Ultimate Guide to Cheese; Deluxe Grilled Cheese
March 7, 2022
9 min. read
If you’ve been following along on our blog these past few weeks, you know that we’re in the middle of a series called “Melt with Martin’s” that is all about grilled cheese! And what’s not to love about a toasty grilled cheese sandwich (especially as we wait out these last few weeks of colder weather in anticipation of spring)?
Well, on this week’s blog, we answer all your burning questions about what goes into the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. Is it the type of cheese that’s used? The method of cooking? Or some other secret ingredient?
Keep reading to see our Ultimate Guide to Cheese, as well as our test kitchen-approved recipe for the perfect grilled cheese!
Types of Cheese
As you know, there are many different varieties of cheese (over 1,800 in fact!). A wide range of factors, including age, type of milk, place of origin, and method of preparation, gives each type of cheese a distinct taste, color, texture, and aroma that makes it distinct from every other. Below are some of the most popular varieties of cheese, categorized by type (age).
These cheeses are unaged with no rind, bright-white in color, and have a mild flavor with high moisture content.
- Mozzarella: Originated in Italy; made with cow or buffalo milk; creamy texture; mild and milky in flavor with light acidity.
- Feta: Made in Greece; aged in brine for about 3 months; made with sheep and goat milk; texture ranges from creamy to crumbly; tangy and slightly salty in flavor.
- Chèvre (fresh goat cheese): Originated in France; made with goat milk; moist and creamy in texture; bright and acidic (almost lemony) flavor.
These cheeses are soft-ripened for several weeks and have a thin white rind (AKA bloomy rind) with a soft, gooey interior and a creamy-buttery taste.
- Brie, Camembert: Originated in France; made with cow milk; creamy texture; buttery flavor (umami/slightly earthy in the case of Camembert).
These cheeses are generally aged for a few months and tend to have a thin rind, a moderately high moisture content, and a smooth, creamy interior texture. They can range in flavor from mild and buttery to bold and pungent (in the case of many blue cheeses and washed-rind cheeses).
- Monterey Jack: Originated in California, U.S.A; made with cow milk; smooth texture; mild, buttery flavor; often blended with other cheeses (e.g., Colby-Jack) or ingredients (e.g., Pepper Jack).
- Havarti: Made in Denmark; made with cow milk; has a creamy texture and mild, slightly buttery taste; off-white to pale yellow in color with small holes throughout.
- Muenster: Originated in U.S.A; made with cow milk; smooth, creamy texture; mild, sweet, nutty flavor; pale yellow in color with an orange rind.
- American: Originated in U.S.A; made with cow milk; processed cheese made from cheddar, Colby, or similar cheeses; very creamy texture; mild, salty flavor; highly meltable; may be yellow or white in color.
- Provolone: Originated in Italy; made with cow milk; taste varies from sweet to sharp, depending on age; occasionally smoked.
- Blue: A broad category of cheeses, which covers many varieties (e.g., Gorgonzola, Roquefort), that are made with cultures of the mold Penicillium, which produces blue or green veins throughout. The flavor tends to be very bold, sharp, and slightly nutty, with a strong aroma.
These cheeses may be aged anywhere from several months to more than one year. The aging process makes these cheeses firmer in texture and they tend to have bolder flavor with more unique tasting notes.
- Cheddar: Originated in England; made with cow milk; texture and flavor varies widely depending on its age; ranges in color from off-white to deep yellow.
- Gruyère: Originated in Switzerland; alpine-style cheese; made with cow milk; sweet and slightly salty flavor.
- Swiss (Emmental): Originated in Switzerland; alpine-style cheese; made with cow milk; very meltable; slightly sweet, nutty taste with a bit of sharp bite.
- Gouda: Originated in Netherlands; made from cow milk; creamy texture; caramelly, slightly nutty flavor.
- Colby: Originated in Wisconsin, U.S.A; made from cow milk; similar in process to Cheddar cheese; often marbled together with Monterey Jack to produce Colby-Jack cheese; soft texture; mild flavor; bright orange in appearance.
These cheeses may be aged for a year or more and tend to have a dry, almost crumbly texture. (They may even develop tiny “flavor crystals” formed from the amino acid tyrosine.) These cheeses typically have a rich, robust, savory flavor.
- Parmesan: Originated in Italy (Parmigiano-Reggiano); made with cow milk; dry, crumbly texture; rich, caramelly, and nutty flavor.
- Asiago: Originated in Italy, made with cow milk; hard, crumbly texture; sharp and savory flavor.
- Manchego: Made in Spain; made with sheep milk; texture and flavor varies depending on its age, though tends to have a buttery taste; ranges in color from off-white to light yellow.
Grilled Cheese FAQs
Since we are in the middle of a series all about Grilled Cheese, let’s apply the above cheese facts to sandwich making! Here are some pro tips on how to make the ultimate grilled cheese:
Q: What’s the best cheese for my grilled cheese?
A: To achieve the ideal “cheese pull” you’ll primarily want to choose cheeses ranging from semi-soft to semi-firm (as listed in the categories above). These cheeses have an ideal moisture content, melt very well, and can be easily sliced or shredded.
