Grilled Cheese, Melts and a Cheese Tier List

Dive into the world of grilled cheese, an iconic comfort dish, as we explore the nuances of perfecting it with a tiered cheese selection, ranging from the creamy melt of Manchego to the tangy richness of Cambozola.
a gouda, mushroom grilled cheese sandwich on a platter

The grilled cheese sandwich is one of the simplest and most savory creations that mankind has created. This is one of the best examples of a completed product being vastly superior to the sum of its ingredients. At its most basic level, grilled cheese is simply cheese placed between bread and then heated. In general, the sandwich is complete when the exterior of the bread is a golden brown, and the interior is a melted, gooey consistency. There are many decisions to make about the specifics of how one achieves this goal, notably what form of oil to use, what temperature to cook at, which bread is best, what sort of cheese to use, whether to cook both sides of each side of bread. Of course, one of the most critical decisions is whether to add a slice of meat in the middle, transforming the creation from a grilled cheese into a melt.

Let’s begin with a standard Grilled Cheese with commonly acquired cheeses, no herbs or unusual spices, and plain white bread. Now, if I had to pick a single cheese for any melted sandwich, I would generally go with an aged Manchego. It’s delicate, yet slightly sharp, it has a creamy texture, it’s slightly nutty, and it melts extremely well. Manchego is truly at home in any melt, however, it does not have the tradition and history in US kitchens that either Cheddar or American cheese does. So, I encourage you to try this recipe at home and substitute your favorite cheese or cheeses in. It will be hard to go wrong. Below is also a Grilled Cheese Tier List of optimal cheeses to include in a “standard Grilled Cheese”.

Manchego cheese, sliced for sandwiches
Manchego - the king of melting cheeses

Grilled Cheese Tier List

Top Tier

  • Manchego - Medium firm, slightly sweet and nutty
  • Gruyere - Exceptional melting properties, well balanced and buttery
  • Emmentaler - Very smooth, slightly nutty with a touch of acid at the end
  • Provolone - Milky and subtly sharp, pairs well with everything
  • Cheddar - When sharp, it is buttery and tangy, melts quite well
  • American - Technically not cheese, but ideal for melting and has a distinct flavor
  • Pepper Jack - Spicy and creamy, this is adds dimension to any sandwich
  • Oaxaca - Alternative to American “Cheese” with a similar texture and mellow flavor
A collection of delicious cheeses for sandwich making


  • Muenster - Mild and great when melted, perfect for hamburgers
  • Havarti - Very buttery and creamy, naturally pairs well with strong herbal flavors
  • Gouda - Smokey and nutty, flavor varies considerably depending on variety
  • Monterey Jack - Slightly sweet and fatty, melts well and pairs with drier meats like turkey
  • Colby Jack - A touch nutty, great melting properties and fantastic color
  • Fontina - Honey notes, with a spicy finish, very buttery and pairs with everything
  • Raclette - Strong smell and flavor, melts in a very unique way

Special Cases

  • Blue Cheese - Salty, sour and aggressive, can overpower a dish if incorporated poorly
  • Cheese Whiz - Fatty and salty, comes in a can and is reminiscent of American “Cheese”
  • Mozzarella - Simple in flavor, with a springy texture when melted, supports other cheeses well
  • Parmesan - Complex, nutty and salty, cannot melt well by itself, but is superb
  • Cream Cheese - Slightly sour, very creamy, works well with sour flavors and firm breads
  • Cambozola - Sharp and rich, a flavorful mixture between Brie and Blue Cheese

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One Sandwich - The Joy of Sandwiches

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