Why Grilled Cheeses Always Taste Better At A Restaurant

Sometimes life presents itself in a way that only grilled cheese will do. Without getting too philosophical, a good grilled cheese sandwich can satisfy your mind, body, and beyond. A great one can make you feel all is right with the world. For a magnificent culinary moment, you might want to head out to eat as grilled cheese always tastes better at a restaurant.

Once you discover what restaurant chefs do to make their grilled cheese so fabulous, you can copy their techniques at home. But there's nothing stopping you from starting with an air fryer grilled cheese recipe made with sliced bread, butter, and shredded mild cheddar. It doesn't get simpler than this. However, a restaurant-style grilled cheese can be a creative dish that's full of a myriad of flavors and made with a variety of different types of cheeses and bread. We'll forgive you if you're not desperate for some grilled cheese. You might want to grab one to enjoy before you read on.

Quality thick bread slices

A loaded melted cheese sandwich with thin bread slices can taste a little greasy. It can also be a bit flimsy and you might run the risk of molten cheese dripping out. If there's less cheese with thin bread slices, a grilled cheese sandwich can taste a little drab. What restaurant chefs know is that as well as a good amount of filling, a thick bread slice is best. Restaurant grilled cheese often looks impressive with its doorstop size. That's why you never want to order one unless you're super-hungry.

There's a wide variety of breads used by chefs, and the important factors are that the slices are hearty enough not to turn soggy from the butter in the pan or the cheese as it melts. From Culver's sourdough to Shake Shack's potato buns the options abound. And restaurants create their signature grilled cheese by using different types of bread from brioche to artisan and ciabatta.

Bread toasted on both sides

You don't have to be a culinary professional to make a basic grilled cheese. Of course, it might not taste nearly as good as when you order it at a restaurant. But you know the basics, right? Do you make a sandwich with cheese in the middle and fry it in a pan on both sides? There's nothing wrong with that, but you could be missing a cool tip that boosts flavor.

Try browning the bread on both sides before you even get to the adding cheese part. That way you get a double crunch before you bite into the molten center. Frying bread in salted butter or melted butter with salt gives every surface of the bread a delicious, buttery crunch. It also results in greater contrast between the crispy bread and melted cheese which elevates the texture. Another plus point is that when the cheese is added it starts to soften on the hot fried bread. That way, it'll melt much faster and avoid having an overly cooked outside in order for the cheesy filling to be ready.

Mayo on the outside

A simple technique that any good grilled cheese restaurant chef knows is to use some mayo. It's not to add inside the sandwich but to spread generously on the side of the bread that's going to hit the skillet. If there's butter in the pan, then the mayonnaise creates an extra flavor boost. Cheese and mayo are a classic combination, grilled or not.

As well as the taste, the mayo helps chefs brown the bread without overdoing it because mayo doesn't burn as easily as butter does. The result is a wonderfully grilled sandwich that is worthy of any menu. Great chefs understand flavor and may choose to use flavored mayonnaise to take grilled cheese to the next level. There's nothing stopping you from trying this at home. You could even make your own classic chipotle mayo or push the gourmet factor up with a mayonnaise-style, easy roasted garlic aioli

Varied melting cheeses

Upmarket eateries may not stock a great deal of American cheese. While it's not valued highly by some foodies, there is no denying that it's a fantastic melter. For nostalgia's sake, it may just be the only slice to add to a classic grilled cheese sandwich at home. However, grilled cheese can taste better at a restaurant, and that's often because more high-end cheese is used.

Chefs have a huge choice of cheeses that melt well. These include provolone, a tangy cheddar, nutty Swiss cheese, and soft cheeses. Fontina melts well, and so does raclette and the stronger-tasting taleggio. Gouda is ideal too, and asiago, but cheese that doesn't melt well can also be added in with a good melting one. Pro cooks often add more than one cheese to upgrade a sandwich and create a more complex taste. One cheese might provide the classic gooey center with another adding a more intense taste. Together a taste sensation is created — mozzarella with a salty Gorgonzola being a great example.

Grated cheese

Have you ever burnt a grilled cheese sandwich because you're trying to get the cheese to melt in the middle? It's a common mistake home chefs make and it really comes down to not taking the time to mindfully follow each step of making this dish properly. Chefs know that to get that perfect combo of crunchy toasted bread and melted dairy deliciousness they have to grate the cheese. It's true that not all recipes follow this method. If the cheese melts easily then thin slices may suffice. But what you'll find with grated cheese is that it melts more quickly in time with the bread browning in the skillet, hopefully. And it also doesn't result in some bits of cheese melting and some still hard. (Who knew grilled cheese was so detailed?)

