Is grilled cheese unhealthy

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5 secrets to make grilled cheese healthier

Grilled cheese seems like the perfect food. It’s easy to make, has few ingredients and sports a crispy crust and a warm, gooey, cheesy center. What’s not to love? How about the 410 calories and 18 grams of saturated fat per sandwich? I don’t love that. Grilled cheese can attribute its high fat and calories to the butter spread on the outside of the bread to make it crispy and the copious amounts of cheese in the middle. Pair that with a couple of slices of plain white bread and you have a nutritional disaster.

But do you really need all of that to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich? No! Here are 5 secrets for how to make grilled cheese that saves calories and fat to boot.

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1. Pick the right cheese: When it comes to grilled cheese, not all cheese is created equal. Some people love American cheese. It has superior melting qualities, but it falls short on flavor (not to mention that it’s not even really cheese to begin with). So skip mild-flavored cheeses and opt for ones with a stronger flavor-like sharp, or even extra-sharp, Cheddar. Like blue cheese? It’s also a great option. You’ll get more bang for your buck and because it’s big on flavor you won’t have to use as much, which helps cut fat and calories.

Recipes to Try: Classic Lasagna and More Comfort Food Dishes to Put Back in Your Diet

2. Think beyond cheese for flavor: OK, so cheese is a necessary ingredient. But you don’t have to have mounds of it to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. You can get that hit of soft melted loveliness that cheese contributes by using just a little-and mixing it with other ingredients like mashed beans or even salsa and hot chiles. They not only contribute their own unique flavor, but they help carry the benefits of the cheese, the salty ooey-gooey factor, without lots of fat and calories.

3. Choose better bread: Conjure an iconic image of grilled cheese in your mind and it more than likely is made with white bread. But whole-grain breads are great for grilled cheese too. If you upgrade to a slightly fancier, country-style loaf (not typical sandwich bread wrapped in plastic) you’ll get better flavor, more bite and a crisper crust-not to mention added fiber.

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4. Master a crispy crust: Grilled cheese is actually a misnomer. It should be called “fried cheese sandwich” since it’s slathered in fat and not actually grilled. The butter does play a role in creating that nice golden outer crust, but you can get that without adding fat. How? Use a panini maker. The hot surface compresses the bread, helping it crisp up naturally. Don’t have a panini maker? No problem. You can mimic a panini press at home. Here’s how: Heat 1 teaspoon canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place a sandwich in the pan. Place another medium skillet on top of the sandwich, then weight it down with cans. Cook until golden on one side, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, flip the sandwich, replace the top skillet and cans, and cook until the second side is golden, 1 to 3 minutes more.

See Step-by Step Photos: How to Make the Perfect Panini at Home

5. Know that everything isn’t better with butter: The butter on the outside of a grilled cheese sandwich not only crisps up the crust, but gives it richness as well. But since grilled cheese is already rich (Hello! The cheese!), you really don’t need butter for the flavor either. Instead, experiment with creamy spreads you put inside that are lower in fat, such as reduced-fat mayonnaise with a squeeze of lemon or reduced-fat sour cream mixed with chopped fresh herbs. They’ll add that silky mouthfeel and sense of richness you may be missing without the butter (plus some added flavor of their own!), but with less fat and calories.

Recipes to Try: 24 Healthy Panini & Sandwich Recipes

Check this recipe for EatingWell’s Best, Healthier! Grilled Cheese Sandwich:

Hot Chile Grilled Cheese

This deconstructed version of a chile relleno turned sandwich packs some heat and an ooey-gooey filling. We like the flavor of sourdough, but any kind of bread will work well. Serve with: Coleslaw and sliced pineapple.

This Cheesy, Golden-Crisp Grilled Cheese Has Half the Fat

Photo: Randy Mayor

Tackling the iconic grilled cheese—complete with gooey, melty goodness contrasted against golden-crisp bread—is no small feat for a nutrition-minded cook. An impeccably creamy interior is easy to achieve with several ounces of hearty cheddar, and even easier with American.

RELATED: 30 Healthy Grilled Cheese Makeovers

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Fry it (let’s not kid ourselves by calling this a sauté) in a chunk of butter, and you’re in 400-plus-calorie territory, double-digit sat fat, and nearly 1,000 milligrams of sodium for a three-ingredient meal. Not convinced? The Classic Grilled Cheese on White Bread from Panera will cost you 640 calories, 26g fat, 15g saturated fat, and 1580mg sodium. Yikes.

