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Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich

The Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich is a cheese lover’s combination of three of the best cheeses ever, plus tangy pickled onions, melted between two slices of toasty sweet Hawaiian bread.

Ultimate grilled cheese sandwich on a plate

It’s National Grilled Cheese Month, and I waited until the very last day to share the best grilled cheese sandwich you’ll ever set your teeth into, because that’s just how I roll these days: a day late and a dollar short, as my dad used to say. Lol.

I think it’s worth pointing out at the start, that, while these sandwiches are supposed to be wonderfully melty and gooey, yours won’t necessary ooze out all over the plate, as in the photo above, because your goal is to stuff them into your mouth asap, and not stack ultimate grilled cheese sandwich halves high on a plate and leave them sit there, tilting precariously, while you install your backup camera battery. Thusly oozing their innards outwardly.

No, your sandwich will be melted perfection, because you eat your food like normal people do. 🙂

Pickling onions for the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich

So let’s get to the ooey gooey guts of the matter: the secret to the best grilled cheese sandwich!

Pickled onions are one of the not-so-secret secrets of this particular ultimate grilled cheese sandwich. The acid tang of the vinegar is ever so lovely with grilled cheese, and onions are always a perfect pairing with cheese. I used to painstakingly caramelize onions for my grilled cheese sandwiches, but, no more: quick pickling is da bomb.

Use your favorite vinegar: I used champagne, which sounds far more frou-frou than it really is, lol. But balsamic is also lovely, as is good ole standby red wine vinegar. I add pickling seasonings because I have them on hand; crush them a little bit if you’re doing a super quick pickling, rather than overnight, to help release their flavors.

Three cheeses on a cheeseboard for the ultimate grilled cheese sandwichFrying up the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich

I have to give a special shout-out to Cambozola Black Label blue cheese (top left on the little cheeseboard above). It is IMHO the best. blue cheese. ever. It’s not an in-yo’-face, blue cheese addict’s blue cheese, rather the perfect marriage of blue cheese and brie-like goodness.

Some call it beginner’s blue cheese, but I’m not a beginner, and I love and adore it. It’s a blue cheese you can trust to make your dishes taste better without the shock of over strong cheese. (We’ve all experienced those, right? “{chomp} Yeeow, unexpected pocket of stinky cheese!”)

I don’t consume much dairy these days, and that amount would actually be zero if it weren’t for gorgeous cheeses like Cambozola Black Label. My local Kroger carries it in its in-store Murray’s Cheese shop, and hopefully you’ll be able to find it at any good cheese retailer. (Not a paid placement, btw – I just love da cheese.) If you need a substitute, choose a mild blue cheese like Danish Blue or Gorgonzola.

Ultimate grilled cheese sandwich on a plate with potato chips

What makes the Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich?

  • Ooey gooey cheeses – grilled cheese is at its best when filled with melty flavorful cheeses. My go-to melty cheese is fontina — way tastier than mozzarella, yet smooth and creamy when melted. If you have trouble sourcing fontina, try Havarti, which is also quite lovely. Mild blue cheese brings a sophisticated depth, while white sharp cheddar (although not quite as melty) adds aged-cheese complexity.
  • Shred the ooey gooey cheeses – this is a tip I learned from Alton Brown long ago. Shredding your grilled cheese cheeses into delicate strips lets them melt evenly and thoroughly. Makes complete sense, right? We’ve all had grilled cheese sandwiches where the slice of cheese just sort of sits there and half melts. Still delish, but shredding is better.
  • Freeze soft cheeses first – soft and semi-soft cheeses like fontina and creamy blue cheeses can make a mess of your box grater and leave you with a pile of cheese globs. No worries. Place the cheese blocks in the freezer, unwrapped, for about 15 minutes. Don’t freeze them solid, just enough so they have structure. It really works (look at the bowl of shreds in the photo next to the cheeseboard above)!
  • The bread – I’m super picky about grilled cheese bread. Over-processed white bread is too soft and flimsy. Whole grain breads and crusty sourdoughs are delicious, but can be tough to bite into cleanly, which compresses the sandwich and causes the cheese to squeeze out. Yes, that’s level of nit-pickydom I go to when choosing bread. I’ll refer you to the photo above again: while rivers of cheese and onions make for a dramatic photo, it should all stay put between the bread slices. I discovered the beauty of thick-cut, sweet Hawaiian bread for grilled cheese some years ago, and have never looked back. It’s tender yet sturdy, it toasts beautifully, and its flavor is a real friend to cheese sandwiches.
  • Butter the bread on just one side – in my grilled cheese making youth, I used to butter both sides of the bread. Actually, in my youth, I used to do a lot of weird things when making grilled cheese, including melting the butter in the pan and then adding the bread slices on top, which was, I don’t know, more French toast than grilled cheese, lol. Anyway, more butter sounds like a fabulous idea, but it really just makes the sandwich greasier than necessary. Cheese will express un-emulsified fat as oil when melted, so you definitely don’t need to add more lube to the situation.
  • Toast both sides – toast the insides of the bread first, then flip and immediately add the cheese. This gives the melting process a head-start, and ensures a crispy slice of bread throughout. It also adds structure to the bread slice, and helps keep the sandwich from being too bendy when picked up.
  • Flavor balanced perfection – just because it’s just a grilled cheese sandwich doesn’t mean we can’t apply the standard culinary rules and tickle multiple notes on our taste buds. The cheeses provide a soft, creamy saltiness. The pickled onions, acid tang and umami. And the Hawaiian bread adds a touch of sweetness that gently offsets the savory flavor bomb within.

