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April 12 - National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day

It's National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day! Although it only requires three ingredients (bread, cheese, and butter), grilled cheese is one of the most popular comfort foods in the world.

The Ancient Romans were the first civilization to make a cooked bread and cheese sandwich, but many cultures have invented their own take on this ancient dish. In France, people enjoy Croque Monsieur (a grilled ham and cheese sandwich) while in Switzerland it is customary to melt the cheese and toast the bread separately before combining them. The classic American grilled cheese sandwich emerged in the 1920s when inexpensive cheese and affordable sliced bread became available.

During World War II, Navy cooks prepared countless “American cheese filling sandwiches”—as instructed by government-issued cookbooks—in ships’ kitchens. In the 1940s and ‘50s, these were usually served open-faced and consisted of one slice of bread topped with grated cheese. In 1949, Kraft Foods introduced Kraft Singles—individually wrapped slices of processed cheese—and supermarkets began stocking them in 1965. Also around that time, the second, perhaps most important, piece of bread was added on top, likely as a way to make the sandwich more filling, and the modern notion of a grilled cheese sandwich was born.

It’s also worth noting that the actual term “grilled cheese” doesn’t make an appearance in print until the 1960s; it was all “toasted cheese” or “melted cheese” sandwiches before then. Which speaks to a larger point: how you actually cook this sandwich doesn’t really matter, and historically the methods have been all over the map. As early as 1902, a recipe for a “Melted Cheese,” designed to be cooked in a hot oven, appeared in Sarah Tyson Rorer’s Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book; a recipe published in 1929 in Florence A. Cowles’ Seven Hundred Sandwiches called to broil the ingredients to make “Toasted Cheese.” “Toasted Sandwich,” published in 1939 in The Boston Cooking School Cook Book, encouraged the ingredients to be broiled or even—gasp!—sauteed in a frying pan coated with butter. And in The Joy of Cooking (1953), Irma S. Rombauer wrote that bread and cheese should be heated in a commercial waffle iron—an easy meal for even “the maidless host” to prepare.

Grilled Cheese is now a staple in cafés, diners, and school cafeterias across the country.

To celebrate National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day, enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich cooked your favorite way and served with a side of tomato soup!


6 tricks to a perfect grilled cheese sandwich

1. Upgrade the bread selection with country white, crusty French, sourdough, or even challah.

2. Use cheese that melts: cheddar, Monterey Jack, Gruyere, Swiss, fontina, provolone and Brie.

3. Grill the inside and outside of the bread before adding cheese for extra crunch.

4. The restaurant trick: Use a combination of butter and mayo, or just mayo, for excellent bread browning.

5. Waffle your sandwich. Use a waffle iron, which creates more crunchy pockets.

6. Cut on the diagonal: Everything is fancier on the diagonal, and you get more crust-free bites.



The technique

~ Cover both sides of two slices of bread with a thin layer of mayo, butter or a combination of both.

~ Place a large skillet over medium heat. Toast one side of each slice of bread, about 1 minute.

~ Turn bread and add cheese (and items of choice) to each toasted slice. Allow slices to toast, about 1 minute.

~ Marry cheese-covered toasted slices and continue toasting, about 1 minute.

~ Remove sandwich from pan and slice on the diagonal.

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