The Clever Reason To Melt Cheese First For Grilled Cheese

We all love a good grilled cheese sandwich, but it can be a bit more difficult than expected to get it just right. Namely, sometimes the cheese doesn't fully melt, making for a less-than-ideal grilled cheese experience. Well, James Beard-nominated chef Luke Zahm, has a trick to ensure that you will have perfectly melted cheese every time: Melt the cheese on its own, outside of the bread.

Zahm revealed to Better Homes & Gardens that he starts the grilled cheese-making process by first putting the cheese on the griddle. Then, he begins to toast the buttered bread, placing it next to the cheese on the griddle. Once the cheese has melted, he adds it to the toasted bread, completing the sandwich. Zahm said, "It allows that beautiful cheese to melt into that gooey molten deliciousness of culinary excellence." If you don't have an indoor griddle at home, you may need to use two separate pans, one for the cheese and one for the bread, so the bread doesn't get pushed too far to the side of a pan (and doesn't get crispy).

Tips for making the best grilled cheese

While Zahm doesn't specify if he uses shredded cheese or cheese slices, either will likely work for his melt-the-cheese-on-its-own method. That said, shredded cheese melts quicker than slices, so it's another way to avoid having your bread toast up faster than the cheese can melt. Another tactic essential to this timing: medium low heat. You may be tempted to raise the heat to eat your sandwich sooner, but in the case of grilled cheese, patience is a virtue.

You should also make sure to pick cheeses that melt easily, such as cheddar, gruyere, or pepper jack. But, don't be afraid to branch out to cheeses that may be a bit more unexpected. Feta, for example, could work quite well when mixed with another meltier cheese. Because feta doesn't melt well on its own, it'll bring a heartier, thicker feel to the grilled cheese.

Further, you may have heard about the debate of whether to use mayonnaise or butter to get that crispiness on the bread. It really comes down to personal preference: The mayo will add some saltiness, as well as a bit of creamy texture. Regardless of which one you choose, it's vital that you put it on the bread — rather than on the pan — to make sure the entire piece of bread is evenly toasted.

Don't be afraid to add ingredients to upgrade your grilled cheese

Another tip of Zahm's to achieve the perfect grilled cheese? Adding in some unexpected ingredients. Zahm told Better Homes & Gardens that he recommends additions such as jalapeño jelly or apple butter — either inside or on top of your grilled cheese — to upgrade the sandwich to the next level. It may seem strange to take away any attention from the star of the show, the cheese, but the right additions can actually highlight its taste even more. Zahm explained, "It allows for some of the complexity of the cheese to shine through by counterpointing with acid and sugar."

Really, you can add just about any ingredient that you want to your grilled cheese; if there's enough cheese in there — as there should be — then the other ingredients shouldn't be too overpowering. You may want to add in some type of meat to get some protein into the sandwich — prosciutto, shredded chicken or bacon would all make for great additions. Other great options include apple slices, tomatoes, or caramelized onions. Or, pulling from Zahm's suggestions, you could opt for full jalapeño slices, instead of jelly, to get a little bit of spice kick in the sandwich.