There are few more satisfyingly comforting foods than a crunchy, melty, salty grilled cheese sandwich. When it hits all the right notes, it can transform a boring lunch or after-school snack into something special. At its most basic, it consists of three ingredients, so it’s worth making the effort to choose the best cheese for your grilled cheese sandwich that you can. Grab your cast-iron skillet, your favorite bread (consider sneaking in some healthy whole grains while you're at it), and get cooking!
You can go for comfort and a little nostalgia with undemanding American cheese– a little salty, a little sweet. Mix it up with something with a little more bite or funk, say, an extra sharp Cheddar or slightly stinky taleggio. Or wake up your taste buds with cheese spiked with jalapeño or horseradish. Make sure to look for a cheese that will complement your bread (or vice versa). If you have a lovely artisanal sourdough, reach for something that will pair well with its tanginess, like a nutty Gruyère.
P.S: Texture is key. AKA, "Why isn't the cheese melting on my grilled cheese?" It’s so disappointing to take a bite and feel like you might as well be eating a piece of plastic. It could be you’ve chosen a cheese that doesn’t melt that well at all. Look for cheeses that are somewhat soft and moist, not hard and crumbly. If you love the flavor of a firm cheese and want to use it anyway, coarsely grate it so that the heat can get to it more easily (see some of our favorite cheese graters here). Melting tip: If your cheese is too cold, it may not melt before the bread is toasted. Room temperature is the way to go, no matter which kind you choose. If you’re the impatient type, covering the pan or griddle will help to speed things along.
Our Top Cheese Choices
Cheddar: Grilled cheese perfection (in my opinion). Pick one that’s medium to sharp for a good melt-to-flavor ratio.
American The OG friend of white bread — mild, salty, a little sweet, with a major melting quotient. Deli slices have a little more heft than the plastic-wrapped versions.
Gruyère There’s a reason the French use this nutty, slightly stinky cheese in their famous croque monsieur — it melts beautifully and has a nice kick without being overpowering.
Fontina Italy’s alpine cheese ranges from mild to funky, so figure out where you stand on the flavor scale and dig in.
Gouda The Dutch cheese with the red wax, it's creamy and nutty and slightly sweet. Younger versions will melt better.
Muenster The varieties sold in the States are typically mild, making this another kid-friendly fave.
Bonus Parmesan! Not for the filling (although mixed with some shredded mozzarella it would be divine), but a little nutty, salty Parm sprinkled on the outside of your sandwich will transform it into a super-crunchy marvel, like this one spiked with jalapeño.
Missed your favorite cheese for grilling? It's entirely possible — there's a world of great cheese out there. Let us know in the comments!