Grilled cheese and toasted cheese sandwiches are two classic comfort foods that have delighted people for generations.
At first glance, they may seem quite similar - after all, they both involve bread, cheese, and heat.
However, there are some key differences between these tasty sandwiches in terms of ingredients, preparation method, texture, taste and regional popularity.
What is Grilled Cheese?
A grilled cheese sandwich typically consists of cheese melted between two slices of bread that have been buttered and toasted on both sides. The bread is golden brown and crispy on the outside, while the cheese inside is hot, smooth and gooey.
Traditionally, the most common types of cheese used are American, cheddar, Swiss or Muenster. The cheese slices are placed between the bread before cooking. Butter is spread on the outside of the bread which helps the bread brown and adds flavor.
The sandwich is then cooked on a griddle, frying pan or sandwich press until the bread is crispy and brown and the cheese is fully melted. Using a press flattens and crisps up the whole sandwich.
Additional ingredients like tomatoes, bacon, ham or sautéed onions can also be added to jazz up a basic grilled cheese. But the foundation is bread, butter and cheese toasted to melted perfection.
Grilled cheese sandwiches are believed to have originated in America, becoming popular during the 1920s-1930s. It’s considered a classic American comfort food often served as a snack, quick lunch or part of a simple dinner.
Key Takeaway: Grilled cheese is made by melting cheese between two buttered slices of toasted bread.
What is Toasted Cheese?
While Americans have their grilled cheese, toasted cheese is the equivalent crave-worthy sandwich for the British and Australians.
A toasted cheese sandwich starts with a single piece of bread which is toasted. Slices of cheese are then placed on top of the toast and it's returned to a heat source like a broiler or grill. This melts and lightly browns the cheese.
The key difference is that toasted cheese is open-faced - so only has one slice of bread instead of two. The hot bubbly cheese is left exposed instead of being encased between bread slices like a grilled cheese.
Cheddar is the most popular cheese choice for toasted cheese sandwiches. But other melty cheeses like gouda, Edam, mozzarella or Swiss work well too. The cheese selection showcases front and center without added bread getting in the way.
While grilled cheese leans more towards being a meal, toasted cheese is largely considered a snack or part of a breakfast. The meal would be accompanied by eggs, beans or other sides.
Key Takeaway: Toasted cheese places melted cheese slices on top of one piece of toast instead of between bread.
While both sandwiches have bread and cheese in common, the preparation method does differ:
- Starts with two slices of bread for a sandwich
- Butter is spread on the outer sides of the bread
- Cheese goes between the bread slices
- Cooked in a skillet, grill or sandwich maker pressing and toasting both sides
- Starts with a single slice of bread
- Bread is toasted before adding cheese
- Cheese placed on top of the toasted bread
- Toppings remain open-faced
- Broiled or grilled briefly to melt cheese
So grilled cheese is made like a typical sandwich, while toasted cheese is more of an open-face preparation.
Texture and Taste Differences
The variance in preparation methods does impact the final texture and taste of these cheesy treats.
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
- Crispy, crunchy texture - the buttery outer bread is nicely browned and crusty
- Hot, smooth, gooey cheese filling inside
- Tangy, rich cheese flavor
- Soft, melty mouthfeel from melted cheese blended with toasted bread
Toasted Cheese Sandwiches
- Chewy, soft toasted bread - only bottom is exposed to direct heat
- Bubbly, stretchy melted cheese top - pulls apart in stringy bites
- Pronounced cheese flavor as it's topping rather than stuffed
- Crisp, browned cheese edges if left under broiler awhile
So grilled cheese offers more of a crispy contrast to the gooey filling, while toasted cheese highlights the melting properties of the cheese and soft bread.
As covered earlier, grilled cheese sandwiches originate from and remain most popular in America. Toasted cheese is the favored cheesy sandwich style in Britain and Australia.
- In America - grilled cheese is a common childhood memory linked with tomato soup dipping. It remains an easy lunch, late night bite or snack for all ages. Adding fillings like bacon or tomatoes is quite common.
- In Britain - cheese on toast is a well-loved quick snack or breakfast. More limited on fillings but portion sizes can be quite generous. Beans on toast with cheese is also a frequent combo.
- In Australia - cheese toasties dominate as the ultimate ooey-gooey sandwich served at home or purchased from cafes, shops and restaurants across the country. They are considered far superior to a basic grilled cheese.
So while both sandwich styles have devotees all over now, the terms and traditions took root in different areas. America may have kicked off the grilled cheese craze - but Australia and Britain have finely tuned the toasted/toastie process!
Additional Factors Impacting Flavor
There are a few other considerations beyond just preparation method that influence the final flavor of these sandwiches:
- Bread Type - Heartier artisan breads lend more complexity versus basic white sandwich bread. Sourdough and whole grain choices pair well with sharper cheese flavors. Brioche or Challah make extraordinarily rich versions.