Thankfully, there’s an easy way to make a healthier grilled cheese. We swapped traditional grilled cheese ingredients with lower-fat and more nutritious alternatives to come up with a lighter, just-as-tasty version that cuts the calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium of the classic sandwich in half. How’d we do it? Here’s the breakdown:

1. Cheese: Reduced-fat cheddar alone would be an easy swap here, but it doesn’t quite boast the meltability and satisfying gooeyness of full-fat cheddar. We put our heads together, and found a way to duplicate the irresistible texture of the original version. Reduced-fat cheddar combines with light cream cheese and canola mayo for a mixture that has 40% less saturated fat than regular cheddar. When slathered on whole-grain bread and sautéed in olive oil, the mixture melts into a gloriously silky, ultra-cheesy filling.

2. Whole-Grain Bread: Sliced white bread is the foundation of a classic grilled cheese, but it lacks in nutrients. Skip it, and use your favorite store-bought 100% whole-grain bread to access abundant health perks. You’ll also notch nearly half of the six 1-ounce servings of whole grains that the USDA recommends eating per day.

3. Olive Oil: Swapping olive oil for butter saves an additional 7g saturated fat—a huge saving that doesn’t compromise flavor. Olive oil is also a rich source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which are linked to lowered levels of bad LDL cholesterol in the body. To add the most flavor to your grilled cheese, make sure to use a high-quality olive oil (avoid extra-virgin, as the smoke point is too low).

Without further ado—here’s how to make the ultimate, healthier grilled cheese.

Ultimate Grilled Cheese

Ingredients

  • ½ ounce 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon canola mayo
  • 1 ounce 2% reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 (1-ounce) slices whole-grain bread
  • ¼ teaspoon olive oil

How to Make It

1. Combine cream cheese and canola mayo in a small bowl. Add cheddar cheese.

2. Spread cheese mixture between whole-grain bread slices.

3. Heat a small skillet over medium heat; pour in olive oil and sear each side until bread is browned and crisp.

Serving size: 1 sandwich; CALORIES 288; FAT 13.8g; SAT FAT: 5.8g; SODIUM 556mg

Recipe: National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day, April 12

Wishing you a healthier day: Try this healthier grilled cheese sandwich without butter.

The first grilled cheese sandwich served in the United States was open-faced, consisting of one slice of bread with grated cheese on top. Before you start heating up that skillet to celebrate National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day, let’s consider a few things that will take your grilled cheese way beyond ordinary sandwich and make it better for you, too.

Have you ever thought of ditching the butter or adding some veggies? What about using whole-grain bread instead of white bread, or a flavorful low-fat cheese instead of the plastic wrapped kind? These small changes not only add some pizzazz to your hot sandwich, but can also enhance the flavor and boost the nutrition.

How to make grilled cheese healthier:

  • Switch to whole grain bread to increase fiber and protein.
  • Try a low-fat cheese to decrease cholesterol and saturated fat.
  • Incorporate veggies – try tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, avocado – to increase fiber, vitamins and minerals.
  • Use olive oil cooking spray instead of butter to decrease calories and saturated fat.

Green Grilled Cheese Author: Modified from The Dreaming Foodie Recipe type: Lunch Serves: 1 sandwich Ingredients

  • ¼ of a medium avocado
  • Squeeze of lime juice
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 4 thin onion slices
  • 1 handful of fresh spinach
  • 1 medium Portobello mushroom (or other mushroom slices)
  • 2 slices of whole-grain bread
  • 2 slices tomato
  • 1 slice of Swiss cheese

Instructions

  1. Place the avocado and lime juice in a small bowl. Mash together until slightly chunky.
  2. Spray a skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add the onion slices and cook for several minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add a large handful of spinach to the same pan as the onion, and cook, stirring constantly, until the spinach begins to wilt. Remove from pan.
  3. Wipe the mushroom clean with a paper towel. Remove the stem and gills. Slice the mushroom into long strips.
  4. Spray the same pan with cooking spray. Add mushroom strips. Cook until mushrooms darken and get soft. Remove from pan and set aside.
  5. To make the sandwich: spray one side of each slice of bread with olive oil cooking spray. Place one piece of bread in a pan (sprayed side down) over medium heat. Layer onto the bread the mashed avocado, tomato slices, one slice of cheese, onion, spinach, and mushrooms.
  6. Let cook until the bread is toasted and the cheese begins to melt. Add the other piece of bread on top, sprayed side up. Carefully flip sandwich and cook until other slice is toasted. Enjoy!

Nutrition Information Serving size: 1 Calories: 331 Fat: 9 grams Saturated fat: 2 grams Trans fat: 0 grams Carbohydrates: 49 grams Sugar: 10 grams Sodium: 426 milligrams Fiber: 9 grams Protein: 19 grams Cholesterol: 10 milligrams 3.5.3228

Post by Kayley Ray and Skylar Tigert, former dietetic inters in the Dietetic Internship Program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

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Lunch Dinner

A healthier grilled cheese, say what!? Can those three words even go together? This sandwich is amazing! Anyone who is a fan of grilled cheese (or not) I suggest you convert to this method. You won’t regret it. In my opinion this tastes even better than the original version that’s slathered in butter.

