a better grilled cheese sandwich

I think I read about this twist on traditional grilled cheese in a recent Bon Appetit. Instead of using butter for the outer sides of the sandwich, they suggested using mayonnaise.

Naturally, I was curious. Would the mayonnaise make the sandwich taste different? Would it get the bread as toasty-crisp as butter does?

Turns out, the flavor is excellent, but I would never guess my grilled cheese had mayonnaise on the outside. (And since the skillet gets a light butter greasing before adding the sandwiches, there is still some butter flavor.)

But even though there’s not a noticeable improvement to flavor, I discovered a couple practical benefits to using mayo:

1. Mayonnaise is way easier to spread. No more ripping up the bread with firm butter!
2. Mayonnaise provides complete bread surface area coverage which translates into uniform golden toasty goodness.

These benefits have me sold. I have been making my grilled cheese with mayonnaise ever since.

A Better Grilled Cheese Sandwich

the bread:
Any kind works, but I’m partial to a sturdy artisan bread like my homemade sourdough. And not whole grains, please. The whiter the better.

the cheese:
A good, melty kind, whatever you like, and a lot of it. Seriously. Pack it in there. (The sandwich in the pictures did not have enough cheese.)

add-ins (optional):
If using add-ins like ham or roasted tomatoes: put a layer of cheese, then the add-in, and then another layer of cheese. This way the melty cheese will bind everything together most spectacularly.

the mayonnaise:
A thin coating on the outside pieces of bread. Full-fat, of course.

the butter:
Just a tad.

the process: 
Make sure the skillet is fairly hot before adding the sandwiches and then turn the heat down to medium. Take your time—the longer the better. Ten minutes? Fifteen? Rotate the sandwiches to get them evenly toasted.

Do you have any killer tips for making a better grilled cheese sandwich?

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (6.2.14), when the studies end, on pins and needles, the quotidian (6.3.13), meat market, chocobananos, of a sun-filled evening, the best chocolate ice cream ever, sour cream ice cream, on hold, and hypothesizing.    


  • Lana

    When my five were growing up I did them in the oven just for my sanity but they are SO much better than stove top. 400 degrees and turn after, I think, 5 minutes. They brown on the bottom so do them in the lower part of the oven. Best grilled cheese you ever put in your mouth.

  • Mama Pea

    Well, who knew? Gotta try this. When I make grilled cheese sandwiches, I frequently put thinly sliced raw garlic (at least one clove per sandwich) between the slices of cheese. May not be for everyone, but it's good for us and keeps the vampires away until the next dose.

  • Donna

    Yes, mayo and for an extra crispy grate a bit of cheese on the skillet and place the bread on top, that way everyone gets a bit of crispy on their sandwich, it also looks a bit lacy which is pretty. I also will slip a homegrown tomatoe slice in cheese sandwich…when in season. I agree with the above suggestion of a lid to speed the cooking process and get the cheese melted. I also use several different kinds of cheese.

  • Margo

    fascinating. I will try this.

    I always one side of the buttered bread, too. I love salt.

    And I've wanted to try Smitten Kitchen's grilled cheese with some grated cheese on the outside. that looks so good – all that browned cheese!

  • Rebecca

    Grilled cheese is often a Saturday lunch around here so I'll give this a go tomorrow. I always cover the skillet when the sandwiches first go in. That ensures perfect cheese melting by the time the first side of bread is brown. When you flip the sandwiches, you get those little pools of cheese that crisp on the hot iron. So lovely.

    • Jennifer Jo

      That's my favorite part. I clean off all the crispy edges before I pass out the sandwiches—cook's privilege.

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