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kitchen 101: how to make a perfect grilled cheese sandwich

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Confession time, my friends: up until about three years I was the worst grilled cheese maker on the planet. I almost always burned them. And on the rare chance that I didn’t burn it, I never could get the cheese to melt properly. Or the sandwich would slide apart. Basically, I was a total culinary failure. I mean, who in the world can’t make a grilled cheese? Well, I couldn’t.

But now? Now, I’ve mastered the art of the perfect grilled cheese.

It turns out, the problem wasn’t my pan, my stove or my ingredients, the problem was me. And my ever-prominent lack of patience. That’s the true key to the perfect grilled cheese—patience. And I guess maybe I just had to get a little bit older before I had the patience to make it work.

So now that you’re totally hungry and craving an ooey-gooey grilled cheese, let’s make one.

Start over at the stove. Pull out your favorite skillet (non-stick is good, if you’re inclined to that sort of thing). And turn your burner onto low. Almost as low as it goes. I turned mine to the notch just above the lowest setting.

I’m a grilled cheese purist. My grilled cheeses consist of three things—cheese (duh), bread and butter. But if you the kind that sides with El Babyface-o, you can feel free to gather any other foods you’d like smothered in melty, gooey cheese. I hear that whole newfangled bacon thing is delicious.

You’ll want to prepare the mise en place before your bread ever touches the skillet. I typically use sharp cheddar cheese for my grilled cheeses—the sharper the better. But this time I used colby jack and cheddar. I like using thick cuts of cheese because I want that sucker to be gooey! I also use about two ounces of cheese per sandwich. Use more or less depending on your cheese-loving factor.

No, that’s not a euphemism. Literally, butter your bread. Sometimes I use Earth Balance, sometimes I use regular ole butter, but I always put about a teaspoon on one side of each slice of bread. Spread it out well and cover the whole side.

First I put down one slice of bread, butter-side down into the hot skillet. Then I layer the cheese on evenly and then the second slice down butter-side up.

Yup. Here’s where the patience part comes in. Step away. Step. Away. You’ll be tempted to turn up the heat. Nothing will look like it’s happening. If you’re like me, you’ll get antsy. You want your grilled cheese NOW. Just don’t. Don’t touch it for at least five minutes. And usually closer to 10. Once the cheese starts to look like it’s beginning to melt, you can bring in a spatula and lift up on the bottom to check how browned it is. If it’s browned to your liking, you can flip. If not? Go back to waiting until it is.

Using a nicely-sized spatula, flip the sandwich over. And the we’re gonna repeat the same patience-test with the flip side. Although, this time you don’t have to be as patient. By this point, the cheese should be mostly melted, you’re just looking to get that other side nice and crunchy and toasted. It usually takes about five minutes. And by the end of that five minutes, you have the gooeiest, cheesiest little bit of yum you’ve ever seen.

Then you can slice it up (or not) and serve it alongside your favorite soup or eat it straight-up if you’re feeling simplistic. Yum! This is definitely my favorite lunch.

Are you an expert grilled cheese maker?

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

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12 Responses
  1. Jessica

    I’ve had friends tutor me before in grilled cheese making, and I STILL couldn’t remember it a day later to do it myself. And I can cook! So what the heck?!

    Anyway, tonight’s a stormy night on the East coast, so i made myself some tomato soup and a good ol’ grilled cheese, BTHR style.

    THANK YOU!! (I think/hope I’ve got it committed to memory at this point!)

  2. Mmmmmmm!!!!!!

    …Ok, I know this is a little unorthodox, but try mayo instead of butter on the bread. I know. But for real, something about the type of fat helps it stay crispy on the outside and then melty and crazy amazing on the inside….I know. But for real- give her a go…. And ps thanks for being amazing!!

  3. Shannon

    And of course you post this AFTER I made grilled cheese for supper! :p

    Being an old lady, I learned this grill cheese patience a long time ago, but it bears repeating! Thanks.

  4. Michelle

    Curse you and your cravings-causing!

    On a similar note I have a recipe for scrambled eggs that goes like this one. It takes almost twenty minutes to make the eggs but they’re like nothing you’ve ever tasted. It’s weird.

  5. Casey

    This post made me so hungry for cheese! In my family we like the cheese to be melty and dripping out of the sides so it makes cripsy cheese pieces. Delicious. The easiest way I can find to melt the cheese without burning the crust is to cover the pan. Super easy, and helps a lot when you’ve loaded an excessive amount of cheese on that you need to melt. Yum yum heaven.

  6. I wanted to make a grilled cheese to go with some soup last night but I just refused to go to the store. I love grilled cheese sandwiches and I loved when my dad made them for me.

  7. My perfect grilled cheese would be if YOU came over here and made one for me!
    I 100% agree about being a purist. If you mess with it, it’s just NOT grilled cheese. That being said- I will never, ever EVER use American “cheese” for one. Or eat that crap, period. Ugh. I shiver just thinking about it- my mom used to buy sliced BLOCKS of it when I was a kid. Makes me want to vomit! Colby Jack is where it’s AT!

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Hello. My name is Cassie, and I’m a healthy home cooking expert.

I'm a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and I've been developing healthy recipes professionally for over 15 years. Food is my love language, and my kitchen tips and nourishing recipes are my love letter to you!

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