull the two halves of your grilled cheese sandwich apart and it becomes satisfyingly stringy in the middle. People who don’t know how to cook love it because even they are capable of making a grilled cheese sandwich. But amidst all this love, there’s controversy.
Mayo: Yes or No?
This is perhaps the greatest of the grilled cheese controversies. I am entirely aware that spreading mayonnaise on bread when making grilled cheese is a completely revolting idea to many of you. But with people from Gabrielle Hamilton to Ruth Reichl recommending this technique for achieving the perfect grilled cheese sandwich, it can’t be all bad, right?
Have you ever tried spreading butter on soft white bread before the butter has been entirely softened? It’s terrible – you’ll just wind up destroying your bread as sad chunks of it rub off onto your not-soft-enough butter. With its perfectly spreadable smoothness, using mayo on the outside of your bread neatly takes care of this problem.
You might be scrunching your face up and thinking, “Gross, why mayo?” It comes down to the burning point of butter vs mayo. When you’re making a grilled cheese using only butter, you need careful temperature control; butter has a lower smoke point and you’ll need to pay attention in order to get the right level of melted cheese without burning the butter-coated outsides of your bread.
The oil and egg in mayo brown more evenly for a uniform crispiness along the outside of your bread. Because of the higher smoke point, you can use higher temperatures when cooking your grilled cheese, which will result in a fluffier interior (cooking longer using butter can sometimes result in drying out your bread). But have no fear – it doesn’t actually taste like mayo.
Want the best of both worlds? Spread mayo on your bread, then fry it in butter!
How do you define a grilled cheese sandwich?
Grilled cheese or patty melt – where is the dividing line? Where paninis fit into all of this? And what about cheese on toast?
The good people at Serious Eats have defined a grilled cheese as:
- a closed sandwich, griddled on both sides.
- a sandwich where cheese is the primary ingredient. Other ingredients can complement the cheese, but none may overwhelm it.
- made with sliced bread. With this parameter, Serious Eats has disqualified paninis as grilled cheese sandwiches.
- served hot all the way through, with the cheese thoroughly melted.
- cooked on a flat, greased surface until golden brown. In extreme circumstances, it may be cooked on an outdoor grill over an open fire. A grilled cheese may never be baked or deep-fried.
What do you think? Do you agree with these parameters? This seems like a pretty reasonable set of criteria for being called a grilled cheese sandwich.
Personally, I’d also like to add “cut diagonally”, as I adhere firmly to the belief that a grilled cheese sandwich tastes best when cut diagonally. But maybe that’s another controversy for another day…
Does Quebec have a problem with grilled cheese?
A Quebec restaurant wound up in trouble from the language police for using the phrase “grilled cheese” on its signage. I’m siding with the restaurant owner on this one – ordering a “sandwich de fromage fondu” just doesn’t have the same je ne sais quoi as “grilled cheese sandwich.”
Although this does make me wonder – do people in France generally only eat croque monsieurs and croque madames? Another mystery for another day, perhaps.
Come on everyone – let’s put our differences aside and simply celebrate the greatness of the grilled cheese sandwich. Meet you at TuckShop Kitchen for a grilled cheese with tomato soup.
Happy grilled cheese day!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
TESS NG – Food Blogger @TuckShop Kitchen
Tess Ng is an accountant by day, writer by night, and food lover all the time.