Grilled cheese with fresh tomato always seems like a really satisfying sandwich — until you sit down and eat one, that is. The problem is that melty cheese and wet tomatoes make for a very unstable sandwich. By making an open-faced grilled cheese and adding fresh tomatoes that have been patted dry, we can avoid many of the pitfalls that plague what should be a perfect pair.
Preparation for Domination
This sandwich is a little bit more involved than your classic grilled cheese. Doing a few things before you even heat your pan will guarantee a more successful sandwich. First, gather your ingredients and grate the cheeses. Next, slice your bread yourself, because a thicker slice of bread will make a sturdier base for the cheese and tomato slices. After you slice the tomatoes, pat them dry and set aside on a few paper towels while toasting the bread.
Cheese Choice Matters
The best grilled cheese and tomato sandwich is made with two semi-soft cheeses that are a little bit stickier than mozzarella or American cheese: sharp cheddar and Gruyère. Their flavors complement the tomato without overpowering it. Grating the cheeses for a grilled cheese leads to faster, more even melting. The grated cheese can also be flavored with dried herbs and spices before you make the sandwich.
Kitchn’s Food Editor, Hali, calls mayonnaise the raincoat of this sandwich. Spreading a thin layer on each slice of bread prevents the bread from getting soggy from either the melted cheese or the tomatoes. It also lends a little bit of acidity that enhances the tomatoes and balances out the cheese.
The technique for toasting the bread on the stovetop and melting the cheese under the broiler may seem a little, well, fussy, but it does a few things to guarantee the success of the sandwich: It ensures perfectly buttery, golden toasted bread, and it also keeps the tomato from steaming while the cheese melts. Perfection requires a little fuss from time to time.
How To Make the Best Tomato Grilled Cheese Sandwich
What You Need
1 small loaf hearty country-style bread
4 ounces grated cheddar cheese (about 1 cup)
4 ounces grated Gruyère cheese (about 1 cup)
1 large tomato
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
Cast iron or broiler-safe frying pan
- Slice the bread: Using a serrated knife, cut 4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices from the center of the loaf. Save the rest of the bread for another use. Mix the cheddar and Gruyère together in a small bowl and set aside.
- Prepare the tomato: Thinly slice the tomato. Use a spoon to remove the watery pulp from the slices. Lay the tomatoes on a paper towel, blot the slices with more paper towels, and set aside on the paper towels while you prepare the rest of the sandwich.
- Heat the broiler: Position a rack about 8 inches below the broiling element, and heat the broiler to medium.
- Toast the bread: Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a 12-inch cast iron skillet or broiler-safe frying pan over medium-high heat. Swirl the pan to coat the pan evenly with butter, then add 2 slices of the bread. Fry (that’s right — I said fry) until golden-brown on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the slices to a wire cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining butter and bread slices.
- Spread on mayo: Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on the unbuttered side of each slice of bread. You might not use all of the mayo.
- Broil the cheese: Give the pan a quick wipe with a paper towel. Place 2 slices of bread back into the pan, buttered-side down. Sprinkle 1/4 of the cheese mixture (about 1/2 cup) over each slice of bread. Broil until melted, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the tomato slices: Carefully remove the pan from the broiler and add 2 slices of tomato to each sandwich. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Broil again for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Squish and slice: Remove the pan from the oven and top each sandwich with another slice of bread (toasted-side up). Press down on the sandwich with the back of a flat spatula to press the sandwich together. Transfer the sandwiches to a cutting board and cut in half crosswise. Serve immediately.
- This sandwich is best eaten immediately.