The Secret Ingredient You Should Be Using On Your Grilled Cheese Sandwich

When it comes to the greatest sandwiches of all time, you'd have to put the classic grilled cheese right at the top of the list. No one really knows who first came up with this brilliant concept of taking two already amazing food categories, and not only pairing them up, but then heating them until they fused into a single unit of awesomeness. Nevertheless, anonymous grilled cheese inventor, we salute you. And then we see your delicious sammie, and we raise you one secret ingredient. This incredibly simple hack, endorsed by celeb chef and author Gabrielle Hamilton, uses an ingredient found in almost every refrigerator in the U.S. — none other than our old friend mayonnaise.

According to Ms. Hamilton, all you need to do is skip the typical butter application and coat the outside of your bread with mayonnaise instead. You don't need to put any butter (or mayo) in the pan, either — just be sure to use a non-stick skillet. Fry the grilled cheese sandwich on one side until it's golden brown on the bottom, then flip and fry until the other side is golden-brown as well.

So why mayo instead of butter? For starters, it's creamy and much easier to spread evenly, which is especially helpful when your bread is soft or crumbly. Also, PureWow points out that mayonnaise has a higher smoke point than butter, which means that it won't burn as easily. Good news for anyone who's ever looked away from the pan for just a second and turned back to find their bread an unappetizing shade of black.

One warning, though — the mayo hack just won't work unless you're using the full-fat version of the condiment. While there's no shame in having a jar of light mayo in the fridge — even Cook's Illustrated says that it tastes almost the same as the more calorie-laden kind — the fact remains that its number one ingredient is water, which will make your grilled cheese sandwich kind of soggy. It also won't brown up so nicely. So for all your cheese-grilling purposes, only regular mayonnaise will do.

You can, however, use flavored (full-fat) mayonnaise with great success. According to The Takeout, mayo varieties like sriracha, chipotle, and aioli can be used for cheese sandwich grilling, and the added flavoring from the mayonnaise "turns even your plain grilled cheese into a gourmet option." As a bonus, you get all that extra taste without running the risk of any goopiness from added condiments. You can even try making your own flavored mayos with the herbs and spices of your choice to complement your cheese selections.

As to how a mayo-fried grilled cheese sandwich will taste — The Kitchn's Dana Velden described the one she made as having "a delicious crust [that] offered a rich, slightly tangy flavor," and claimed that it would be her go-to grilled cheese technique from now on. She also offered a suggestion as to how to really, truly kick up your grilled cheese game a la Gabrielle Hamilton: Make grilled cheese a holiday party treat by using out-of-the-ordinary pairings like cheddar with mango and jalapeño, or blue cheese and bacon on pumpernickel. Accompany these gourmet goodies with a glass of champagne and oooh, look at you, all fancy and stuff.

But what if you absolutely can't do without some butter in your sandwich? Perhaps you share the belief of some of the great chefs — we're looking at you Julia Child and Paula Deen — that butter makes everything better. Fear not, butter fans, it turns out compromise is possible. Southern Kitchen suggests you can still use the mayo-frying hack, and also add just a little dab of butter to the pan before you slide that sandwich in. Once it has browned on one side, add more butter as you flip. While the addition of butter will, once again, raise that smoke point — and, with it, the danger of a blackened sandwich — if you're willing to keep a close eye on your cooking, you can have the crispy mayo crust plus that little bit of added buttery goodness.

Really, any grilled cheese sandwich recipe will be improved by this mayo hack, no matter what's inside. What are you waiting for?