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Grilled Cheese on the Grill

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Recently, while preparing grilled cheese sandwiches stove top, I realized they weren’t truly grilled. Perhaps they should be titled pan-seared or skillet-fried cheese sandwiches? I recruited the OGF Scott to assist with creating a variety of cheese sandwiches that were truly grilled on my Char-Broil 940X.

***Editor’s Note ~ This post is a good look at the work we do for some of the recipes we come up with. Sometimes there’s a lot more than just slathering some meat with a rub, grilling it and putting it on a plate. We often test all sorts of combinations to determine what we like the best.  This is one such post and will have more pictures than any other post we have ever done at close to 70. Enjoy***

I conducted a bit of research by visiting Dianne at The Cheesekeeper in Belleville, Illinois. The cheese selection (along with the wine selection)  is superb and Dianne’s advice on cheese and bread pairings was most helpful. This small store is chock full of many items in addition to cheese…coffee, wine, and many specialty items. If you’re ever in the area a visit there is highly recommended.

Here are the cheeses we used:

Sliced Provel (the only cheese we didn’t get at the Cheesekeeper)

Dill Havarti

Havarti

Applewood Smoked Cheddar

Italian Fontina

Five Counties Cheddar

Now here are the breads we used:

Texas Toast

Cinnamon-Raisin Bread

Crusty Sourdough

Marbled Rye

Just a quick note regarding equipment – when grilling delicate items such as bread, use the tongs with the spatula on one end instead of the more traditional tongs. It helps keep the sandwich together when flipping and repositioning:

Grilled cheese isn’t just bread and cheese.  The bread has to be lubricated or basted to keep from burning. We tested 3 products to baste our bread starting from the left: buttery spread (margarine), olive oil, and real butter:

Scott applying the butters and oil. He appears to be unusually happy. That’s because our St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series the night before we took these pictures. Yeah, there were the obligatory Texas Toast jokes as we did this. Sorry Texas fans. This was our year. You have a great team and will be back for another try, but 2011 was our year:

The next generation Grillin’ Fool, Finnegan, looks on hungrily:

The Char-Broil 940X is fired up and the grill grates are cleaned with a wad of paper towels doused with olive oil  to minimize sticking:

The Grilled Cheese on the Grill test begins. We chose to test on the softer bread—if it stood up to the fire then we were good to go.

The sandwiches were positioned in the center of the grill for even heat:

Doing grilled cheese on the grill requires constant checking to determine when the bread is toasted so check fairly often for browning and don’t wander too far from the grill.

This is the olive oil version flipped:

Then the buttery spread is turned:

Now the buttered sandwich is turned:

Two sandwiches are pulled  off the direct heat once they are browned on the other side. Hey! Cross-hatch grill marks on a sandwich! Isn’t this the way grilled cheese on the grill is meant to be?

The buttered one took more time to toast than the other two.  After 10 minutes, the touch test showed that the bread was still soft:

After a few more minutes of toasting, the buttered one is pulled aside as well.  Here are all three off the heat, one is a bit toasty, a reminder to pay close attention when doing grilled cheese on the grill:

The lid is dropped on the grill to insure all three sandwiches are warmed through since two have been off the heat for a while:

We had 3 official tasters on site at this point so a portion of each variety was provided to each taster:

Looks pretty good doesn’t it?

There’s something special about the gooeyness of the cheese contrasted with the coarse texture of the bread and now we’re adding the smokey aroma of the grill to this classic.

The consensus was the buttery spread (margarine) was the winner for ease of use, flavor, and how it reacted to the fire. Real butter was a close second but took the longest by far to cook and then was quick to burn. Olive oil tasted, well, oily. If you have no other options, it will do, but it was clearly third best.

Now that we have our bread spread, time to move on with the rest of the grilled cheese on the grill test.

The cheeses are sliced:

Here I’m beginning assembly of the sandwiches. This is when the fun begins! There are 6 varieties of cheese and 4 types of bread so the combinations are more than we can do in one post. Here are the combinations we came up with.

Sandwich #1 is Havarti with cinnamon-raisin bread (I know it sounds weird, but bear with me):

#2 is dill Havarti on marbled rye (dill dip and rye bread in a sandwich):

#3 is Five Counties Cheddar on crusty sourdough:

Happy to be applying buttery spread for #4 which is sliced Provel and Applewood Smoked Cheddar on Texas toast:

The last is Italian Fontina on crusty sourdough:

The assortment platter is ready for the grill:

Here’s a recap of what we’re going to grill:

#1 – Havarti with cinnamon-raisin bread.

#2 – Dill Havarti with marbled rye

#3 – Five Counties Cheddar on crusty sourdough.

#4 – Sliced Provel and Applewood-Smoked Cheddar on Texas toast.

#5 – Italian Fontina on crusty sourdough.

