Equipment
For Better Grilled Cheese, Use Your Vegetable Peeler
Skip slicing, grating, or individually wrapped singles. For superb grilled cheese, pull out your Y-shaped vegetable peeler.
08-30-2021
Chase Brightwell

I’ve made enough mediocre grilled cheeses in my life. Unevenly cooked, dry, not nearly melty enough—I’ve seen it all. It turns out that I’ve been making a similar mistake all along, and it has to do with cheese texture.

As a kid I was often served grilled cheeses made with processed American singles. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for prewrapped American cheese, and that time and place is on a smashed burger on my grill. American singles melt pleasantly and make for a great cheese pull. But when it comes to grilled cheese—when cheese is truly the star of the show—I find American singles to be a bit bland and rubbery, without the complex flavors offered by a sharp cheddar or even a Gruyère.

Many grilled cheese aficionados swear by shredded cheese, either preshredded or shredded on your own box grater. The smaller pieces provide more surface area and space for heat to penetrate, and they take a shorter amount of time to melt. Using shredded cheese is beneficial if you’re using more than one type of cheese (shredding and then mixing the cheeses together means more equal distribution), but there’s no denying that it makes the grilled cheese–cooking process messy. Shredded cheese falls out of the sandwich easily when you’re handling or flipping it, and precious cheese simply goes to waste. Not on my watch. 

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Then there’s sliced cheese. We’re getting closer, but it’s hard to create long slices that stay put in the sandwich, and they’re rarely thin enough to melt in time before the bread gets fully browned. The result? A crispy, warm exterior with lukewarm bricks of unmelted cheese in the center. A disappointment all around. 

A few years ago, a friend told me about a grilled cheese recipe by Molly Baz; she said it “changed the game” when it came to grilled cheese. The recipe’s true innovation was the recommendation to use a Y-shaped vegetable peeler to shave long, thin ribbons of cheddar off a large block and stack them neatly on good-quality crusty bread.

A frazzled and frustrated skeptic, I gave it a try. The peeler sailed along the side of my giant block of Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar Cheese—my cheese of choice—easily slicing off ribbons that were the same perfect thickness every time. The ribbons were long enough to stay put inside the sandwich as I flipped it and thin enough to heat and melt efficiently at the same rate that the bread browned. 

I’ve made dozens of grilled cheeses since hearing about this method, and it has not failed me yet. The next time you’re making a pot of tomato soup and are hankering for the perfect accompaniment, break out your Y-shaped vegetable peeler for cheesy perfection. It’s not just for veggies anymore.