The secret of the perfect grilled cheese revealed

Grilled cheese is one of those seemingly simple dishes that can be hard to master. Getting that optimum level of crispy toast and gooey topping is a delicate art. My grandmother used to grill hers, and the grilled cheeses of my childhood were always well melted but a little dry.

As an adult, I stuck to Gabrielle Hamilton’s winning method of brushing the bread with mayonnaise and making the sandwich in a skillet—a flavorful upgrade that has never failed me. When my college-aged daughter recently shared how she made grilled cheeses at school, I was shocked at the technique.

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“You add water to the pot,” she explained, as I looked at her like she was crazy.

“Is this what my tuition pays for you to learn here?” I asked. “To soil the bread?”

Although Google produced surprisingly little validation for this approach, there was a fairly recent Alpha Foodie article for cheese toast whose instructions called for adding a tablespoon of water to the pan and covering it. to steam the sandwich.

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The real game-changer, however, was a 2015 recipe from Barefeet in the Kitchen. This stuck with my preferred strategy of heavily lubricating the bread – not the pan. I was quickly rewarded with what can only be described as the platonic ideal of a grilled cheese. It was the perfect ratio of buttery, crunchy and melty – and not remotely soggy. The water trick simply works.

You can endlessly riff on this recipe experimenting with cheese and add-ins, but there are a few non-negotiables. Do not use bread that is too thick; be generous with the butter and a little restrained with the filling. If the heat can’t reach the center, you won’t get the right melt. No matter which route you choose, in 5 minutes flat, you will taste the best sandwich of your life.


Recipe: The best grilled cheese
Inspired by Alpha Foodie and Barefeet in the Kitchen


  • 2 thinly cut slices of your favorite bread
  • 1/3 cup grated cheese
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon of water


  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.

  2. Generously butter the slices of bread. Lightly toast them, buttered side down, in the pan for 1 or 2 minutes, until just golden brown.

  3. Add the cheese to the first slice of bread, then cover with the second slice. To make the cheese stick to the bread, flatten the sandwich well with a spatula.

  4. Move the sandwich to one side of the pan and sprinkle water on the other side. Cover everything with a large lid or bowl and grill for another minute.

  5. Remove the lid and check the underside of the sandwich. Turn it over and grill it for another minute or so. It should be golden and golden, and the cheese should stick if you try to open it. If you’re not there yet, give it another minute.

  6. Dress and serve immediately.

Cook’s Notes

Cheddar, of course, is the classic cheese here. Add more cheese if your bread slices are larger.

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