the best grilled cheese recipe

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You’re having grilled cheese for dinner tonight.  An ooey, gooey grilled cheese made on a chewy sourdough bread grilled to crunchy perfection, layered with melty sharp cheddar, salty crisp bacon, crisp green apple and a drizzle of sweet maple syrup.

See?  I told you. You’re having grilled cheese for dinner tonight.

At this point I think it’s very, very important that I let you know I am 100% behind the original Wonderbread, plastic cheese, grilled cheese sandwich.  It’s a classic.  I’m all for it.

But …. I’m a grown up now, so I also eat fancy grilled cheeses.  Churched up, elegant mutations of the childhood classic that are better suited to my more refined adult palate.  When it isn’t busy with Sour Patch Kids.

To make the perfect grown up grilled cheese you just need a few tips on technique and ingredients.

the best grilled cheese ingredients


1. A grown up grilled cheese begins with the right bread.  SOURDOUGH BREAD.

~ Sourdough bread is THE best bread for getting crispy on the outside while maintaining a perfect chewiness on the inside, PLUS it has flavour.

2.  A grown up grilled cheese also needs the right cheese.  SHARP CHEDDAR CHEESE.

~ Sharp Cheddar Cheese has good flavour but more importantly it’s melty!  It’s melty!

3.  A grown up grilled cheese also needs a frying fat.  MAYONNAISE.

~  Mayonnaise is the grown up alternative to butter when making a grilled cheese but I’m going to tell you a secret.  I prefer butter.  Mayo spreads easier and really does help the bread get good and crispy but … I prefer butter.  Better flavour.

If you want to make your grilled cheese out of just those 3 ingredients; sourdough, cheddar & mayo/butter  I’m O.K. with that.  It’s delicious.  But if you want to make a truly grown up grilled cheese; the kind of grilled cheese that you could serve at your wedding to a member of the royal family then THIS is the way to go.

This is the recipe for Hamilton’s famous Lumberjack grilled cheese invented by Gorilla Cheese.

the best grilled cheese ingredients


The Ultimate Grilled Cheese for a grown up. Salty, gooey, crunchy and buttery.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Sandwich
Author: The Art of Doing Stuff


  • Sourdough bread
  • Sharp Cheddar Cheese shredded not sliced
  • Mayo or butter
  • 1/2 Granny Smith Apple sliced thin
  • Bacon cooked crisp
  • Maple Syrup


  • Butter (or mayo) both sides of all of your bread.
  • Lightly fry one side of each slice of bread in butter over medium/low heat then remove from pan.
  • Place a large handful of shredded cheese, slices of apple to cover the cheese, 2 strips of bacon and a big drizzle of maple syrup on the toasted side of a piece of bread. You want the ingredients to be sitting on the toasted side!
  • Top with another slice of bread, toasted side down.
  • Return the assembled sandwich to the frying pan with at LEAST 2 large tablespoons of butter over medium/low heat. Fry each side until golden.


I want to make sure you noticed the tips in there so I’m going to list them for you because I am a conscientious blogger who wants to ensure you have a pleasant grilled cheese experience.  Plus I feel like my instructions are a bit muddled.


  • Shred your cheese – don’t slice it
  • Cook over medium/low heat.  Low and slow please to prevent burning.
  • Toast the *inside* of the bread as well as the outside.  Also a good trick for quesadillas btw.


the best grilled cheese recipe

Serve with local craft beer and a kosher dill pickle.

Oh!  And if you want to do the whole pickle skewered to the top thing like I do, you can get the sandwich paddle picks here.  They’re 6″ so they’re long enough to go right through the sandwich to keep it from toppling over.

grilled cheese recipe

You’re an adult.  You deserve this kind of a grilled cheese.  The kind of grilled cheese that says, Hey!  I’m a grown up. I use a rinse agent in my dishwasher.  

You’re going to say you like red onion on your grilled cheese. I know that.  This just isn’t the grilled cheese to do that with, so please don’t.  Red onion with mozzarella, fontina, a balsamic reduction and basil leaves?  Go for it.  Just don’t add them to this particular Ultimate Grilled Cheese please.

Now.  Someone pass the ketchup.

So I can throw it out the window.


  1. Vikki says:

    That’s what I always do with ketchup too! I gotta go make this—NOW!

  2. Jeanne says:

    Tried this tonight Karen. That bread was so dang toasty it made the roof of my mouth feel like I had eaten a bag (big) of Ruffles. It was so awesome! Thanks for reposting it. Also, the pictures are just great.

