Grilled cheese has, for many years, followed a standard formula: bread, melty cheese, bread. There’s nothing wrong with the formula. It’s a delicious formula. But it’s also an endlessly adaptable formula that lends itself to creative embellishments. And one of those embellishments is a crispy, crunchy cheddar cheese hat.
Adding a layer of cheese to the outside of a grilled cheese creates a grilled cheese/frico hybrid. Frico—those popular Italian cheese crisps—are made by heating a thin, even layer of cheese (often Asiago or Parmesan) in a nonstick skillet. As it cooks, the cheese goes from a melty mess to a lacy, golden crisp, and in doing so, the cheese’s nuttiness and umami flavors are seriously elevated. It’s like a sophisticated Cheez-It. And who wouldn’t want a sophisticated Cheez-It on their sandwich?
Cook’s Country test cook Mark Huxsoll first read about this extra-cheesy grilled cheese idea online and knew he had to try replicating it. In order to successfully achieve this frico crust (you can check out his final recipes here), he determined that there are two things you absolutely need: a good nonstick skillet and patience. The skillet allows you to cook the frico without adding more butter or oil, and the patience gives the cheese time to transform in the pan.
Although frico is typically made using dryer cheeses such as Asiago or Parmesan, we’re happy to report wild success using a grilled cheese–friendlier cheese: cheddar. Here are the keys to Cook’s Country’s recipes for adding an extra layer of cheese to your grilled cheese:
- Sprinkle cheddar cheese directly onto your skillet (being sure to leave enough room between sandwiches so that it doesn’t run together).
- Place the grilled cheese on top, allowing the cheese to crisp up and adhere to the sandwich. At first the cheese will be soft and melty, but it will crisp as it continues to cook.
- Once you place the sandwich on top of the cheddar cheese, don’t go take the dog for a walk or answer that “scam likely” call. It takes only a couple minutes for that pile of cheese to turn golden brown, at which point you’re ready to transfer it to a rack—cheddar crust side up—and let it cool for 5 minutes before digging in. Hats off to you and your patience!