The secret to making a perfect grilled-cheese sandwich, according to a golf-club chef

grilled cheese

Grilled cheese is one of life's ultimate comfort-foods.

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Lee Westwood knows it as a “cheese toastie.” Jean van de Velde calls it a “croque monsieur.” Different countries have different names for a sandwich as simple as it delicious.

When Tiger Woods requests one, he asks for a grilled cheese.

A staple at diners and to-go counters, the grilled cheese gets lots of love in golf course kitchens, too.

At Montclair Golf Club, in West Orange, N.J., chef Ken Stelmack takes a can’t-fail approach, slapping slices of American or cheddar cheese onto buttered white bread and crisping the sandwich in a frying pan.

Pretty basic. But don’t let that constrain you. Stelmack says you should feel free to embellish while keeping these fundamentals in mind.

1. Switch up the bread

White. Wheat. Rye. Texas toast. Ciabatta. Stelmack has tried all of those, and others. Almost any kind of bread can work. It’s pretty much a matter of personal taste. On that note, don’t hesitate to use different kinds of cheese. Gouda. Fontina. Monterey jack. Stelmack has no rules for cheese-bread pairings. His one proviso revolves around blue cheese, which, he says, “I would not normally use unless it is with figs.”

2. Grill, don’t bake

Don’t cook it in the oven. Crisp it in a frying pan or on a flattop. Butter the bread. Avoid using oil. (“You want the buttery flavor,” says Stelmack.)

3. Use low heat and steady pressure

Cook your grilled cheese on low heat, so the bread doesn’t burn before the cheese gets nice and gooey. Also: pressing down on the sandwich with a spatula will help crisp the bread and melt the cheese. A panini press works nicely, too. Stelmack recommends against weighting down the sandwich with the pot or pan lid, as they might be dirtier than you think.

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4. Combine cheeses

There’s no rule against using multiple cheeses in a single sandwich. White cheddar and gruyere is a winning combo, Stelmack says. But why not try a trio? Swiss, American and gouda. Cream cheese, gruyere and parmesan. The iterations are as varied as personal tastes.

5. Get the right cheese-to-bread ratio

It all depends on the thickness of the bread. But for his standard grilled cheese recipe, Stelmack uses two to three slices of American or cheddar. If your bread is especially thick, you might need to finish it in the oven, baking it for a few minutes, just long enough to melt the cheese.

6. Don’t be afraid to mix it up

Variety is the spice of life. And something to aspire to with your grilled cheese. To get you started, Stelmack offers these ideas:

  • Grilled cheese with tomato and bacon, open-faced and cut into triangle
  • White cheddar and gruyere with caramelized onion
  • Grilled ham and gouda
  • Brie with raspberries
  • Pulled pork and cheese
  • Swiss cheese and rye with a gourmet cheese of your choice. Camembert?

7. Choose a complementary side

A grilled cheese with nothing else can be pretty lonely. Of all the possible companions, Stelmack favors tomato soup, salad or French fries.


Josh Sens Editor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.