You get more flavor and you feel better about eating it. This is obviously just a recipe for your basic grilled cheese but there are so many variations you can add to this recipe. You could add in tomatoes or spinach, or your favorite herbs and seasonings or you can just keep it basic like this.

Try this recipe out today and it’s likely you will become converted to this method, like I have, for life. Your heart will thank you later =). Also, keep in mind you can use your favorite cheese but for a lower calorie, less fat cheese Mozzarella may be your better option.

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Healthy Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Grilled cheese made healthier with whole wheat bread instead of white bread and olive oil instead of butter.

Servings: 1 Prep Time 5 minutes Cook Time 4 minutes Total Time 9 minutes

  • 2 slices whole wheat bread (preferably fresh)
  • Sliced Monterrey Jack , Muenster, Cheddar, or Mozzarella Cheese (enough to cover bread)
  • 2 tsp olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat a small nonstick fry pan over medium low heat. Place cheese slices (enough to cover bread) between 2 slices of wheat bread. Once fry pan is warm drizzle with 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, slightly tilt pan back and forth to evenly spread oil. Place sandwich in oil, cover with a lid and cook until bottom is golden, about 2 minutes. Then lift sandwich with a spatula an add remaining 1 tsp olive oil to fry pan. Flip sandwich and cook opposite side until golden. Serve immediately.

Course: Main Course Cuisine: American Keyword: Healthier Grilled Cheese Author: Jaclyn

4 Steps to a Diet-Approved Grilled Cheese

1. Consider the Bread
One of the easiest ways to improve the health score of your grilled cheese is by starting with a better-for-you loaf. Plain white may be your go-to, but whole-wheat will taste just as good once it’s slathered in melted cheese – plus, it delivers a dose of healthy whole grains and fiber.
2. Be Choosy With Your Cheese
There are tons of delicious cheeses out there, but when choosing your slice, follow this general rule of thumb: The sharper and more flavorful a cheese is, the less you’ll need to use to make an impact. A reduced-fat cheddar, parmesan, or hard goat cheese are all tasty options with a strong, sharp taste, allowing you to cut back on the amount needed to pack a flavor punch.
3. Sneak in Veggies
Who says cheese has to be the only topping? When it comes to add-ons, the possibilities are endless. Try layering on your favorite veggies: Onions, peppers, spinach, tomatoes, and red peppers are all flavorful additions. (Hint for moms and dads: This is a great way to get kids to eat more veggies!)
RELATED: 6 Eating Tips Every Parent Should Know
4. Skip the Butter
Soggy bread is a major grilled cheese faux-pas, but many people think the key to the crispy slices is slathering them in butter. You can actually get the same crispiness by using a panini press or greasing your pan with a little olive oil before grilling the sandwich. So skip the butter and save major fat and calories, without sacrificing the crunchy texture you love.

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches under 400 Calories

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Who doesn’t love a grilled cheese sandwich? Unfortunately, a regular grilled cheese sandwich can have as much as 500 calories per serving! Yikes! So we set out to find the tastiest and healthiest grilled cheese sandwich under 400 calories!

Lightened Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Calories: 267 calories

You can make a regular grilled cheese lighter by switching out some ingredients. Instead of using full fat butter, use light or low fat butter. You can also choose low fat cheese instead of full fat. Add more flavor by adding roasted vegetables, spices and herbs to give more depth of flavor to the classic grilled cheese.

Spray one side of both whole-wheat bread slices with light butter spray. Turn one slice around so its butter side down. Preheat a nonstick skillet over medium-low. Add 2 ounces of low-fat cheddar cheese or non-fat American cheese. Top with the other slice. Cook on the skillet for 2 to 3 minutes each side until the cheese melts and the bread is toasty. Cut in half and serve hot.

Pesto Grilled Cheese

Calories: 340 calories

The pesto adds a fresh, herby and nutty depth of flavor to a regular grilled cheese sandwich. Plus, it takes about 10 minutes to prepare!

Preheat the grill pan. Spread 1 tablespoon of pesto sauce on one slice of whole-wheat bread. Add a slice of Deli style mozzarella cheese. Brush the other slice of bread with 1 tablespoon pesto sauce and top the first slice with the second slice. Brush olive oil on the outside and place the sandwich on a preheated grill pan to cook. Cook each side for 2 to 3 minutes until toasted. Slice diagonally and serve hot.

Kimchi Grilled Cheese

Calories: 397 calories

This probiotic sandwich from Cooking Light blends American and Korean flavors in a slightly tangy and spicy sandwich.

