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ATK Kids

For the Toastiest Panini, Put Mayonnaise on the Outside

Yep, you read that right.
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Published Jan. 12, 2022.

When I want a panini—or its simpler cousin, the grilled cheese—I want it now.

That means no waiting around for butter to soften. In the past, that involved hacking away at a fridge-cold stick of butter and then mutilating a couple slices of sourdough as I attempted to “spread” it across the bread slices. But thanks to a tip I discovered in ATK Kids’ The Complete Cookbook for Young Scientists, I don’t even need butter to make a panini anymore. I just need one of my favorite condiments: mayonnaise.

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I know. We’ve been using mayo in some . . . unconventional ways lately (chocolate cake, anyone?). But when it comes to panini, mayo is simply better than softened butter. For one, there’s no putzing around while the butter softens. And two, the browning is so much better.

Why? Butter is a fat, and fats help foods get brown and crispy as they cook. But mayo contains fat (from oil) plus sugar plus protein from egg yolks. All the ingredients in this trifecta boost browning in foods, giving a mayo-smeared panini a real toasty one-two punch.

The Complete Cookbook for Young Scientists

The latest book in the New York Times best-selling cookbook series for young chefs answers all the big food questions that kids have through fun and accessible experiments and doable, delicious recipes.  
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Plus, most mayonnaise has a bit of acid added to it (typically vinegar or lemon juice), imparting a nice subtle tang that butter doesn’t have. And if you’re averse to mayo’s texture, don’t worry—that won’t even be a factor once your panini is all griddled up. Your cozy lunch is served.

Recipe

Ham and Cheese Panini

For the toastiest version of this dressed-up grilled cheese, spread mayo (not butter) on the outside. The best part? Kids’ lunch is ready in 20!
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