  3. Carol says:

    Grilled cheese with soup is a meal BF and I worship!! totally agree about the sourdough (with butter not mayo) and love it with gouda, sometimes I add arugula or lobster (and then i add mayo too) cause I’m always looking for more ways to use up the lobster. ; ) I’ll have to try this version, looks and sounds absolutely amazing. ~ C

    • Karen says:

      Enough with you and all your bragging about lobster!!! ;) Email me with any and all of your vegetable gardening questions. Your Instagram feed of your raised beds looks soooooo pretty. ~ karen!

  4. Jessie Dondelinger says:

    I know I’m late to the party here, but use ghee! Butter flavor in a spreadable form (so long as you keep it in the cabinet/pantry–not fridge). Vive le beurre!!

  5. I definitely agree with the sharp cheddar. A lot of people make it with processed cheese and the finished product just not in the same league.

    I’ve done something similar with peameal bacon as its healthier, but on the other hand the thinness of classic bacon lets the cheese flavour come through more.

    A weird twist on this is throwing in some Bick’s Yum Yum pickles. The contrast between the pickles and the cheese is interesting.

  6. Heather says:

    Not sure how I feel about this. I get apples and cheddar, and maple syrup and bacon is awesome. But bacon and cheese together is a nope for me-

  7. Melissa says:

    I know you’re going to hate my suggestions, but I like to add some super sauteed kale in there (in place of the apples).

    • Karen says:

      You’re right, I do hate that. LOL! I actually don’t completely hate kale, only partially. ~ karen!

  8. Julie says:

    I was just visiting my parents and they took me to Taj Mahal up in Ancaster. Milap (sp?) is the owner there and loved talking about his cheese! I took home a coconut cheddar, a caramelized onion cheese and a mustard and ale cheese. Check him out!

  9. Renee Ryz says:

    I wonder- could I saute the apple in some butter to cook it some? Hubby cannot eat raw apples. hmm will have to try that…

  10. Susan says:

    So… I made this last night. Yes I actually drove to town and bought some sourdough because I could not wait weeks for the starter. I did everything you instructed but found that the top piece wasn’t sticking so I added a bit more cheese on top of the bacon and once that melted it was perfect. Dinner was really quiet until the moaning started, then a few OMGs and “is that apple?” “maple syrup?” and then more OMGs. It was declared to be perfect. It is now on the request list. Guess I better get started on the sourdough starter. You rock Karen!

  11. Kim says:

    Yummy! We’ve been making apple bacon grilled cheese for years in our house, it’s a favorite Friday night dinner (with sourdough and mayo) but instead of maple syrup, we spread Dijon mustard on the bread. So good!

  12. Laura says:

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love apples so, so much. To include them in the magic of a toasted cheese sandwich is a miracle.

  13. marilyn meagher says:

    Grilled cheese with tomato soup is my favourite but no apple or mayo or maple syrup.

  14. So yummy looking.
    I have a bowl of beer cheese soup I am currently slurping up. If my back was cooperating I’d make a grilled cheese to accompany it.
    HOWEVER I am recovering from cleaning my spring house ( while cleaning every nook and cranny cause that’s what I do…I was in master closet when a mouse jumped down from shelf.
    I ran left vaccum running, shivering, slammed the door, called my husband (who didn’t answer).
    Texted his secretary cause she always answers…neighbor was called not a wuss. (Thank you Rita) came over with a 5 gal bucket a towel and a flat nosed shovel. I sat on dining room table still shaking while she bumped and tossed and moved stuff around. Finally she came out and said “Cathy I want to show you something”.
    My bowels got looser…..Wow the access to the shower my dh cut was raw… opened I am surprised a black bear didn’t make a home in that closet. Holy hell.
    Mouse ran out same way it came in. We duct taped panel to wall (temporary fix). Now I am enjoying a gin and tonic. Yeesh…. exhausted.
    Will try your yummy grilled cheese soon! Thanks Karen. I have absorbed all your posts…most recently your advice on mice 🐭

    • TucsonPatty says:

      I just caught the one last night that made it into my house somehow. (Door left ajar while I ran out to get the mail?) ItucsonPatty chewed on a piece of gum to get it soft enough to smush onto the bait hook and then smeared that with peanut butter -yippee!!

  15. Jeanne says:

    Ohhhh, it was good. It was very, very good. Butter, not mayo; I am in Wisconsin. Extra sharp cheddar. I would never have dreamed up this combo. The syrup was kind of lost in the other flavors, but maybe it just blended well. I took a pic but it is so lame next to yours I will not embarrass myself by sending it to you. Thanks for the idea.