Brush one side of two whole-wheat bread slices with canola oil. Turn over the slices so they’re oil side down. Divide 2 ounces of shredded fresh low fat mozzarella and shredded Monterey Jack cheese to each slice. Add 2 tablespoon of chopped kimchi. Put the 2 slices together. Cook the sandwiches in a grill pan or nonstick skillet for 2 to 3 minutes for each side until toasty. Slice diagonally and serve hot.

Grilled Margherita Sandwich

Calories: 284 calories

This recipe is proof that you can make anything a sandwich. Enjoy the classic Margherita pizza flavors but in a grilled cheese sandwich! Spread 1 tablespoon of low sodium marinara sauce on 1 side of two whole-wheat bread slices. Top with 1 once thinly sliced mozzarella cheese and 2 thin slices of tomatoes. Salt and pepper the tomatoes. Add 2 large basil leaves and top with the second slice of bread. Coat the skillet with a light coat of vegetable oil and cook for 2 or 3 minutes for each side until toasted. Serve hot.

Vegan Grilled “Cheese” Sandwich

Calories: 265 calories

Vegans can enjoy a grilled “cheese” sandwich too minus the dairy! This recipe from The Spruce Eats uses readily available vegan cheeses or you can make your own. Put 2 ounces of vegan cheese (Use Daiya, Teese, Follow Your Heart or your choice of vegan cheese brand) on top of 2 slices of dairy-free sourdough bread. Press the sandwiches firmly. You can opt to add thin tomato slices or caramelized onions at this stage or go for a regular vegan grilled cheese sandwich. Lightly spray a grill pan or nonstick pan with olive oil. Add the sandwiches and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until toasted. Serve warm.

Grilled Brie and Pear Sandwiches

Calories: 283 calories

This one from Emily Bites is a sweet and savory sandwich featuring a classic French combination of brie cheese, pears and honey! Butter one side of two slices of whole-wheat bread with ½ tablespoon light butter. Place them butter side down on a plate. Spread 2 ounce Brie cheese over the surface and top with thin slices of pear. Drizzle ½ teaspoon of honey over the pear slices and top with the second slice of bread. Cook the sandwich on a skillet over medium heat until golden brown for 2 to 3 minutes each side.

“30 Healthy Grilled Cheese Makeovers” – Cooking Light, April 02, 2018

“Grilled Brie and Pear Sandwiches” – Emily Bites, May 14, 2019

“Vegan Grilled Cheese Sandwich” – The Spruce Eats, November 26, 2019

Why Is Grilled Cheese So Good?

Posted by ReganJonesRDN April 20, 2016 Featured in: Professional Palate Archives, Quick Fix Kitchen, Lunch, Sandwiches Jump to recipe

Invoke your 5th sense and enjoy an umami bomb in this sweet, savory upgraded grilled cheese with a strawberry balsamic filling.

~by Regan Jones, RD

I hope you clicked into this post today with high hopes of learning something new. ‘Cause let’s be honest… asking the question “Why is grilled cheese so good” is sorta like saying “Why is the Earth round?”

It just is. And does it really matter why?

Well it DOES if you’re an RD food nerd like me who gets super excited at talking TASTE. And it’s especially important to talk about in April because it is, after all, Grilled Cheese Month. (I know these things because as you remember Cabot Creamery is one of my longtime clients. And I can assure you Grilled Cheese Month does not pass them by without celebration.)

The humble grilled cheese is one of those foods that we cherish as a child, but never really think about “why” it has so much control over our taste buds. I recently learned that the pull of that savory pile of cheese and toasted bread may have more to do with science than you ever imagined. It’s because of the 5th flavor, umami, and specifically an amino acid (glutamate) which tickles our taste buds into experiencing the unique flavor. In fact, we’re born with specific receptors on our tongue for umami with glutamate being the main trigger for the receptors.

It’s hard to put into words what umami tastes like, but if you think about the flavor of a warm aged cheese (like that of a good grilled cheese), you’ll quickly salivate your way to understanding umami.

But as you may expect, grilled cheese doesn’t have the market cornered on umami. In fact, many foods that are aged, ripened or fermented are also great sources — think Parmesan cheese, vine-ripened tomato, sauteed mushrooms, soy sauce and one that may surprise you, MSG.

Yep. You heard me right — MSG. That stuff that scares you away from Chinese take-out is actually nothing more than a form of the amino acid you naturally crave in a good ole grilled cheese.

How do I know this? I recently attended a food conference sponsored in part by Ajinomoto, a manufacturer of MSG. Through their presence at the event, I learned a lot about the actual science behind MSG. What it is. And what it is not.

What it is – Monosodium Glutamate is the salt form of the amino acid glutamate, even though we tend to treat it as an obscure scary chemical in food. What it is not – the obscure scary chemical in food that I always thought it was.

Now before you abandon this post, please hear me — I’m not saying that you haven’t had a reaction to MSG in the past. You know you better than I know you. But I am telling you that the scientific literature is pretty robust around the safety of MSG and at the basic level of simple food chemistry, it’s nothing more than an amino acid in salt form, albeit a powerfully tasteful one.

