Secrets to the Best Grilled Cheese, According to This Nashville Chef
Sometimes it's the simplest items that are the hardest to cook. From a great green salad to a burger, there's an art to making a few ingredients really sing. If you've ever had the perfect grilled cheese sandwich at a restaurant but struggled to keep one from burning in a skillet at home, you know what we're talking about.
Chef Crystal de Luna-Bogan is here to solve that. Owner of The Grilled Cheeserie, de Luna-Bogan decided to apply her culinary training at Le Cordon-Bleu and fine dining background to the humble sandwich when she moved to Nashville with her husband, Joseph Bogan, from Los Angeles. With fresh components and farm-to-griddle produce, her sandwiches now have a cult following in town.
Her menu includes versions like the Pimento Mac & Chee, complete with house-made pimento cheese, local cheddar, macaroni, tomato, and Benton's bacon bits; a Buffalo South Melt made with pepper jack cheese, pulled organic chicken, buffalo sauce, bleu cheese aioli, and pickled celery; and the B&B of Tennessee made with buttermilk cheddar heritage bacon and seasonal jam.
We asked de Luna-Bogan for her secrets to grilled goodness.
"When it comes to grilled cheese sandwiches, there's a method to the madness," she says. "Some may even call it an exact science."
Milk solids cause bread to burn before the cheese is melted, but those are removed with clarified butter (also known as Ghee) which you can find at your local grocery store.
When it comes to the bread, you'll want something with a "tight crumb" (The Grilled Cheeserie uses a mix between sourdough and country white) Crystal also recommends using bread that's one-day-old—it's sturdier and anything too soft or fresh runs the risk of getting soggy.
Bring the Heat
Use a heated cast-iron skillet or another heavy pan as a press. This not only melts the cheese faster but helps to evenly brown the bread Home chefs can also use a panini press greased with sunflower or grapeseed oil.
For an extra creamy consistency, consider opting for a cheese that's high in milk fat, such as English Farmstead's Buttercup Cheese.