Grilled cheese sandwiches go perfectly with soup, of course, but I consider it an all-season dish: I love grilled cheese with a side of sliced, homegrown heirloom tomatoes and a tall glass of iced tea as a summer treat.

Here’s to melty cheese on bread! 😀

Karen xo

Ultimate grilled cheese sandwich
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

The Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich

The world's best grilled cheese sandwich uses a combination of super tasty cheeses, grated, tops them with pickled onions, and sandwiches it all between two perfectly grilled slices of sweet Hawaiian bread.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time35 mins
Servings: 4 sandwiches
Calories: 395kcal
Author: Karen Gibson

Ingredients

  • 1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced into half moons
  • red wine or champagne vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon dill seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 8 slices thick cut sweet Hawaiian bread
  • 1 cup grated fontina cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated soft blue cheese* (Cambozola Black Label is excellent)
  • 1/2 cup grated white cheddar cheese

Instructions

  • Place the onion slices in a shallow bowl, and cover with vinegar. Add the dill and mustard seeds and let the onions rest in the solution for at least an hour (overnight is fine; store in the fridge). Rinse the onions and pat dry.
  • Heat a large skillet (or two), or griddle, over medium heat. Meanwhile, toss the three cheeses together in a bowl.
  • Butter one side of each of the bread slices. Flick water on the skillet - if the droplets sizzle, the surface is ready.  Note that you'll probably have to prepare the sandwiches in batches.
  • Add the bread slices buttered side up in the pan(s). Let toast for a couple of minutes, then flip (buttered side down). Add a handful of the grated cheese mix to each of four of the toasty bread slices, along with several slices of the pickled onions. Top each sandwich with the other bread slices (buttered side up).
  • Continue cooking the grilled cheese sandwiches, flipping every couple of minutes, until both sides are golden brown. Serve immediately

Notes

* Soft cheeses like fontina and blue cheese can be easily grated by placing the blocks in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Remove any plastic overwrap first, and don't freeze them solid. The cheese will easily grate on a box grater.

Nutrition

Calories: 395kcal
Nutritional information, if shown, is provided as a courtesy only, and is not to be taken as medical information or advice. The nutritional values of your preparation of this recipe are impacted by several factors, including, but not limited to, the ingredient brands you use, any substitutions or measurement changes you make, and measuring accuracy.

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Isadora Guidoni

Monday 28th of May 2018

This looks delicious, but I mean, it's grilled cheese. Is there anyway it's not delicious? hahah Thanks for sharing!

Rocky Mountain Woman

Thursday 3rd of May 2018

One of my very favorite foodie move scenes ever is the one in Chef where the Chef makes a grilled cheese sandwich. This made me want to watch that movie all over again, so I think I'll just do that right now!!!

Carol Berger

Monday 30th of April 2018

The most unappetizing mess I’ve ever seen!