Equally as tasty is of course, today’s recipe. And I think we can all agree grilled cheese isn’t in need of any help from MSG or any other flavor enhancer. But I share this news with you about MSG to 1) maybe alleviate your fears if you occasionally see it in a favorite food (hello ranch dressing for my kids’ veggies) and it makes you uneasy or 2) have ever thought about ways to pump up the flavor in your recipes — especially veggie dishes that you’d like your family to eat more of — without adding a ton of salt. Ironically, although MSG is a “salt” of glutamate, it’s actually lower in sodium than table salt. So if used appropriately and in the right proportions to table salt (the chef I spoke with who uses it recommends a 2/3 salt to 1/3 MSG) you can acheive as much as a 25% overall reduction in your recipe.

But again, MSG is certainly not the only way to pump up flavor in your recipes. Take today’s recipe — I’ve added balsamic vinegar to the sauteed onion mixture and opted for an aged cheese. My go to stand-by for maximizing taste with many veggies is roasting them to bring out the natural sugars. And lastly, I like to liven up fresh dishes with citrus and fresh herbs.

Sometimes the scary is because it’s not familiar. Sometimes the familiar is more mystery than you realize. Life is quirky and complex that way. The good news is that in either case grilled cheese is always a good choice. Happy Grilled Cheese Month, friends. Enjoy!

To find other tasty umami bomb recipe ideas for Grilled Cheese Month, be sure to check out this post.

You won’t believe the flavor in this #UltimateUmami Strawberry Balsamic Grilled Cheese by @ReganJonesRD Tweet this

Why and How You Should Eat a Grilled Cheese for Breakfast

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Toast just isn’t what it used to be. It’s different in the best ways possible.

Salmon toast, avocado toast, peanut butter-banana toast, fruit and ricotta toast… these are all fabulous ways to dress what once was an ordinary slice of bread. Anything goes when it comes to toast, from Greek yogurt, to edamame, to hummus. While this breakfast concept is super tasty, textured, and versatile, its not conducive to rushing out the door while simultaneously shoving it into your mouth. Let’s not even talk about attempting to eat a topping-covered piece of toast while driving to work. I don’t know about you, but that’s how most of my mornings go.

Cooking dinner shouldn’t be complicated

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People typically prepare two slices of toast for a full breakfast anyway. So why, friends, have we not combined our slices of bread to be toasted together? This simple step can add so much to your breakfast, like the capacity for more toppings and a serious convenience factor. What’s better than a warm breakfast on the go?

Watch: How to Make Tater Tot Grilled Cheese

We should totally be applying our anything-goes-on-toast concept to the trusty grilled cheese. The food-obsessed side of me drools over the thought of a mozzarella and pimento cheese sandwich with bacon and jam. The nutritionist side of me is begging for an avocado, spinach, sprouts, and feta grilled cheese. Wherever you fall in this spectrum, there’s a toast combo that can be made into your ideal breakfast grilled cheese. Pick your favorite bread, include your favorite fruits and veggies, use butter or olive oil for a crispy crust, heck—leave out the cheese if you want (but I wouldn’t recommend it). It’s all up to you, but here’s our best inspiration for incorporating an epic grilled cheese into your breakfast routine:

Make a Cheddar ’n’ Apple Grilled Cheese on Cinnamon Raisin bread, inspired by this toast recipe.

Image zoom Photo: Kang Kim; Styling: Tiziana Agnello

Use hearty whole-wheat bread, like the slices used in this Grilled Cheese with Roasted Tomato Spread recipe, for added nutrition. More fiber and protein means that you will stay full longer.

Image zoom Photo: Brian Woodcock; Styling: Claire Spollen

Add awesomeness like bacon, tomato, and red onion, creating a “Grown-Up” grilled cheese that satisfies any craving for a rockin’ savory morning meal.

Image zoom Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Leigh Ann Ross

Choose something brighter and lighter, making your grilled cheese with fillings like ricotta and an olive oil drizzle.

Image zoom Photo: Kang Kim; Styling: Tiziana Agnello

This combo of kale, caramelized onion, raclette, and Parmesan is a breakfast dream when wedged between 2 slices of toasty goodness.

Image zoom Photo: Brian Woodcock; Styling: Cindy Barr

You could always ditch the bread and go low-carb with eggplant or zucchini. This version uses basil and lemon for a fresh take on a grilled sandwich.

Image zoom Tony Christie, Sean Laurenz

If you’re really diggin’ the fruit idea, be inspired by this toasty sandwich that includes a flavorful trio of apple, Dijon mustard, and apricot preserves.

