Waffle Iron: The Solution for Evenly Cooked Grilled Cheese
Halfway through the cooking process, I just had to sneak a peek.
Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Nothing beats a good grilled cheese sandwich, especially on a rainy day or when the air conditioner is turned up too high. Unfortunately, I haven't always been successful making my own grilled cheese sammies at home. No matter how much (or little) I grease the pan or butter the bread, something goes out of whack: The cheese is only partially melted, edges of the toast are charred, or one side of the sandwich is done perfectly, and the other, not so much.
August 24, as you may or may not know, is National Waffle Day and this past weekend, I was pondering how I might celebrate the upcoming holiday (these are the weighty matters that plague my mind). In the course of planning my celebratory waffle dish (to be revealed at a later date), I came across this little article on Wiliams-Sonoma about how to make grilled cheese using a waffle iron.
"The genius of the waffle iron," the article boasted, "is that it cooks evenly on both sides simultaneously, saving you time in the end." Well, saving time is not my first priority when I'm making grilled cheese since I'm almost always making the sandwich for myself and some impatient toddler waiting on the sidelines. But a way to ensure my grilled cheese is cooked evenly on both sides? That would rock my world. I grabbed some bread, cheese slices, tomatoes and bacon and began hunting through my cabinet for the waffle iron.
My first sandwich didn't come out perfect, most likely because the waffle iron hadn't properly preheated, but after a few more attempts, I got a handle on techniques for cooking a successful sandwich.
Despite what Williams-Sonoma says, I do NOT recommend buttering the outside faces of the bread. Most other recipes suggested cooking spray works just as well, and I found this to be true when I cooked my second sandwich. Using butter certainly ensures a knock-out savory sheen on your grilled cheese, but you also run the risk of producing a sandwich that tastes more of grease than cheese. In a pan or a griddle, the melted butter will gradually spread away from the bread, especially as you press and flip the sandwich; however, in the iron, the melted butter tends to wallow in the ridges of the iron where it continues to soak into the bread even after a desired crisp is achieved.
I also suggest (and perhaps this is obvious, though it wasn't to me), spraying the waffle iron itself as well as the bread to prevent any stickage or charring. And, don't be afraid to add a few extra sprays halfway through the cooking process. This move also allows you to check on the progress of your sandwich and delightfully observe the emerging pockmarks on the toast.
One final piece of advice: Stuff your waffle iron grilled cheese with what type of fillings you like, but do so in moderation. Most waffle makers aren't as powerful as, say, 19th-century industrial-size steam presses, and too much filler makes it difficult for the iron to close and for the sandwich to cook properly.
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