Feature

The secret to Gabrielle Hamilton's amazing grilled cheese sandwiches

How to make them crispier, faster, and way better

A grilled cheese sandwich is a perfect union of bread, butter, and melty cheese — so why would you ever want to turn your back on one of its key ingredients? Especially if that ingredient is butter?

Lots of reasons, as I learned from Gabrielle Hamilton, chef and owner of Prune. Even diehard lovers of the buttery version (I am one) will find something new and valuable out of smearing their bread with mayo instead. As she says in this CHOW video, "This is the greatest cooking medium of all time for a grilled cheese sandwich."

Mayo won't burn as easily as butter does, which — just like that — solves the biggest challenge of grilled cheese: how to get the insides to heat through before the outside blackens.

With a standard, buttered grilled cheese, you have to cook it low and slow, keep the pan covered to capture the heat, and peek compulsively to make sure it's not starting to smoke — or involve an oven. But if you rely on mayo instead, you don't have to stress — its smoke point is higher than butter's, so it's much less likely to turn on you.

You can also have grilled cheese sooner. You don't have to wait for butter to soften, or tear or smush your bread in haste — even downy slices of brioche or Pullman won't be damaged when you slip over them with a knifeful of mayo, which is blessedly soft at any temperature.

But these are matters of convenience and reliability; what's most important are the results, which are not like any grilled cheese that butter could make. The oil and egg in mayonnaise brown and crisp more evenly and lavishly than butter, creating a glossy crunch from edge to edge.

Hamilton's recipe — like so much of the honest, happy food she serves at her restaurant Prune — is a comforting balance of high and low: extra-sharp cheddar spilling out of good bread, plus mayo in a jar.

She's also known to serve sardines and Triscuits on the same menu as chicken liver mousse with Cognac jelly, and to drop Knorr bouillon cubes in the vegetable soup she makes for Christmas Eve. She serves that soup with expensive Champagne — not a bad idea here either.

Gabrielle Hamilton's grilled cheese sandwiches

From Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune Restaurant, via CHOW

Makes 10 sandwiches

20 (1/2-inch-thick) slices rustic bread (from about 1 1/2 loaves)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 pound shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Mark Weinberg

This article originally appeared on Food52.com: Gabrielle Hamilton's grilled cheese sandwiches

More from Food52...

Recommended

Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake dead at 84
Issey Miyake Dies at age 84
RIP

Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake dead at 84

Is no-fault divorce Republicans' next target?
Wedding cake
Briefing

Is no-fault divorce Republicans' next target?

6 charming homes in the Hudson Valley
House
Feature

6 charming homes in the Hudson Valley

Most Popular

The Daily Show cleverly illustrates Fox News double standard on FBI raids
Trevor Noah
Last Night on Late Night

The Daily Show cleverly illustrates Fox News double standard on FBI raids

Axios revives Trump toilet scoop ... with photos
Donald Trump.
toiletgate

Axios revives Trump toilet scoop ... with photos

Trump reportedly wanted generals like Hitler's 'German generals in World War II'
Trevor Noah
Don't Know Much about History....

Trump reportedly wanted generals like Hitler's 'German generals in World War II'