Image zoom Photo: Antonis Achilleos; Styling: Gerri Williams for James Reps

Take Grilled Cheese From Ordinary to Extraordinary

When it comes to food, I’m not picky, I just know exactly what I want. Take the humble grilled cheese sandwich for example. It’s a sandwich I adore and yet I would never have one outside my own kitchen.

I want the bread to be crisp and toasty all around, but I don’t want it to be smashed in a panini press until it’s cracker thin. Since it’s called a “grilled cheese” (not grilled bread), I want the sandwich to hold a lot of molten cheese, but I don’t want to bite into a grease balloon that causes me to drool molten fat like an infant. Lastly, I love cheese, but it can quickly become salty and monotonous after a few bites so I want a sandwich with some other tastes to balance out the salt. Demanding yes, picky no.

So how do I make mine you ask?

The trick to giving your sandwich an even tan is to add some weight on top. This doesn’t mean smashing it between two locking metal plates, turning your bread into a cracker. I use just enough weight to ensure an even contact patch between the heat source (your pan) and the sandwich, so that you have a crisp outer surface with warm fluffy bread underneath. A flat-bottomed plate such as a pie or tart dish works perfectly for this purpose.

Unless you’re using sheets of processed American cheese, the grease problem is a little harder to solve. The main issue is that when heat is applied to cheese, it melts, and eventually the milk solids and fat separate. With just a little cheese, the bread will absorb the extra grease, but if you put too much it starts to pool around the cheese.

To solve this, I borrowed a trick I use when making fondue. By tossing the cheese with starch, it helps prevent the cheese from separating, thus warding off that dreaded look of hot fat dribbling down your face as you bite into the sandwich.

As for the one-dimensionality in the taste department, I do a couple of things. The first is that I like using olive oil instead of butter. A grilled cheese sandwich is never going to be “healthy”, but making it with olive oil instead of butter gets you the wonderful green flavor of olive oil while saving you about 5 grams of saturated fat and 30mg of cholesterol. I also like adding something sweet to my grilled cheese sandwiches, like fruit chutney or caramelized onions. Both will provide a balancing counterpoint to the salty-creamy cheese.

Try making this with the tomato soup I wrote about last week. It should only take you about 30 minutes to make both and they’re a great way to survive the last few weeks of winter.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Mango Chutney

Add mango chutney or caramelized onions to your grilled cheese for extra flavor. Food blogger Marc Matsumoto shares his tips for making a perfect grilled cheese in a full post on the Fresh Tastes blog.

  • 60 grams (2.1 ounces) gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon potato starch
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 slices of good quality sandwich bread
  • 1 tablespoon mango chutney (or caramelized onions)

    Directions

  1. In a small bowl, toss the cheese together with the potato starch.
  2. Drizzle half of the olive oil onto one slice of bread. Spread it around with a spoon, and then put the bread, oiled side down, in a skillet. Top the bread with the shredded cheese, being careful not to spill too much onto the pan.
  3. On your other slice of bread, spread the mango chutney onto one side. Place the bread, chutney-side down, onto the cheese.
  4. Drizzle the remaining olive oil onto the top of the sandwich, and spread it around with a spoon. Place a flat-bottomed plate on top of the sandwich, then put the skillet on the stove over medium low heat.
  5. Grill the sandwich until the bottom surface is evenly brown, then flip the sandwich over, place the weight back on the sandwich, and grill the other side until evenly browned

Tips/Techniques

This grilled cheese recipe pairs well with our creamy tomato soup recipe for a belly-warming meal.

Yield: 1 serving

Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.

How to Achieve the Ultimate Grilled Cheese

Photo: Brian Woodcock; Styling: Claire Spollen

The humble, yet revered, grilled cheese lands among the most universally loved foods out there. I mean really, the soul-warming and gooey appeal of a grilled cheese transcends age, race, and gender… it’s like the Harry Potter of sandwiches. So simple and satisfying, a grilled cheese is often one of the first things we learn how to cook. And often, it’s one of the first things many of us—myself included—learn how to cook wrong.

RELATED: 21 Grilled Cheese Makeovers

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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I’m not usually someone to call out “right” from “wrong” in the kitchen—I’m of the belief that if it tastes good to you and you didn’t cut a finger off while making it, you did it right. That said, I have years of experience making less-than-awesome grilled cheese sandwiches, which has given me with the wisdom and authority to now say that yes—despite the fact that it’s difficult for melted cheese on buttered bread to ever be a bad thing—there are definitely a few factors that differentiate an OK grilled cheese from a great grilled cheese.

1. The fat goes on the bread—and not in the pan.

Image zoom zoebrand.com

This was one of the biggest game changers in my grilled cheese life. Normally, if you’re cooking something in a pan, you heat the oil or butter in the pan, then add the food and let it sizzle, right? Right—except not for grilled cheese.

