National Grilled Cheese Day (April 12) is a time to celebrate the simplicity of a sensational sandwich. Many of us think of it as an old-fashioned treat, dating back far before our grandmothers’ kitchens – but not everyone realizes just what a rich history is behind the ooey-gooey favorite.
Food historians recognize that ancient man feasted on cooked bread and cheese in cultures all across the globe. In the centuries that followed, England developed its “cheese toastie,” France served its croque-monsiuer, and Italy pressed its first panini.
America’s grilled cheese sandwich developed in the 1920s when inexpensive sliced bread and cheese became available to the masses. The sandwich, then served open-faced, became a staple for many Americans during the Great Depression – a low-cost dish that helped get some nutrition on the table. By the 1960s, Americans added the second slice of bread and our modern sandwich was born.
Grilled cheese today is both a home staple and, for some celebrity chefs, a high art.
So is there a perfect way to make a grilled cheese sandwich? Oh, yes!
- Start off with a great cheese, of course. Cheese is where the taste magic happens and it’s also an excellent source of bone-building nutrients like calcium, potassium and phosphorous, as well as a high-quality protein. Lactose intolerant? Natural cheeses like cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, mozzarella and Swiss are low in lactose.
- Add whole-wheat bread, a healthier choice to keep your comfort food guilt-free.
- Try adding a few of your favorite fruits and vegetables. The sweet tartness of apples or strawberries can be an amazing pairing for the salty, tangy cheese; add some spice with peppers, or go crazy with some avocado. It’ll give your sandwich a gourmet taste, and help meet many of your nutritional needs for the day.
- Shred your cheese. Beyond taste, there’s technique. And grilled cheese is all about the melt. Shredded cheese melts faster, smoother and more evenly.
- Use low to medium heat. Make sure you’re using the right amount of heat. It takes some patience, but try a low to medium heat. Grilling at a high heat will brown the bread too fast, and the cheese won’t melt completely.