James Cunningham’s 6 Must-Know Grilled Cheese Tips

Want to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich? Start by perfecting the basics. Stand-up comedian and Eat St. host James Cunningham shares his top six tips that will turn your grilled cheese from good to great.

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James Cunningham's grilled cheese tips
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1. Know Your Cheeses

Television personality, comedian and sandwich enthusiast James Cunningham has a simple message: more Canadians should be eating grilled cheese. But even though most of its ingredients can already be found in the kitchen, there’s more to the North American comfort food staple than meets the eye.

According to Cunningham, the classic mistake home cooks make is thinking that any cheese will do. “Once you get into the world of grilled cheese, you’ll discover that the different cheeses have their own melting consistencies and textures,” he says. When it comes to grilled cheese, classic cheddar is hardly your only choice. Mozzarella holds its shape, has a great aroma, and goes well with tomato and avocado. And because of its mixed texture, marble cheese works amazing too. However, Cunningham recommends staying away from crumbly cheeses like feta or goat cheese—they won’t work in your sandwich.

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Mozzarella brick cheese
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2. Don’t Put Too Much Cheese

The amount of cheese you put on your sandwich is just as important as the type of cheese you’re using, says Cunningham. “You want the heat to go all the way through the sandwich, so if the slices are too thick or if you put too much cheese, it’s not going to melt properly,” he says. When using a brick cheese, cut 1/4-inch thick slices (use a vegetable peeler for consistency). While pre-made cheese slices work as well, brick cheeses pack more flavour.

Are you a fan of clubhouse sandwiches? Try this grilled cheese reboot from Walmart’s Great Value.

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3. Try Frying with Mayonnaise

Instead of using butter to fry your grilled cheese sandwich, Cunningham recommends using mayonnaise. Simply spread some store-bought mayonnaise on the outsides of the sandwich and fry in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. You’ll end up with a grilled cheese sandwich that has a perfect golden crust and delicious tangy flavour. It may sound unappetizing, but it works. Pair your grilled cheese with tomato soup and you’re good to go!

In the mood to break some more rules? Try this decadent Poutine Grilled Cheese.

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Grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup
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4. Watch the Heat Carefully

Let’s face it: no one likes grilled cheese with burnt bread. The solution? When the sandwich is cooking in the frying pan on medium heat, Cunningham recommends covering the pan with a metal lid—it will keep the heat circulating and help the cheese melt better. A good coating of butter (or mayonnaise) on the bread will also keep it from drying out. “People say that grilled cheese is too greasy,” says Cunningham. “No, it’s amazing because it’s greasy. The best food in the world is the stuff that’s the messiest.”

For fast and simple assembly, try this Chicken and Waffle Grilled Cheese.

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Black and green olives
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5. Stay Away from Salty Add-Ons

Anchovies and olives may make delicious and healthy pizza toppings, but Cunningham says that most salty ingredients are big no-no’s when it comes to grilled cheese. “A chef friend of mine tried experimenting with grilled cheese by cooking with fish and it turned out horrible,” he says. “For some reason, seafood and other salty foods generally don’t work and will take your grilled cheese to a very strange place, flavour-wise.” If you’re really craving something salty in your grilled cheese, Cunningham says, stick with bacon instead.

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Sriracha sauce on wooden background
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6. Don’t Be Afraid to Add Spice

There’s nothing wrong with giving your grilled cheese some kick, but Cunningham warns not to add too much spice. Your best bets? Tabasco or Sriracha sauce. “If you have some leftover mayonnaise, you can even mix in some of that with your Sriracha,” says Cunningham. “The mayonnaise levels out the spiciness of the Sriracha.” If you’re just looking to add another dimension to your grilled cheese, Pepper jack cheese will get the job done.

Can’t get enough of grilled cheese? Try these great Canadian grilled cheese recipes!

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