In order to achieve the most even caramelization on the bread, the fat needs to coat the outside of the sandwich, not the bottom of your skillet. To do this, brush the outer side of the sandwich slices evenly with your cooking fat of choice (we opt for heart-healthy olive oil, but the same rules apply for melted butter), then add to a heated pan slicked with cooking spray.

2. Heat control is critical.

Image zoom Getty Images

If I’m whipping out a skillet for a quick stove top job, 9 times out of 10, I’m throwing that sucker over medium-high heat. But not for grilled cheese. Here, you’re gonna wanna dial it back just a touch. (This isn’t a steak—the idea isn’t to hit it with a quick sear.) Using moderate heat allows the cheese enough time to melt as the bread gradually browns. If your pan is too hot, the bread will burn by the time you reach that wonderful state gooey cheese nirvana. Nobody wants that.

3. Choose the right cheese.

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I assume if you’re reading this, you’ve likely “graduated” beyond Kraft American Single. And since we’re all such big sophisticated boys and girls, there’s something we need to take a sec to be adult about acknowledging—the Kraft American Single is a great cheese for grilled cheese; it is the perfect set of cheese training wheels. This iconic slice of the processed food industry is also magnificent at melting—and that meltability is an important principle to keep in mind as you move forward in your grilled cheese life.

If you want that signature goo factor, you also need to include a cheese that’s prone to melt (like mozzarella or provolone). Welcome to the art of cheese blending. For my ideal grilled cheese, I am especially fond of raclette—it’s an exceptional melting cheese that also brings pungent flavor to the table. For the recipe below, we also threw some cheddar into the mix. Because you only get one life to live, and why not?

4. Spread the cheese on the bread.

Unless you are actually using a uniformly pressed American cheese square, you need to shred and evenly spread for the best melting results. Because I dig an oozing creamy grilled cheese, I shredded my cheese, then mixed it with a bit of mayo for the recipe below.

This extra step helps to further ensure even distribution of cheese and allows you to spread the cheese on the interior sides of both bread slices. If you’re throwing some other non-cheese components into the mix, this allows the melting cheese to encompass the other ingredients so that your sandwich doesn’t fall apart. And speaking of those other components…

5. Keep the non-cheese add-ins in check.

Image zoom Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

I’m something of a purist; so to me, once you start adding in layers of meat and veggies, you’re making a toasted sandwich, not a grilled cheese. I’m sure some very logical person could pose a very logical argument against me on that, but I believe cheese should be the star of a grilled cheese, the end. When the cheese is not the star of a grilled cheese and is left in a supporting role, you lose the tightly sealed toasty gooey package quality that makes a grilled cheese a grilled cheese (take that for logic).

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Not to mention, part of losing that tightly sealed toast gooey package quality is that your sandwich is apt to fall apart. Few things in this life are more demoralizing than your sandwich falling apart into a hot skillet when you try to flip it. To live your best grilled cheese life, keep it simple. A slice of tomato and a few fresh basil leaves are my absolute favorite grilled cheese “extras.” They bring enough brightness to compliment the cheese, but never threaten to upstage it.

OK, so now that I’ve officially killed the word “gooey,” let’s put your newly-gained GC know-how to the test. This easy Tomato-Basil Grilled Cheese is simply everything you want from a perfect grilled cheese. Go forth—and grill cheese!

Tomato-Basil Grilled Cheese

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  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 4 (1-oz.) slices whole-grain bread
  • 2 Tbsp. canola mayonnaise
  • 1 1/4 oz. raclette cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/4 oz. light sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 (1/4-inch-thick) tomato slices
  • Dash black pepper
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

1. Place oil in a small bowl. Brush 1 side of each bread slice evenly with oil; place oil side down on a cutting board.

2. Combine mayonnaise and both cheese in a medium bowl, stirring with a rubber spatula to combine; spread cheese mixture evenly over non-oiled side of each bread slice.

3. Place 1 tomato slice on top of cheese mixture on 2 of the bread slices; sprinkle evenly with black pepper and basil leaves. Close sandwiches with remaining bread slices.

4. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat; coat with cooking spray. Add sandwiches to pan; cook 3 minutes or until browned. Turn sandwich; cook 2 minutes or bread is browned and cheese is gooey. Serve immediately.

Every time we go grocery shopping or sit down to eat, there are choices to make. Which cereal are you going to throw in your cart? Which milk? Different days and personal needs may call for different things, but if you want to know what’s generally healthier, I have answers. First, test your nutrition know-how to see you fare. Then, find out what you need to know about how to make better choices.

Cheese pizza or grilled cheese?

The winner: It’s a little complicated because neither of these comfort foods scores major health points. If your dinner decision-making process involves ordering pizza delivery or scrounging up something in the fridge, grilled cheese wins, but only if you’re reasonable with the butter and cheese. The reason it edges out pizza is about portion size. Few people double up on grilled cheese, yet many happily grab two slices of pizza, so the grilled cheese will keep things lighter.

