Let’s talk about grilled cheese and the one thing that makes a grilled cheese sandwich better. No, not bacon (maybe). Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup are almost a perfect pairing, and their coupling supposedly makes human people feel comforted. Or so I’ve been told.
The grilled cheese plan
First, I’ll lay out my grilled cheese sandwich strategies and then we’ll move our focus to my mom’s tomato soup recipe. If you just want recipes, look for the links above. Otherwise, read on and keep all hands inside the vehicle.
How to grill some cheese
Grilled cheese sandwiches are super simple. But you can really mess them up.
You must cook a grilled cheese at the proper temperature, or you run the risk of burning the outside before you melt the cheese on the inside. If you don’t have proper control over your stove temperature it can really ruin your grilled cheese day.
My favorite grilled cheese temperature is medium-low heat if your stove has a dial. If you have an electric griddle with a temperature gauge, set it to between 250- and 275-degrees F (120 to 135 C).
If you’re cooking low and slow, my suggestion would be to start with 3 or 4 minutes and flip. Check the color on the flipped side and use that to determine if you need more or less than another 3 or 4 minutes. Press down a little with your spatula between flips, but don’t be too aggressive. You can flip a grilled cheese multiple times until you get the exterior color that you want.
Cook low and slow or use my cheater grilled cheese recipe down below.
Mayonnaise vs butter
I’ve read discussion after discussion on the internet (yes, this internet) about whether you should grill grilled cheese with butter or with mayonnaise on the outside. I’m here to tell you that they can be pretty much the same.
BUT your butter needs to be salted and room temperature. If all your salted butter is deep in the fridge and very cold, don’t use it for grilling a cheese sandwich. Spread a very thin layer of mayonnaise on the outside of your bread instead. If you have room temperature butter on your counter, you can spread that on the outside and it will perform the same as mayo.
Remember, mayonnaise is just: egg, oil, and seasonings. So, it’s not that weird to use it as the outside coating on your next grilled cheese. It covers well with a quick spread of a knife. Just try it and see.
Grill your grilled cheese with mayonnaise on the outside if all your butter is cold because it spreads a lot better.
What cheese to use?
I wrote about this combo of cheeses exactly one year ago today in my short rib blog post. That combination is a 50/50 blend of shredded gruyere and fontina.
Gruyere brings the flavor and fontina brings the meltyness.
Shred the cheese yourself. I’m not sure that you can find either of these cheeses pre-shredded, but still, always shred yourself if you can. The pre-shredded stuff you might find usually has starches and fillers that keep it from clumping or sticking together. Take a couple of minutes and always shred your own cheese when possible.
Use a blend of gruyere and fontina for a great grilled cheese combination.
The orange stuff
A classic grilled cheese for American folks will likely be straight-up American cheese. Don’t buy the stuff in the plastic sleeves. Go to the deli counter or buy “deli-sliced” American cheese. American cheese haters will tell you they’re the same thing, but those folks are uneducated and incorrect. The stuff in plastic sleeves is “cheese product” and the deli stuff is “process cheese”
Here’s an article about American cheese that will educate you WAY more than I could about the differences between cheese product and process cheese.
Process cheese or deli-sliced American cheese is cheese. It’s just a blend of cheeses (often cheddar or Colby) and an emulsifying agent (which could be sodium citrate, potassium citrate, and/or monosodium phosphate). You can hate American cheese all you want, but it works great in a grilled cheese or on top of a burger. Don’t use it if you don’t want to, but you can’t stop me!
Buy your American cheese at the deli counter.
Always be safe and use condiments.
I mostly use just a smear of mayonnaise in my grilled cheese, but mustard is a fantastic option. Two suggestions I have for the mayo-only folks is to hit the mayonnaise layer with a little black pepper or hot sauce for an extra fun pepper or spicy experience. If you hate spicy foods, try a drop or two of red wine vinegar mixed in with the mayonnaise layer to enhance your grilled cheese enjoyment.