If you're using a hard cheese, such as Gruyère, then it's not rocket science to know that it takes a good amount of sustained heat to melt. It's also not easy to cut into super-thin slices unless you've got a chef-quality knife. If restaurant chefs were to make a Monte Cristo grilled sandwich, they'd probably grate the Gruyère, just as we guide you to. For our version, you add thin slices of roast ham and turkey with the cheese, along with some Dijon mustard. Fry the bread in a buttered skillet after dipping it in beaten eggs.

Cheese on the outside

If you're the type that can't get enough cheese, you probably like your grilled cheese sandwiches loaded. Of course, you have to get through a thick piece of toasted bread before you hit the flavor jackpot. Chefs who specialize in the dish often like to create a culinary spin on the classic concept. And one such way is by adding cheese to the outside, as well as the inside. Let's face it, this idea makes so much sense, especially for die-hard grilled cheese fans.

It's not always how chefs do something, but the fact that they do. You can easily recreate this at home by simply buttering the outside of your grilled cheese bread before cooking it. Next, add some grated sharp, salty cheese like Romano or some tangy Parmesan. When sizzling in the pan, the hard cheese will turn crispy, giving the outside of your sandwich a spectacularly tasty crunch. The taste and texture contrast so well against the soft gooey cheese inside. 

You can also just add some shredded cheddar to your skillet and put the sandwich on top. The cheese will create a crispy, cheesy chip that you can peel off with the grilled cheese. Just be sure to repeat this when you flip the bread. Make grilled cheese with ham, Gruyère, and Dijon mustard, and pour over bechamel sauce and some more of the cheese before broiling. Top with a fried egg and serve up a restaurant-style croque madame.

Interesting condiments

What condiments do you eat grilled cheese with at home? If you do little more than open a bottle of ketchup then you're missing a beat that restaurants often don't miss. A great fruit chutney on the side or a fresh salsa can make the world of taste difference. Truffle oil inspires luxury while a jammy condiment is more rustic. Hot sauce adds some heat as does a spoonful of mustard.

Condiments can sometimes be added to the filling too. A TikTok post by @fallow_restaurant shows a chef adding Sriracha butter, garlic confit, and caramelized onion to potato bread, with nduja and a mix of two kinds of cheese. The quest is to create, garlicky, slightly spicy, and subtly sweet grilled cheese. Another chef-style idea is kimchi grilled cheese. Bold flavors work well with less flavorful cheese and kimchi can be served on the side, as well as inside the sandwich. Step up your condiment pairings for a better grilled cheese at home. 

Gourmet ingredients

One of the most obvious reasons that restaurant grilled cheese is so good is that gourmet ingredients are used. When it comes to taking a simple sandwich and turning it into a culinary masterpiece, chefs can really go for it. Homemade relish adds a flavor bomb, for example. It's a winner if paired with the best French bread, high-end butter, and a mixture of cheeses, such as good goat cheese. Great ingredients might not be enough on their own. It's the skill of individual chefs to layer the flavors so that they complement each other. The other consideration is the texture, and part of this is making sure not too many ingredients are added to take away from the cheese or make the bread less crispy.

Take this concept home and make a fig grilled cheese. You don't need a lot of ingredients, just some sourdough bread and some butter, as well as some shredded Gruyère cheese and some fig butter or fig jam. Other ingredients restaurants have added to create gourmet grilled cheese include tomato and basil, roasted tomatoes, and guava jam, plus brisket, and truffle. Chilis and pickles are perfect with cheese too. There's really no end to culinary creations for the grilled cheese extraordinaire. Don't forget seafood either. Try a tuna melt with red onion, dill, celery, and lemon juice, with provolone cheese. 

Incorporate your grilled cheese with other comfort foods

Gourmet is great when you're in the mood, but the reason grilled cheese is a classic dish is that it's universally loved by a great many. Rocking up at a restaurant and putting your order in is enough to get you hungry. What chefs are so good at is recognizing this appetite for flavor and fat, and perhaps the emotional need for food that's eternally a taste of childhood. That's why they make great-tasting grilled cheese by combining it with other comfort foods.

What better combination, then, than grilled cheese with mac-and-cheese? If your local restaurant doesn't offer this, then seek and ye shall find. You can also make your own version with a grilled buffalo chicken mac and cheese sandwich. Make mac-and-cheese with blue cheese, cheddar, and Colby Jack, and add to bread with slices of mozzarella. Panko-coated chicken with Buffalo sauce gives another layer of comfort food wonder. And what about making yourself a restaurant-food-rivaling tasty grilled cheese sloppy joe with good ole American cheese slices?

They're grilled on a plancha or griddle

Sit in a retro diner anywhere in the country, and the chances are you'll spot a griddle that no doubt will have a cook flipping burgers and squashing down grilled cheese sandwiches. So what makes the grilled cheese taste so much better than it does at home? One reason is that restaurant and diner chefs don't use a skillet like most home cooks do.

