6 tips to make a perfect grilled cheese (plus 4 other variations), according to a golf club chef

a grilled cheese sandwich

A grilled cheese sandwich is deeply gratifying and easy to prepare. Just be sure to follow a few simple tips to make it perfect.

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A perfect grilled cheese is something to behold: crispy, creamy and rich. It also comes in countless iterations. No matter which you favor, it helps to follow a few fundamentals. Here are six essential preparation tips, along with four of my favorite versions of the sandwich.

Quality first

Like all dishes, a grilled cheese sandwich is only as good as the ingredients you use. It might cost a little extra, but the payoffs are priceless. Start with the best bread, cheese and butter you can find.

Double-side it 

Put cheese on both pieces of the bread. It will help the sandwich stay together.

Start in the oven

Just as you can race from the car to the first tee, you can toss cold bread and cheese onto a pan on the stovetop. But it’s always better to warm up first. Lay the bread on a baking sheet, blanket each piece with cheese and place the whole shebang in a 350-degree oven for a few minutes to get the chill off before finishing the sandwich in a pan.

About that pan

I recommend a cast-iron pan or skillet, which retains heat beautifully and helps produce a crispy, golden crust

Go low and slow

With the heat, I mean. You don’t want to burn the butter or the bread. You can also swap out butter for clarified butter or light-blended olive oil.

The press is on

If you have another heavy pan, place it on top of the sandwich as it cooks. The weight helps keep things flat and crispy. Don’t have an extra pan? A brick wrapped in tinfoil works well, too.

Four spins on grilled cheese

The All-American

Good-quality country white bread with real American cheese. As the bread and cheese are warming in the oven, melt one tablespoon of butter (or heat one tablespoon of oil) in the cast-iron pan. Assemble the sandwich and press it into the pan with a spatula, giving it a chance to absorb some of the butter or oil. At 30 seconds, flip it over and put the pan in the oven. The idea is to crisp the bread and melt the cheese without scorching it too badly — though I do also like a bit of char.

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The Spanglish

This version was inspired by the movie of the same name, which features a scene with Adam Sandler, making a sandwich on crusty peasant bread with tomato, bacon, lettuce, mayonnaise and a fried egg. I don’t remember whether he used cheese. But in my spin, I add Manchego, a Spanish cheese that turns this into a wonderfully multicultural BLT.

Double Dutch

No, we are not skipping rope. We are grilling cheese. With pumpernickel bread and Gouda. The previous method applies, and the combination is incredible. If you really want to do it right, add caramelized onions, which lend a sweet-and-savory dimension to an already deeply gratifying sandwich.


This one is a close cousin of a panini. Start with a soft hero role, topping both sides with mozzarella cheese. After a warmup in the oven, add basil leaves and sliced tomatoes, and a sprinkling of salt and fresh-cracked pepper, then toast in the pan, as you’ve done before. 

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