The Crispy Cheese Coating That Will Take Grilled Cheese To The Next Level

Let's talk about the reasons for loving grilled cheese sandwiches, besides the fact that they are downright delicious. Overall, making a grilled cheese sandwich is easy to do, and it requires ingredients that generally are part of our basic staples — butter, bread, sometimes mayo, and of course, cheese. It's also incredibly versatile as it can be replicated using different types of bread and cheese. It's also suitable for a crowd: You can prepare grilled cheese on a sheet pan when serving more than one. Get creative with additional ingredients like red peppers or basil for an Italian touch. And finally, isn't a gooey, cheesy sandwich the coziest dinner possible? Pair it with tomato soup and warm your heart any day.

However, if you're looking for a simple upgrade to your favorite sandwich, there is another grilled cheese that's sure to satisfy any cheese lover. After all, this sandwich is mostly a way to have a lot of cheese in a meal. This hack adds an extra step to the process — and more shredded cheese — but it's worth it! The secret to taking your grilled cheese to the next level is to think outside the box: Don't just put cheese on the inside, but on the exterior as well. The addition of crispy cheese is inspired by something Italians call frico.

Coat your grilled cheese in more cheese

Frico is the name for the solid, crunchy cheese disc that's formed by melting shredded cheese on a skillet or baking sheet until it bubbles and transforms. It's actually based on a traditional Italian recipe from the Friulian region that usually includes grated potatoes and onion. But, for the sake of grilled cheese sandwiches, this amazing sandwich recipe only includes the cheese part. According to Bustle, preparing frico in a skillet before putting the grilled cheese sandwich on top — with butter smeared on both slices of bread — adds a cheese coating to the already decadent sandwich. Once the frico sticks to the bread's exterior, repeat this process on the other side.

Frico is usually made with parmesan cheese, but as with everything in the world of grilled cheese, you can choose your favorite cheese — just make sure to pick a cheese that melts easily. Also, make sure your skillet has enough oil in it so the cheese doesn't stick, or you'll end up battling with a spatula or potentially damaging your pan's surface. With this coating technique, your next grilled cheese sandwich is sure to take you to the next level of cheesy goodness. 

You could also try crumb-crusted grilled cheese

While a cheesy coating will certainly add some extra crunch to your grilled cheese, it's not the only add-on that can level up your lunch. Instead of doubling down on the cheese, you can add extra bread instead. Not an extra slice of bread — unless you're trying for a double-decker — but rather, breadcrumbs to coat the outside of the sandwich. This draws inspiration from a delightful Italian finger food called mozzarella in carrozza, although it will work just as well with other types of cheese, too.

For the coating, it's best to use fine, dry breadcrumbs, such as panko. The best way to get them to stick is by dipping the cheese sandwich into an egg/milk mixture, as if you were making French toast, then dredging it in the crumbs. Fry the sandwich in oil, being careful not to let the crumbs burn. Finally, let it drain and enjoy your crispy, crumb-encrusted grilled cheese.

Go nuts for an extra-crunchy coating

If you really want to try something different with your grilled cheese, you could coat the sandwich with finely crushed nuts for extra flavor and crunch. The French toast technique described above could also be used to get the nuts to stick. Otherwise, you could simply spread olive oil, butter, or mayonnaise on the outside of the sandwich and press it down firmly into the crushed nuts of your choice before cooking.

While just about any type of nut could work as a sandwich crust, there are certain cheese and nut pairings that work particularly well together. We're partial to pistachios with provolone — and not just because of the alliteration. Hazelnuts go nicely with goat cheese or brie. Versatile cheddar is fantastic when paired with walnuts, pecans, or almonds. Swiss, Gruyère, and Manchego are also very almond-friendly cheeses. Monterey Jack and Havarti are complemented by walnuts, while pecans are great with gouda. If you're sticking with sliced American cheese for your sandwich, though, we suggest a mashup of two classics: Coat the bread with peanut butter, then dip it in crushed peanuts. You could even spread a thin layer of jelly over the cheese when building the sandwich to make a nut-crusted PBJ grilled cheese. The options are limitless.