But—don’t let this stop you from using your favorite fresh, soft, or aged cheese in your recipes…Here are a few tips:
- Fresh Mozzarella has a very high moisture content and is not ideal for grilled cheese. Opt for low-moisture mozzarella—the kind you find pre-shredded, in block form, or in string cheese—as this is closer in texture to other semi-soft cheeses and is a melts exceptionally well.
- Fresh, crumbly cheeses like Feta and goat cheese (Chèvre) tend to soften rather than melt due to their high moisture and acidity levels. To use these cheeses into your sandwiches, it is best to start with a neutral melting cheese (like Monterey jack or mozzarella) and then incorporate the other cheeses as you would a secondary add-on ingredients. See our Greek Grilled Cheese here for a great example.
- Extra-firm or hard cheeses like Parmesan melt, but at higher temperatures due to their lower moisture content. The best way to integrate these into your sandwich is to use a fine cheese grater or microplane so the cheese melts more quickly, and then to blend the grated cheese with another type of cheese with a higher moisture level. Check out our Pepperoni Pizza Grilled Cheese here to see how.
Q: Should I use more than one type of cheese for my grilled cheese?
A: Great question! The answer is—that is totally up to you. If you are planning to use a fresh or well-aged cheese for your sandwich, it is best to blend these types with other cheese that is semi-soft to semi-firm in texture, to ensure optimal meltability. You can also feel free to blend other cheeses to experiment with unique characteristics and flavor notes. For example—maybe you want the smooth creaminess of Havarti, but also the bold savory taste of Cheddar? Use both!
Q: How should I prepare the cheese for my grilled cheese?
A: Whether you slice, shred, or grate your cheese depends on its type (texture) and format. For soft cheeses like Brie, you will either want to slice it with a specialty cheese knife (Brie tends to be very sticky), or soften it first and use a cheese spreader. For semi-soft to semi-firm cheeses, you should be able to either slice or shred them. (Many in this category also come pre-sliced to save you time.) For hard cheeses, as mentioned above, it is best to use a fine grater to ensure these cheeses melt faster.
Bonus Tip: Learn how to cut every type of cheese with this video from Epicurious!
Q: What ingredients pair best with each type of cheese?
A: The short answer is—whatever you like! Mix and match different cheese and ingredients pairings until you find a favorite match. But the truth is…each type of cheese does have unique characteristics and tasting notes, and does tend to pair naturally with certain foods and flavors. A good rule of thumb is: don’t let any one flavor overpower any other. Meaning—if you’re using a bold cheese, find an equally bold ingredient combo to match. Check out our Charcuterie Boards blog to see some popular ingredient pairings for many of the cheeses listed above!
Q: What’s the best way to cook my grilled cheese?
A: There are many ways to cook a grilled cheese sandwich, but we suggest sticking with the classic method of a non-stick pan or a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, over medium heat. This will ensure an even browning on the outside and a fully-melted interior. Check out our Grilled Cheese 7 Ways blog to learn the pros and cons of each cooking method, and to see some additional grilled cheese-making tips and tricks.
Featured Recipe: Deluxe Grilled Cheese
We put the above tips and tricks into action with a simple yet luxurious three-cheese grilled cheese recipe that hits all the right notes! Savory, creamy, and definitely cheesy—with just a hint of spice—this elevated grilled cheese sandwich is delicious to serve at even the nicest dinners. Try it for yourself:
- 2 Slices Martin’s Old-Fashioned Butter Bread
- ¼ Cup Gouda Cheese, shredded
- 3 Tablespoons Asiago Cheese, freshly grated
- 1 Slice White Cheddar Cheese
- 1 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
- 2 Tablespoons Butter, divided
- 1 Clove Garlic, Crushed
- 1 Pinch Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 Pinch Thyme
Combine 1 tbsp. melted butter, crushed garlic, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of thyme in a small bowl. Layer the sandwich with Dijon mustard, cheddar, Gouda, and Asiago cheese, then brush the garlic-butter mixture onto the top and bottom of the sandwich. Using the remaining butter, cook the sandwich in a large skillet over medium heat on each side until the bread is golden brown and the cheese has melted. Enjoy!
About This Recipe
For this recipe, we chose three different kinds of cheeses in order to create the ultimate flavor experience. We used gouda cheese (shredded) for its smooth, caramelly quality and enhanced meltability, sharp cheddar cheese (sliced) for its rich and savory flavor, and aged Asiago (freshly grated) for a salty, savory quality.
The additional ingredients of Dijon mustard, thyme, garlic, and red pepper flakes, add a hint of tanginess, an herbal aroma, a touch of umami, and a bit of spice, respectively. The use of Martin’s Old-Fashioned Real Butter Bread and the classic inclusion of butter reinforce this recipe as an elevated, grown-up version of a traditional childhood favorite.
See the full recipe: https://potatorolls.com/recipes/deluxe-grilled-cheese
Melting for More?
If you’re anxious to try this recipe out for yourself, head on over to https://potatorolls.com/melt for a chance to win a limited edition grilled cheese kit or for more grilled cheese recipe ideas!
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