    • Karen says:

      I was *just* wondering if someone was going to let me know if they tried it. :) Glad you liked it. Yes, you need to give a good glug of maple syrup to taste it or you’re right it gets lost. Now I’m off to eat my dinner tonight. ~ karen!

  16. Leisa Daly says:

    Sweet baby Jesus that looks good!

  17. Eileen says:

    ohhhh so gorgeous…(drool).
    I know I just had lunch – there’s a used plate sitting here – but all memory of it has been wiped from my brain and other sensory receptors. All now screaming for Karen’s grilled cheese masterpiece.

  18. Shelagh says:

    Karen, I’m going to have to send you a jar of smoked tomato jam….it’s the grown up version of ketchup!
    Seeing as I forgot to take anything out of the freezer last night….grilled cheese it is tonight, cholesterol be damned!
    Seeing as you also live in Ontario…you probably have some of the same grocery stores…are you allowed to share what you consider to be a truly sharp cheddar?
    If I really want to wake up my taste buds with cheddar I would opt for one of those English cheddars….but they are a tad expensive…any suggestions, anyone who lives in Ontario that is? Thanks.

    • Alena says:

      Hi Shelagh,

      I would also like to know (I live in Ontario as well, about an hour from Karen). I buy cheese in regular grocery stores (Zehrs [our version of Loblaws – I wish we had Fortino’s], Sobey, Food Basics – the selection is rather limited here.

  19. Heather says:

    Epic! Thank you for sharing! Gorilla Cheese was one of the first food trucks in Hamilton. They rock!

  20. amy in stl says:

    Blech! Apple and maple syrup sound gross on grilled cheese. I’ll tolerate apple on a ham and brie sandwich, but I will not spoil a perfectly good grilled cheese with sweet and fruity foods. Dis-gust-ing!

    • Julie says:

      Don’t knock it til you try it!

      • Amy in stl says:

        Well I’ve had apple and cheddar before and I find that combination to be vile. I don’t like maple syrup on anything but pancakes. Sweet and savory tastes do not go together for my palate. So I’ll not be trying something so gross.

        • Alena says:

          You are my kind of a person. I could probably survive the apple (though I have never tried it) but I have never offended my mouth with anything where bacon is combined with maple syrup and I don’t care what the rest of humankind loves and how many megabuckets of bacon/maple syrup ice cream were consumed last year. I have always cringed (long before I moved from Europe to Canada) at the sight of people having bacon (or sausages) with eggs, hash browns AND pancakes with maple syrup on the same plate. Totally GROSS!
          I am never – and I mean NEVER – commit such a crime. As you said – Sweet and savoury shalt not mix!

  21. Robin says:

    Thanks a LOT! Now I am hungry and want one!! Especially want the bacon and the cheese and the bread, of course the bread. I LoVe good quality bread. My mom always made our bread, lucky us, now I just make sure I buy decent bread, too busy to make it and for the amount that my man goes through, I’d have to become a baker to keep up with his consumption.
    I use Extra Old, majorly aged white cheddar and sun dried tomatoes for my grown up grilled cheese, never liked the plastic wrapped cheese product, I guess my taste buds were old before their time! Grilled cheese is definitely happening later today….

  22. Mary W says:

    Karen, your posts always stir up ideas – thanks.

  23. Laurie says:

    My first thought was… Hey, I’ve had this sandwich!! Gorilla Cheese all the way!

  24. Monica says:

    Can you taste the mayo? For real, no lies. If you can, it’s a deal breaker for me.

    • Karen says:

      No, you don’t taste it at all. But honestly, I just put that in for the people who are interested in it. There’s NO need to use mayo if you don’t want. Butter actually tastes better. Mayo just spreads easier and make a nice even browning. ~ karen!

    • Alena says:

      I have to disagree with Karen here. I do taste the mayo and I find it really repulsive. But then Hellman’s mayo is disgusting on its own as I am concerned. But I saw a commercial (I think) that was suggesting mayo instead of butter so I tried it twice and I hated it both time so I won’t be making it again. Butter is butter.
      But try it – my taste buds may feel differently than mine.

      • Monica says:

        Hmm, maybe I’ll give it a miss and stick with butter. Mayo is just my Brussels sprout. You can’t make it good for me no matter what you do to it. Thanks for the warning!

  25. jaine kunst says:

    OMG!!! All that yummy, sweet, cheesy goodness and now that my proving cloth has arrived I can eat it on my homemade bread. But EXTRA sharp cheddar for me, please. Can’t wait to taste it tonight, but your photo looks so awesome that I’m drooling already!