Grilling on a pleasant Autumn afternoon and what could be better than a seasonally appropriate pumpkin ale?

It’s time to make grilled cheese on the grill! The coals were dropped to the lowest level to minimize burning:

Flame on!

Close attention required! Our concern is that the bread will burn before the cheese melts. This sandwich was over the hottest part of the fire and was toasted in less than two minutes:

Close up of that sandwich (the Fontina) flipped and the cheese already beginning to ooze:

Two sandwiches are flipped:

Notice that part of that second sandwich didn’t toast as well.  It will require some further grilling on that side to get an even toast.

Toasted cinnamon-raisin bread flipped:

All sandwiches flipped:

Looks like an escapee from the marbled rye. I simply tucked it back in:

We’re having fun now, that and we can’t wipe the smiles off our faces after our 11th World Series Win!

Three are done while a couple needed a little more toasting:

How does that Fontina look:

Don’t worry if you do this with marbled rye and it looks black like this.  It just seems to toast a little differently than the rest over open fire. It was delicious:

All five aside—no penalty yet:

Let’s pull ‘em and taste ‘em!

Hitting the kitchen counter—how will grilled cheese on the grill taste?

Love at first bite – gooey achieved:

The Texas toast with Provel and Applewood Smoked Cheddar became a bit messy:

The Five Counties Cheddar didn’t melt through as the others did:

The reason could be that cheddar is a harder cheese than others tested and perhaps could’ve used a bit more time on the indirect side of the grill. It could have been sliced thinner also. I suggest considering all these factors if you decide to go with this cheese.

After we sampled the five sandwiches, we decided to take the top three and do them again for a couple more taste testers that were coming by.  We decided to mix it up just a little and add ‘maters and purple onion to the Italian Fontina on sourdough which three of us agreed was the best:

Second place went to Dill Havarti on marbled rye:

Third place was Havarti on cinnamon-raisin bread. I was told that this may have been a signature sandwich at the defunct Mrs. Hulling’s restaurant. If any locals can confirm this please leave a comment. I told you to bear with me on that one, and if you did, you would know that this was a great sandwich despite the odd combo.

Here are the top three back on the grill:

Marbled rye looking good!

Fontina beginning to ooze, the onion browning:

The Fontina flipped—perhaps a bit early?

Top three flipped:

Dill Havarti oozes forth!

Sun is setting and it’s time to pull ‘em and enjoy!

Each sandwich plated and waiting for us to sink our teeth into:

So who were our taste testers? First was Mimi, Scott’s mom and my beautiful wife (taking out the dogs):

The OGF, Scott and myself, seen here in a picture taken by my grandson, Finnegan:

Not bad considering this was only the second picture he has ever taken, (the first just got our chests), it was taken with a pretty heavy Nikon DSLR, and he’s only three.

Local foodie Mike D. dropped in to sample the grilling effort while exploring Cat Neville’s latest exploits. His wife also participated, but refused to be photographed:

So what was the consensus of the five taste testers? Same as the three.  In third place was the Havarti on raisin bread. The sweetness of the caramelized raisins and cinnamon in the bread contrasted wonderfully with the gooey cheese and smokiness picked up from the grill. Add in the crunch of the bread and this was really good:

Second went to the rye bread, dill dip sandwich. That combination is pretty well established and turns out great for grilled cheese on the grill:

And number one was the Italian Fontina on sourdough. The cheese married well with the pungency of the sourdough that was only improved with the onion and tomato:

Looking back all the sandwiches were very good and we would grill any of them again. The cheddar varieties weren’t the worst sandwiches they were simply more traditional tasting while the others offered new flavor combinations. The sandwiches were toasted approximately 6 minutes per side then moved to the indirect side of the grill to melt through. This may be totally different on your grill so it’s pretty much a sight and feel effort as well as constant vigilance on checking for browning.

Be sure you have everything you need when beginning to make grilled cheese on the grill. If you leave to go inside and obtain a beverage you could return to seriously burnt toast.

This was one of the most enjoyable and lengthy posts, certainly the most photographs, we’ve done for the website. We had a great time putting this together and hope you enjoyed the journey. This should be considered Episode I since I’m already gathering ideas for Episode II where we’ll kick grilled cheese sandwiches up another notch. Look for that second episode sometime next year when the St. Louis Cardinals try for their 12th World Series title in 2012!

If you have any questions or comments about this post, feel free to leave them below or shoot me an email.

Also, you can follow us on our GrillinFools Facebook page and post your own grilling pictures, share a grilling recipe or two, or join in on the general grilling conversation.  You can follow us on twitter @GrillinFool to get all the updates from the site.

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  1. That Robbie Guy says:

    These just may be the greatest sandwiches … EVER.

  2. That Robbie Guy says:

    … if I didn’t feel so awkward in doing it,
    I would probably try and lick the screen.

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