The difference is two-fold. The flat top of a griddle in a professional kitchen doesn't hold in any steam that's created from grilling in a rounded skillet. Any moisture just evaporates off. This, along with the low heat allows the cheese to melt and the bread to crisp up to perfection. You may not have to wait long for your grilled cheese order but you may try and quicken up the cooking time if you're making it at home. 

As well as using a flat griddle, some restaurant chefs use a plancha for grilling as it's really great at searing meat. This focuses an intense heat in one area and creates a cooler surface close by. This means that you can sear your grilled sandwich and then move it to a less intensely hot place to get the cheese to melt without burning the bread. Having the space to move the sandwich around gives restaurant chefs more control in creating the perfect grilled cheese.

Melted butter or bacon fat

A lot of busy diner chefs don't spend time buttering bread before throwing it on the griddle for some grilled cheese. Instead, they enhance the tastiness by frying some rashers of bacon to grease the griddle. The grilled cheese sandwich is cooked in this bacon fat and can be served as is, or with a side of crispy bacon. Everything moves so fast in these kitchens and this creates a great flow as well as elevating the flavor.

Some chefs use butter, just as you might at home, but they might melt it in the pan before adding the bread slices. Some spread one side of the bread with melted butter first. This allows the butter to soak into the bread and boost the flavor straightaway, and if you add mayo to the bread then this is a must. Why not make a bacon lovers grilled cheese recipe? It looks as if it came straight out of the kitchen of a great restaurant with the fried bacon wrapped around the sandwich. As the meat crisps up and browns the cheese in the middle gloriously melts.

Crispy bread cooked at the right temperature

If you're trying not to overindulge, you may be tempted to cut down on ingredients and make yourself a slim grilled cheese sandwich that's not fried in too much butter. Restaurants are less concerned about your waistline though. The reason pro chefs make such good grilled cheese is that they add a good dollop of butter to fry the bread. It's this that makes it lovely and crispy. They also don't hold back on the cheesy filling either. The key to browning the bread and melting the cheese to perfection is making sure the cooking temperature is right.

A plancha, with hot and colder surfaces, can help chefs regulate the heat, moving the bread around so that the heat is enough to melt the cheese, but not so high it burns the bread. Low heat for longer is best as this browns the bread and adds a nice buttery crisp. If the heat is set too high, the bread might heat up and not color in the right way before the cheese has melted. If you're going for restaurant-style quality then the key is to not just leave the sandwich in your skillet. Press down on it to help the cheese melt and the bread brown. Nudge it around the pan so that the bread browns evenly.

Creamy cheese filling

A creamy filling makes grilled cheese taste decadent and downright delicious. When you want to chow down on grilled cheese at a restaurant you want it to be at least as good as if not better than you make at home. The type of cheese restaurants use makes all the difference, and what better way to create a creamy texture than with some cream cheese? This is how you might be served up a grilled cheese sandwich at a Disney park. If you can't make it on a dream trip, then no fear as you can make this Disney grilled cheese recipe at home too.

To get the filling right, lay a couple of slices of cheddar cheese or orange-colored Double Gloucester on a slice of bread. On the other slice, add two slices of provolone cheese. Blend cream cheese, shredded cheddar or Double Gloucester, and some heavy cream in a food processor. Add this creamy mix to the provolone side and sandwich the other cheese-laden slice together with it. Now grill in a skillet. 

You could also turn a cream-cheese-filled grilled sandwich into a sweet dish. Imagine French toast made with eggs and half-and-half loaded with cream cheese, sliced apples, and a salted caramel sauce. What about making your own version with a sweet and savory flavor profile? You could make a creamy filling, add slices of cheese, and then a sweet ingredient.

Served with a pairing of soup

In England, it's something of a tradition to serve cheese on toast that's been melted under a broiler with a big bowl of Heinz tomato soup. The taste of cheese and tomatoes is a fantastic pairing. It's not uncommon in the U.S. for restaurants to serve grilled cheese the same way. You might even be given a shot of soup if you dine somewhere on the fancy side. There's something about eating grilled cheese this way that elevates the taste of the cheese, and it sure beats just adding on a dollop of ketchup. Even a mediocre sandwich is going to taste that much better with some tomato soup.

Make a copycat Panera tomato soup recipe if you're not visiting the bakery-café soon and serve it with your own version of grilled cheese. We ranked the chain's grilled cheese low for being unimpressive for the price and calorie count — but the soup is great. To make your own version, blend canned tomatoes with vegetable broth, sugar, and heavy cream. For the seasoning, you'll need red pepper flakes, oregano, and basil. Add some grated Parmesan on top before serving to add a tangy cheesy edge that marries well with your grilled cheese sandwich. And yes, you are supposed to dip your grilled cheese into the soup, even at a restaurant.