  26. Jenifer says:

    On my way to the store to get the sourdough….BRB

  27. Sabina says:

    Sooo when I told the BF I would make him a nice dinner while he mowed the lawn later I had no idea what I would be making…and now I do! Not difficult nor time consuming and served with craft beer – a perfect recipe, thank you Karen!

  28. Jen Daily says:

    When you have a chance, look up the Pioneer Woman’s “best grilled cheese” Nothing like the one you posted — I am planning on making grilled cheeses on Friday night for dinner— looking forward to seeing which ones my big boys prefer!

    Happy HUMP day!

  29. Amy says:

    Not red onion – caramelized onions, with buttermilk cheddar cheese……

  30. Chris White says:

    I think I will try this for lunch….. And then try it again for supper. Do I have enough cheese to give it a go for breakfast??? Thanks Karen for leading me astray once again!

  31. Carrie Miller says:

    I learned the mayo trick a few years ago, and have often been a fan of sourdough and bacon with the grilled cheese. But apples and mayo, can’t wait to try that.

    With the mayo, I like the way it gives an extra crispy layer on the bread, and by frying in butter, you still get the butter flavor that is SOOO good.

  32. Jenny W says:

    Yup, definitly supper tonight, with a steaming bowl of Tomato Basil soup. It should hit all of the right spots after building an ark all day – it’s a little damp here on the East Coast!

  33. Brenda says:

    omg – I have some of those pickle picks …

    OK … maple syrup, mayo, pickles & ketchup, umMmm … I get the cheese, apple, bacon, maple syrup … butter – yup I’m still in … and I get the pickles, ketchup, cheese, bacon, mayo … SO this sounds like grilled cheese – two kinds (dessert and dinner versions but not necessarily in that order) … OK – I do – I get it. I’m totally in. AND toasting both sides – now that’s just totally over indulgent … I am SOoOOOo in … le sigh ;)

  34. Inlarkspur says:

    Omg, people have thought me craZy to use mayo rather than butter…..

    Toasting on both sides? Doesn’t it prevent the gooeyness from seeping into the bread, or really scratch the roof of your mouth??

    Tell me, have you ever tried peanut butter and tomato sandwiches? Now that’s a summer, first tomato (hot off the vine) with fresh SKIPPY that is to die for.
    Jeez, I put my tomato starts out in the garden last weekend and not a single tomato yet!!!!!

    • Mark says:

      Hope you have a jar of Skippy saved because it’s been discontinued in Canada (and the US version has more sugar so doesn’t taste the same)… :(

    • Mary W says:

      Love peanut butter and banana sandwiches, adore tomato and Hellmann’s mayo sandwiches (Kraft just won’t work) and think leftover turkey dressing with cranberry sauce sandwiches are heaven. I’ve eaten tons of fried (w/butter) pb&j sandwiches but have never mixed peanut butter with tomato. But since mine all sound strange, I’ll give yours a try just because I don’t want to die before tasting something that I may ultimately love. I also wonder why people don’t mix peanut butter with cream cheese for a type of cheesecakey sandwich. (I need to try it myself.)

      • Inlarkspur says:

        Cream cheese and pb are great together. On a graham cracker and you can pretend it’s a pb cheese cake!!

    • Mary W says:

      Inlarkspur, I love your idea. Such a simple way to test and it does sound good. Now I’m off to find my Ritz!

  35. Tina says:

    I just climbed into bed. And, as always, I saw on Facebook that you had a new blog out so I saved it, I relished the idea of reading it when I was tucked up. And damn it! Now I want to get up and make a sandwich! This looks SO good, it’ll certainly be my lunch tomorrow, but sadly on a light rye. I have no sourdough, at the moment. :(

  36. Carolyn says:

    You almost lost me with mayo, but with butter as an alternative, I’m baassck.

  37. Kennedy says:

    Yes – you nailed it. Those photos – damn.

    We’ve made all kinds of different grill cheese combos over the years and I love an apple and cheese combo. My favourite is the apple and sharp cheese with sourdough slowly crisped over the charcoal BBQ. I know it sounds weird and impossible – but it’s actually quite amazing. I even add BBQ sauce to the outside of mine.

    I love the freak flying Canadian maple syrup flag on this – I have international friends that freak over the maple syrup on bacon and sausage and think it’s the weirdest thing. I wonder if they would ever get over it being on a grilled cheese.

  38. Mark says:

    Your photos are so fantastic that I can almost smell it!

    • Mary W says:

      I guess the mouth and brain are directly connected to the eyes since I can taste it and smell it. But I do have a wicked imagination and glad I’m not the only one. Thanks.

  39. Paula says:

    Okay, I am officially drooling.

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