Here’s the exception to the homemade grilled cheese rule: Making pizza with a whole wheat crust, piling on the veggies, and sticking to a slice would give it the advantage because veggies are always a plus, and the whole grain crust is a good delivery vehicle for these nutritious additions. And if you’re at a restaurant that offers veggie pizza with a whole grain crust, order that instead of the grilled cheese, which is most often a calorie bomb made with white bread and unreasonable amounts of cheese.

Do It BETTER: To make your grilled cheese even better, serve it on whole grain bread and use plant-based oil, like extra-virgin olive oil. These two ingredients give this meal an upgrade thanks to the extra bit of fiber and healthy plant compounds.

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2% Greek yogurt or 100 calorie Yoplait

The winner: The 2% Greek yogurt is my hands-down choice. It may seem counter-intuitive to recommend the higher-calorie, higher-fat pick, but the latest evidence suggests that people who consume these foods have a lower chance of being overweight or obese, and research points to a lower risk of diabetes from high-fat dairy foods. Plus, the evidence connecting saturated fat from dairy foods to health concerns has weakened over time. Another pro: You won’t find any additives, added sugar, or artificial sweeteners in plain 2% Greek yogurt.

Do it BETTER: For those that want fruity flavor or like their yogurt on the sweet side, your best bet is to start with a plain variety and then dress it up with fruit and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup. You’ll get whole, fiber-rich fruit, and chances are, you’ll add less sweetener than the manufacturer.

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Honey Nut Cheerios vs. Frosted Flakes?

The winner: Neither of these options get top honors in my book, but in the battle of the sugary cereals, Honey Nut Cheerios edges out its competition. Though it contains 9 g of sugar — that’s over 2 teaspoons (and too much for a breakfast cereal!) — the first ingredient is whole grain oats, so you’ll get 2 grams of fiber from this choice. The Frosted Flakes has an extra gram of sugar (for a total of 10 g) and is made from milled corn, which is another way of saying processed, fast-acting carbohydrates.

Do it BETTER: The actual winner is a 100% whole grain cereal with no to little added sugar. Less than 6 g of added sugar per serving is a good target.

Honey or table sugar

The winner: Honey has it slightly — but not because of its nutritional properties. Honey has some well-studied therapeutic benefits. It acts as a topical antibiotic when applied to wounds and eases nighttime coughs better than traditional over-the-counter medications. Honey also happens to taste sweeter than sugar so you may be able to get away with using less. But remember that honey is metabolized in the body the same as table sugar so there are no big nutritional wins when it comes to eating it.

Do it BETTER: You shouldn’t be eating too much added sugar from any source, including honey. And honey won’t provide these health benefits unless you’re using it as specified to treat these conditions. That means that a daily drizzle over your oatmeal won’t do anything for that nighttime cough. You’ll need a spoonful at night for that. So keeping tabs on your honey consumption still applies.

Cow’s milk or almond milk

The winner: For those who consume dairy foods, milk has more nutrition per cup. It has 8 grams of protein —that’s more than a cheese stick, an egg or an ounce of almonds. Almond milk has just 1 g of protein. Plus, the calcium in milk is naturally-occurring and it may be more protective than the calcium that’s added to plant-based varieties.

Do it BETTER: Unsweetened almond milk has just 30 calories per cup compared to 110 calories per cup of 1% milk. If you’re getting protein from other sources (like yogurt, nuts and nut butters, eggs, beans, meat, chicken, and fish), you might prefer a lower-calorie way to lighten coffee or round out your smoothies and oatmeal.

Green juice or smoothie?

The winner: A smoothie has a leg up on the green juice, despite the fact that celebrities and other so-called health enthusiasts pay premium prices for their green sips. Smoothies are made in a blender, which pulverizes whole fruits and vegetables. This process not only retains the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other health-promoting plant compounds, but also the fiber — something lacking in most Americans’ diets. Plus, smoothies tend to be made with other beneficial ingredients, like nut butters, protein-packed Greek yogurt, chia seeds, and the like. So in addition to all the nutritious goodness from produce, you’re getting added nutrition from the extras, while also getting a drink that’s filling and satisfying.

Though green juice is rich in nutrients, juicing machines separate the pulp from the fruit juice, leaving the fiber behind. This is a big health miss, and also means these drinks won’t do as good a job filling you up. Also, because greens are bitter, green juices often contain more fruits than veggies, which drives up the calories, carbohydrates and sugar.

Do it BETTER: Though I generally favor whole fruit over juice (green or otherwise), if you’re really struggling to get enough produce and want to give green juice a try, remember that it’s a concentrated source of nutrition and calories. Keep your sips small — much closer to a shot glass than a big gulp. And, watch your smoothie intake, too, because those extra calories can add up.

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