Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Because grilled cheese sandwiches are awesome, and after having made them with a few different cooking implements (nonstick griddle, contact grill, frying pan), I have arrived at what I deem to be the best way to make them: using a frying pan.

I'm not sure how much different frying pan materials will affect this.  I don't think there will be a noticeable difference, but for scientific purposes, I'm using a stainless steel frying pan.

I also fully recommend seasoning your frying pan, that is, unless you like having your grilled cheese stick to it, and end up both burnt and under-toasted simultaneously.  If your frying pan isn't seasoned and you don't really have the time to do so, you can just apply some vegetable oil cooking spray to it before heating it up.

Anyway, on to the recipe.  Some parts are open to adjustment for your own tastes, obviously.
  • Bread, 2 slices
  • butter
  • cheese, 2 slices
  • seasoning to taste
  • vegetable oil cooking spray
Brand recommendations (aka what I use):
  • Bread: Nature's Own 100% Whole Grain (not the sugar free one, this distinction is important because they look nearly identical)
  • Butter: Brummel & Brown (a low-fat butter substitute).  It's spreadable straight out of the fridge, unlike regular butter that you need to bring to room temperature first.
  • Cheese: Sargento Sharp Cheddar.  Don't get the thin slices, and if you use plastic American processed cheese food product (that can't even legally be called "cheese" in the US), you suck.  Cheddar is better.
  • Seasoning: Old Bay seasoning, or just cut to the chase and use paprika
  • Cooking spray: Pam (make sure to get the regular one, not any of their weird ones with flour, butter, or olive oil)
  1. Get out your slices of bread, and spread a very thin coat of butter across one side of each slice of bread.  Total surface area coated matters more than the volume of butter in that surface area.  Try to get all the way out to the edge of the crust.
  2. Start your frying pan warming up (on medium heat) and spray some cooking spray on it.
  3. When the oil is warm, put one slice of bread on it, butter side down.  It should make a strong sizzling sound immediately, rather than a weak sizzling sound that takes a bit to build in volume.
  4. Sprinkle your seasoning on the bread, place the cheese on top, and add more seasoning if you like.  Place the other slice of bread on top, butter side up, and wait a bit for the cheese to warm up (but not start melting).
  5. Flip the whole thing and toast it on the untoasted side.  Pressing it with the spatula is bad and you should feel bad if you do it.  Once it's toasted, take it off, it's done.
Don't bother slicing it diagonally, that's for patient people and little kids.  Just tear into it like you know you want to.  This whole process should only take a few minutes, frying pans are pretty quick at cooking things.

If your frying pan was seasoned, let it cool and then rinse it with water and dry it with a paper towel.  Soap will displace the nice non-stick surface that's been built up (and that the cooking spray contributed to).

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