Food

Experts Tell Us About the Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich

The brains behind Metro Manila's best grilled cheese sandwiches give us the lowdown.
IMAGE courtesy of Mikko Santos
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Ask anyone what their idea of a perfect grilled cheese sandwich is and you’ll usually get the same answer: oozy, gooey cheese on the inside and crisp, golden bread on the outside.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what an incredible grilled cheese sandwich tastes like, but knowing how to make the perfect sandwich is an entirely different story.

To really understand what it takes to make a drool-worthy, groan-inducing grilled cheese sandwich we picked the brains of two chefs who unarguably make the best ones in the metro. Wildflour and Borough are always top of mind when one thinks of the best grilled cheese sandwiches in Manila—and for good reason. Chef Allen Buhay of Wildflour uses a terrific batard bread that’s firm and crisp with just the right crunch, creamy gruyere that’s perfectly proportioned, and caramelized onions to subtly cut through the sandwich’s richness. Chef Cuit Kaufman of Borough uses generously buttered brioche slices and a combination of cheddar and mozzarella, which results in the ultimate velvety, melt-in-your-mouth flavor bomb.

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When faced with a choice between margarine or butter, remember that butter—and a lot of it—is always better.


Grilled Cheese from Wildflour

The two chefs break it down and emphasize the importance of good butter, good bread, and good cheese. These three ingredients are key to whipping up an outstanding grilled cheese sandwich.

1| When faced with a choice between margarine or butter, remember that butter—and a lot of it—is always better. (Take note that butterfat content matters, too!) When it comes to picking a type of bread, it doesn’t matter what variety you use—if it’s fresh and high-quality then it will work.

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2| Cheese obviously plays an important role, and while it’s perfectly fine to use just one cheese (cheddar, emmenthal, and gruyere are the basics), sometimes having a combination of cheeses that add different elements—gooeyness, creaminess, sharpness—help elevate your sandwich.

3| Time is also crucial to making the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. “You don’t need to rush your sandwich when you cook it,” says Kaufman. “You want to make sure the cheese melts in the middle.”

Make sure to pay attention to your grilled cheese sandwich (yes, we know it's hard not to, anyway) because if you’re distracted you might be buttering the middle of your bread but not the sides, resulting in a dry, unevenly buttered sandwich.

To Buhay, there’s no difference between cooking a grilled cheese sandwich at Wildflour and cooking a grilled fish at The French Laundry. “Chef Walter Manzke always taught us to treat our dishes with utmost care and respect,” says Buhay. “Treat it like you’re making something from The French Laundry, and that’s what we do with our grilled cheese sandwiches, and the rest of our dishes.”

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Should you limit yourself to the basics when it comes to making a grilled cheese? Kaufman’s second restaurant, The Bowery, in fact, churns out a knockout Short Rib Grilled Cheese Sandwich and he enjoys making Cranberry-Brie Grilled Cheese at home. Buhay also believes that adding fun fix-ins is what makes something unique, and while it’s nice knowing the history of food and how every dish came about, adding a twist to it can make something even better.

Grilled cheese sandwiches scream comfort food, and both Buhay and Kaufman agree that while comfort food is straightforward, there’s absolutely nothing simple about simple food. A grilled cheese sandwich is one of the humblest things you can make, yet if done correctly can become the most delicious thing you’ll ever eat.

Cover photo features grilled cheese from Borough. 

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Regine Rafael
This student of life loves eggs (runny yolks necessary) and long walks to the fridge.
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