I’ve been a fan of the grilled cheese sandwich for longer than I have memories. I only discovered smoked cheese later in life – and the smoked grilled cheese is a new revelation and one that I’ll repeat again!
Before talking the specifics of this recipe, I want to share three techniques that I’ve learned over the years that I think make the best grilled cheese experience:
- Cheese should be cut thick (about 1/5th of an inch or a 1/2 cm). This will allow the cheese to soften and become gooey and melty without becoming a saucy mess with no texture. I want my cheese to be stringy and melty but not drippy. If you cut it too thin it’s like eating toasted bread and cheese sauce (which isn’t an entirely bad experience of course)!
- Bread is key. I cut mine thick (about 1/2 inch or 1.25 cm) and place two layers of cheese in opposite directions before topping it with another slice. Instead of buttering the bread I melt equal parts butter and olive oil in a large frying pan and place the bread in it. I then place a cast iron frying pan on top of the sandwhich which compresses the bread and creates a dense loaf with a beautiful brown crust that is as crunchy as it is ‘bready’
- Temperature is important. I’d rather cook a grilled cheese too cool than too hot (which will toast the bread but not melt the cheese). I place the burner on 6.5-7 (out of 10) and let the pan heat up before adding the butter and oil. Cook as described in step 2, melt additional butter and oil off to a side, flip and repeat.
Using smoked cheese for this version was a great substitution. It naturally added a smoky flavor which complemented our technique of dense toast. You could use any type of smoked cheese that you’d like (and combinations would be just fine) but we opted for smoked cheddar (you can learn how to make it here). The addition of pickled onions added a punch of acidity that complimented the smoke really nicely.
Quick Pickled Onion Recipe
Never pickled before? Don’t sweat it – this recipe takes minutes and they’ll last for weeks (or longer) in the fridge. Pickled onions are great on their own, added to sandwiches and wraps, salads or served with fish.
Quick Pickled Onions – Ingredients
- 1/2 cup vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 Tbsp honey
- Pinch of salt
- 15 black peppercorns
- 1 Spanish onion, cut into half-rings.
Quick Pickled Onions – Instructions
- Add all of the ingredients other than the onion to a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over high heat. This is the brine.
- Remove brine from heat and use a fork or spoon to remove the peppercorns and discard. Add the onions to the brine, stir to cover and allow to cool.
- Store in a container with a lid. They will improve with flavour over several days but are quite edible in 10-15 minutes as well.
You can add jalapeños or hot peppers with your onions if you wish as well!
- 2 pieces of bread, ½ inch in thickness
- As much cheese as you'd like cut in ⅕th inch slices. I cut enough to make two layers of cheese.
- pickled onions (optional)
- Olive oil
- Note: for best results you will need a large frying pan and a cast iron pan that fits inside it to press on the sandwich as it cooks.
- Cut your bread (no need to butter it).
- Place a layer of cheese on top of a slice of bread.
- Scatter pickled onions on top of the cheese.
- Place another layer of cheese on top of the onions (the two layers of cheese will melt together.
- Warm a frying pan or skillet over moderate-high heat (6.5-7 out of 10 on most stoves).
- Once the pan is warm, place a few lugs of olive oil and a pat of butter on one side of the pan. When it's melted into a pool large enough for your bread, place the sandwich in the oil.
- Place a frying pan on top of the grilled cheese and cook until golden brown (4-5 minutes for most).
- Remove the cast iron pan and place additional oil and butter on the other side of the pan and, when melted, flip the sandwich (using the opposite side of the pan ensures it stays warm) Cover with the cast iron and cook until golden.