Make yourself happy with the condiments.
Cheater grilled cheese
If you really want that gooey ooey middle cheese part of the grilled cheese and you struggle with the bread getting too dark during toasting, boy do I have a recipe for you.
Here’s the quick gist of instructions for the cheater grilled cheese. The recipe is linked further down below:
- Turn your oven broiler to high
- Add condiments and cheese to two slices of bread.
- Place any bread slice with cheese on it under the broiler to melt the cheese.
- Broil for 2 to 4 minutes but keep an eye on it and make sure nothing gets brown.
- Once the cheese is all melty remove it from the oven and sandwich the two cheesy slices.
- Cook the grilled cheese as normal.
Simple white bread recipe
For all these grilled cheese sandwiches, I used my simple white bread recipe. It’s a great recipe for grilled cheese or any sandwich where you might need some white bread. All you need to make it is a 4 x 8-inch loaf pan and some hopes and dreams. This is an easy recipe to bake; it’s on the lower end of experience required for bread recipes on my site.
Here’s a slideshow of the shaping process I use for one loaf of bread in a 4.5 x 8.5-inch loaf pan.
This white bread recipe makes some pretty slices.
Here’s my white bread recipe and as I wrote earlier it’s an approachable recipe for novice bakers.
My mom’s soup recipe
My mom’s tomato soup recipe is a family favorite. There has almost always been a pot of it on the stove during the last few times we’ve visited.
The recipe starts with diced onion and there are diced tomatoes in the recipe as well. Both vegetables are broken down and softened during the cooking process, but they still will have a bit of texture in the final soup. I like this texture, but if you prefer super smooth soup as you’d get from a can, you can add the soup in batches to a blender or use an immersion blender to achieve that smooth consistency.
I change my recipe only very slightly from my mom’s cookbook. I add a little extra hot sauce and use less dill in my version. I also add optional heavy cream at the very end of the cooking process, but that’s optional only if you like creamy tomato soup.
Here’s my version of my mom’s tomato soup. As I said, there are only very minor changes that I’ve made. Keep scrolling past the recipe if you want to look at a lot of grilled cheese sandwich photos.
This is my mom's tomato soup recipe and it pairs perfectly with a cool day and a warm melty grilled cheese sandwich.
- 8 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 4 garlic cloves, diced or pressed
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 30 ounces tomato sauce
- 28 ounces canned diced tomatoes (and any liquid)
- 1⁄4 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1⁄2 teaspoon dried dill
- 1⁄2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 to 8 shakes of hot sauce
- 1⁄2 cup heavy cream (optional - for a creamy tomato soup)
- croutons and/or fresh parsley (optional, for garnish)
In a large pot over medium high heat, melt the butter. When the butter is melted and bubbling, add onion and garlic and saute until the onions are soft, about 7 or 8 minutes.
Add the all-purpose flour to the onions and stir until very smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Gradually add the chicken stock about a cup at a time and continue stirring.
When all the stock is added, reduce heat to medium-low and add the tomato sauce, stirring well and allowing the mixture to thicken.
When the tomato sauce is fully incorporated, add the tomatoes and the honey, salt, dried dill, dried basil, chili powder, black pepper and any hot sauce you'd like to use.
Allow the soup to simmer over low heat uncovered for about 45 minutes. Stir frequently as the soup will stick to the bottom of the pot.
In the last 5 minutes of cooking time add heavy cream (if desired). You can also just add a tablespoon or so of cream or milk to each bowl when serving if you don't want to add it to the whole batch.
After 45 minutes, your soup is done. Serve and enjoy.
Garnish with croutons and/or diced, fresh parsley.
Stare at these grilled cheeses
Now that you’ve got your soup, let’s look at some of the grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve made recently.
Grill more cheese!
Make the world better by grilling more cheese and eating more soup!
Check back next week when I might be making what could possibly or maybe definitely be supposedly the official Texas state sandwich.