Crisp, gooey, cheesy… we don’t need an excuse to enjoy a cheese toastie, but we invite you to join us in celebrating National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day on 12 April.
Is there such a thing as a bad grilled cheese sandwich? Whether it’s mousetrap cheddar stuffed into cheap white sliced bread or a far more artisanal option from a top deli, we’ve always got time for one. It seems that we’re not the only one, and now there’s a whole day to celebrate this humble tea time treat. National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day kicks off on 12 April – are you ready?
The history of the grilled cheese sandwich
Most of us have been chowing down on this delectable delight since childhood, but the history of the cheese toastie goes back a bit further than that. It rose suddenly in popularity in the 1920s, when sliced bread and processed cheese became a lot more readily available. And while we’re still huge fans of the traditional cheese toastie, it has been given a gourmet makeover in recent years, giving us some very fancy (and delicious) cheese sandwiches.
Choosing your bread
Bread is the bedrock of your grilled cheese sandwich – it’s what holds together the whole show, and if it fails, you’ll just end up with a pan of burnt cheese. Sliced white bread can and will do the job, but why stop there? The tang of sourdough, the crunch of a seeded loaf, the nuttiness of a tiger loaf – the possibilities are endless. We even love a brioche for a less traditional option, stuffed with figs and ricotta cheese. Slicing your own bread creates a rougher surface, leading to more delicious crispy bits.
Don’t forget to make sure that your bread is thick enough to contain the contents, particularly if you’re adding sauces and pickles.
The grilled cheese sandwich appeared in ration packs during World War 2, stuffed with heavily processed orange cheese. We do not recommend continuing this tradition!
When looking for cheese for your toastie, the primary consideration is how well it will melt. Avoid crumbly cheeses like Wensleydale and Cheshire cheese, as they just won’t work here. Mozzarella, Havarti and gruyere all produce a wonderfully stringy filling, but none of them has a particularly strong flavour. We’d recommend mixing them with vintage cheddar or red Leicester for the ultimate combo.
However, in times of desperation, even processed cheese slices will do!
This is where we like to get creative. Pickles and chutneys are an obvious choice, something sharp to cut through the richness of the cheese. We also love tomatoes, olives, onions and anything that brings a bit of crunch to our sandwich. There have also been suggestions of wholegrain mustard, sriracha sauce, capers, gherkins and gentleman’s relish…
Beware of anything too watery, as it can cause the fillings in your sandwich to steam and stop cheese from melting.
Cooking your sandwich
The sandwich toaster was a staple of the teatime repertoire when we were growing up, but most people now agree that a heavy bottomed frying pan is the best way of cooking your grilled cheese sandwich. Liberally butter the outside of your sandwich and allow it to cook over a medium heat until golden brown on the outside and gooey and melted within. Griddle pans will give you a beautiful finish, and be sure to push down on your sandwich throughout cooking to get the best edges.
If your sandwich is a bit overfilled, it’s worth blasting it in the oven quickly to ensure everything inside is completely melted.