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ATK Kids

How to Stretch Your Grilled Cheese Two Feet Wide (For Science!)

We turned the satisfying feeling of stretching apart your grilled cheese sandwich into an activity for kids. Lunch is served.
By Published Oct. 14, 2021

Grilled cheese is a classic comfort food for kids and adults. But what’s almost as good as the taste is the satisfaction that you get when you pull apart that sandwich and achieve a particularly loooooong strand of stretched cheese. 

To capture that satisfying feeling, we created an activity for the America’s Test Kitchen Kids Young Chefs’ Club subscription box that teaches kids about the science behind what makes some cheeses stretchy by seeing just how far they can stretch the cheese in a grilled cheese sandwich (and it makes lunch for two, to boot).

The key to a gratifying cheese pull is to use the right cheese: mozzarella. When mozzarella is made, cheese curds get pulled and stretched until the proteins in the cheese form straight lines. When it gets heated, the proteins loosen and you can pull them into long strings. Compare that with cheddar, which is formed by pressing cheese curds tightly together. Since the proteins don’t form straight lines, it doesn’t stretch when it melts the same way that mozzarella does.

When we developed this activity, we got one grilled cheese to stretch 33 inches—nearly 3 feet. But you can’t get that kind of stretch with just any sandwich. Here are some tips to keep in mind as your young chef completes the activity.

  1. Don’t use preshredded cheese. While it may be convenient, the additives inhibit melting, which is key for a supersmooth cheese pull. 
  2. Break the sandwich apart gently with your hands, not a knife. Try to tear the bread without disturbing the cheese too much. You want the integrity of the cheese to remain intact before you pull.
  3. Pull the two halves apart slowly to get the longest cheese strand. Pulling the sandwich too fast will result in a shorter strand. 

For more cheesy activities and recipes, sign up for the Young Chefs’ Club now through the end of October. The Say Cheese box includes this activity; recipes for Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese, DIY Ricotta Cheese, and Cheddar Fish Crackers (plus a fish-shaped cracker cutter); and more.

Hey! Did you know that ATK Kids has its very own YouTube channel? Subscribe now and watch great, funny, silly, and delicious cooking videos for the whole family.

Check out our new series Wicked Good!