British Cheese On Toast Relies On Worcestershire Sauce For An Umami Kick

From flatbread to grilled cheese sandwiches, melting cheese over bread has a longstanding place in hearts and stomachs worldwide. In the United Kingdom, cheese on toast is the preferred nomenclature for this simple yet delicious duo. Brits have enjoyed cheese on toast for over a century as a snack or part of breakfast or lunch.

Just as Italians use tomato sauce, and Americans use butter or mayo, British cheese on toast adds a powerful flavor boost with Worcestershire sauce, a highly complex condiment that draws inspiration from the fermented fish sauces of South Asia. The process of fermentation and anchovies pack Worcestershire sauce with a powerful umami kick that enriches a savory, salty, creamy food like cheese. Worcestershire sauce also has tangy vinegar and sweet molasses, which deliver even more complimentary flavors for cheese.

As a native British sauce, Worcestershire sauce makes cheese on toast a little more authentic.  It originated in the early 19th century and has also been popularized as a key ingredient in the Welsh rarebit, a predecessor to cheese on toast that pours a more elaborate cheese sauce over toasted bread. Even famed American chefs like David Chang add Worcestershire sauce to cheesy dishes like mac and cheese after sampling it in cheese on toast during a trip to the U.K. 

Preparation tips and flavor pairings

How you add Worcestershire sauce to cheese on toast depends on how you add cheese to your toast. Some people place a slice  of cheese on toasted bread, while others add grated cheese for a lighter, bubblier texture. If you use grated cheese, you can add Worcestershire sauce to the grated cheese in a bowl before topping the toast, brush it onto the toast before adding the cheese, or drizzle it over the grated cheese before the final broiling.

If you use a slice of cheese, drizzling Worcestershire sauce onto the finished product fresh out of the broiler ensures uniform absorption; Worcestershire sauce won't penetrate a thick slice of cheese as it broils, so it'll either collect in puddles or slide off the cheese altogether. Worcestershire sauce pairs well with various creamy, meltable cheeses; it stands up to the sharpness of an English cheddar or the richness of Gruyere. While you can use regular sandwich bread, you'd benefit from a thicker, crustier bread that can withstand the weight of melted cheese and absorb Worcestershire sauce more efficiently.

If you want to make cheese on toast into a bonafide open-faced sandwich, Worcestershire and cheese will work well with sour or sweet pickle relish, mustard, caramelized or raw onions, a fried egg, or even sweet and savory British baked beans. You could skip food ingredients altogether and opt for a classic beverage pairing; there's nothing like a pint of British ale to wash down cheese on toast.