Grilled cheese cooked on a grill is the kind of thing that’s so obvious and so delicious, you’ll wonder why you haven’t done it before. Plus, it’s silly-easy.
Regular barbecue fare is never not good, but there are only so many overcooked veggie burgers and sad hot dogs you can eat before you start to crave something more exciting. That’s why we’re so hooked on these “actually grilled” grilled cheese sandwiches.
Based on Mark Bittman’s classic recipe, our version is ultra-crispy, super-gooey, and—thanks to fresh basil, juicy tomatoes, and aromatic pesto—just the right amount of fancy. We make these almost every time we’re in the vicinity of a grill (including a couple weeks ago at a cottage in Muskoka, Ontario), and they’re always a sleeper hit. The secret? A hot grill, hearty fresh-baked bread, olive oil, and a yummy mix of two cheeses. Serve these with a side of grilled veggies (try broccoli). And be sure to make a few extra—you’ll definitely want seconds.
1 loaf sourdough, rye, or hearty multigrain bread, cut in 3/4-inch slices
1/2 pound very sharp cheddar, sliced
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 fresh tomato, sliced
1 cup fresh pesto
1 bunch basil, washed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the gas grill or, if using a charcoal grill, start your coals. You want the grill to be hot by the time you’re ready to cook the sandwiches, so be sure to get going early—about 15 to 20 minutes ahead.
For each sandwich: Spread a very thin layer of pesto on two slices of bread, then layer one slice with cheeses, tomato slices, and basil leaves. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Top with the second slice of bread, then spread the pesto and olive oil on the outside of the top slice. Use a brush to coat all the way to the crust. (At this point, the top slice of bread should have pesto on the inside and outside.)
Repeat this process for each sandwich.
When the grill is nice and hot, carefully place each sandwich pesto side down on the grill. Keep a close eye on the flames, making sure they don’t leap up and burn the bread.
While the first side cooks, brush pesto and olive oil onto the naked slice of bread.
Place cover over grill, opening occasionally and lifting each sandwich with a metal spatula to check that the bread isn’t burning. Use the spatula to apply a little pressure to the top of each sandwich to encourage all insides to stick together.
When the first side is cooked—about 2 to 4 minutes, or when the bread is golden and there are visible grill marks—it’s time to flip! Using the spatula and a pair of tongs, gently turn each sandwich over.
Cook on second side for about 2 to 4 minutes, checking each sandwich occasionally. When the second side is nice and toasty, remove with a spatula and serve immediately.
Good to Know:
Assemble the sandwiches on a large tray or cookie sheet for easy transport to the grill. Avoid putting too much pesto on the inside of the sandwiches; it will make the bread soggy and cause the sandwiches to stick to your grill. When coating the outside of each sandwich with olive oil and pesto, be sure to get the edges—this will ensure a really crispy exterior.
This recipe makes approximately 6 sandwiches and can easily be doubled, tripled, whatever—just cook in batches on a clean, hot grill.
Inside Elsewhere is a travel website dedicated to free spirits near and far. From Bali to Brooklyn and everywhere in between, Christina Pérez and Thomas Beckner explore the best places to stay, eat, shop, and play. Let’s get out of here. Follow along on Instagram at @inside_elsewhere.