The Best Cheese for Grilled Cheese, According to Science
It’s National Grilled Cheese Day and National Grilled Cheese Month, so we’re doubling-down on the celebration. We wanted to learn not just what the best cheese for grilled cheese is, but why.
To get the lowdown, we turned to science and sat down with Dean Sommer, a cheese and food technologist. He told us all about what makes some cheeses grilled cheese superstars and helped us rank the top five to consider next time you slap your sandwich on the pan.
According to Dean, here’s how to determine the “best” cheese for grilled cheese:
MELT & STRETCH. While some cheeses are soft, they don’t stretch very well. And what’s a grilled cheese without a satisfying cheese pull?
FLAVOR. OK, this one’s a little bit subjective – does it taste good? Flavor is also where pairing cheeses comes into play. Think about mix and matching cheeses with different flavor profiles for a rich, complex and complimentary taste.
TEXTURE. While some cheeses taste great on crackers or in a cold sandwich, they lose that extra something when the heat’s on. Cheeses that are higher in fat (those made with whole milk or extra cream) tend to take on an oily texture when they heat up and are unable to hold together well (there goes the cheese pull). That’s because the more fat the cheese has, the weaker their protein structures.
What is Dean’s definitive ranking?
While you really can’t go wrong here (butter, bread, cheese – what’s not to love?), Dean helped us rank the top cheeses based on his criteria. Try them out and see if you agree!
1. MUENSTER. Muenster has the best of all three elements – a silky melting texture; a rich, buttery flavor; and the perfect fat content for heating up without oiling off. Dean says muenster is the “undiscovered pearl of grilled cheese sandwiches.”
2. BRICK CHEESE. Aptly named, brick cheese is a medium-soft cheese from Wisconsin that ranges from ivory to creamy yellow and is, of course, shaped like a brick. It’s for the cheese heads who like a little more flavor intensity in their sandwiches. Like muenster, brick cheese has all the melting and texture goods, but is made with different cultures that give it that extra flavor kick. Throw it on your grilled cheese if you’re ready for that next level!
3. BABY SWISS. Baby Swiss is the soft, mellow, slightly fattier version of traditional Swiss cheese (Emmantal). It has just the right amount of fat for that perfect grilled cheese texture. With a subtle nutty, sweet flavor, baby Swiss makes a very different grilled cheese than muenster and brick cheeses do, but shares that same silkiness, meltiness and stretch. If you like a traditional Swiss cheese flavor, baby Swiss is your grilled cheese ally!
4. MILD PROVOLONE. Mild provolone is perfect for pairing. It brings a perfect stretch, melt and silky texture to the table, laying the groundwork for a bolder-flavored cheese partner. Dean recommends pairing it with a Parmesan or Asiago cheese; while these cheeses don’t melt as well, they contribute a really unique and delicious flavor. If you like mixing and matching, count provolone as your best base. “The sky’s the limit when it comes to mixing and matching with provolone,” Dean says.
5. COLBY. Colby makes an excellent alternative to cheddar, which tends to get a bit oily due to its fat content and cultures. Colby stretches and melts well, with a slightly sweeter, buttery and milky taste that kids love. If you’re trying to please a big crowd, Colby’s the way to go! And if you want to add some unique coloring, Dean recommends a Colby-Jack cheese for an Instagram-worthy sandwich.
6. GOUDA. Gouda is also very comparable to cheddar, and in other parts of the world, cheese connoisseurs and enthusiasts tend to use it in cheddar’s place (even in mac and cheese). Try it out and see if it stacks up!