- Cheese Variety - Pre-packed cheese slices offer consistent melting. Aged cheddars, Gruyere or fontina provide more pronounced cheese flavor. Blue cheese or Brie creates elegant gourmet sandwiches. Cheese choice significantly impacts overall taste.
- Butter vs Margarine - Real butter adds irreplaceable flavor during cooking. Margarine is cost-efficient but impacts the richness and browning reaction. Clarified butter or mayonnaise can also be used.
- Add-In Mix-Ins - From bacon and tomatoes to jalapenos, caramelized onions or avocado, what you pair with the cheese alters the end result. Sweet or spicy both have appeal for enhanced flavor.
So while at its core bread and cheese are the two key components - making intentional choices with those ingredients takes both grilled cheese and toasted cheese up a notch!
Making Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Interested in making your own epic grilled cheese sandwiches at home? Here is a simple step-by-step overview:
- 2 slices bread
- 2-3 slices cheese
- 2-3 tbsp butter, softened
- Optional add-ins like tomato, bacon, etc.
- Butter one side of each bread slice generously
- Place cheese slice(s) between bread slices, buttered side out
- Heat skillet over medium heat. Place sandwich in pan, buttered side down.
- Cook 2-4 minutes until bottom is golden brown. Flip sandwich.
- Continue cooking 2-4 minutes second side until bread is crispy and cheese melted.
- Slice sandwich in half or triangles and serve immediately.
Get creative with adjustments by trying different breads, cheeses and mix-in ingredients! Grilled cheese make for a comforting meal any time of day.
Key Takeaway: Grilled cheese sandwiches with crispy brown bread and melted cheese are easy to make at home with just a few key ingredients.
Creating Toasted Cheese Sandwiches
If you prefer bite-sized toasted cheese over grilled cheese sandwiches, here is a simple toasted cheese how-to:
- 2-4 slices bread
- 8 oz grated cheese (cheddar, Swiss, etc.)
- Preheat broiler on high heat.
- Lightly toast bread slices for 1-2 minutes until lightly browned only on one side.
- Remove bread from oven and butter the toasted side.
- Sprinkle grated cheese generously over untoasted bread side.
- Return to oven and broil 1-2 minutes until cheese is bubbly and starts browning slightly.
- Remove from heat and cool 1-2 minutes. Slice sandwiches diagonally or in fingers.
The open-faced toasted sandwiches make an easy hot snack or breakfast. Adjust oven times based on how quickly your broiler heats.
Key Takeaway: Toasted cheese sandwiches require only one slice of bread each, toasted then topped with broiled melty cheese.
Which sandwich is healthier?
Grilled cheese tends to have a bit more calories, fat and carbs since it uses butter on the bread and cheese between two slices. Going lighter on the butter makes it healthier.
Toasted cheese only has one slice of bread and butter. With less bread and fat, it's generally considered a healthier choice calorie-wise. However, the cheese is the main focus which is high in saturated fat and sodium.
So in reasonable portions, both can potentially fit into a balanced diet. Moderation is key!
What bread is best for grilled cheese/toasted cheese?
For grilled cheese - classic white sandwich bread is traditional, providing an even texture and absorbency. Heartier sourdough, whole grain or rye all make excellent choices too depending on flavor preference. Bread should be sliced approx. 1/2-3/4 inch thick.
For toasted cheese - aim for a bread with more structure that can hold up being just single slice. Breads like sourdough, ciabatta, French loaf or panini-style work well. The slices for toasting should be around 1 inch thick.
Can you add ingredients to toasted cheese?
While grilled cheese sandwiches often spotlight additions like tomatoes or bacon, toasted cheese sandwiches traditionally stay simpler - just showcasing cheese, bread and butter.
However, there's no rule you can't incorporate other ingredients into toasted cheese if desired! Options like ham, turkey, tomatoes, pickled onions or chutney can all complement the toasted cheese flavors nicely. Just be cautious not to overfill a single slice or it may become tricky to eat.
Which cheese is best for grilled/toasted sandwiches?
For both grilled and toasted sandwiches, cheeses that melt smoothly are ideal. On the grilled cheese front - American, cheddar, Muenster and Havarti all combine crispy bread with gooey goodness. Toasted sandwiches highlight bubbly, stretchy melted cheese so options like mozzarella, Gruyère and Gouda make excellent choices.
The cheese choice impacts the ultimate flavor and texture, so it's worth sampling different kinds in either preparation to find your perfect melty match!
While grilled cheese and toasted cheese sandwiches clearly share common ground in terms of bread and cheese components - they diverge with distinct textures, tastes and regional followings.
Key differentiators include grilled cheese having two pieces of buttered bread encasing the melted cheese versus toasted cheese placing an open cheese-topped slice under the broiler. The preparation variance impacts the final consistency.
Toasted cheese offers a crispy yet soft cheese delivery while grilled cheese presents the crunchy bread with oozing center cheese contrast. And the terms took root as favorites in different areas - grilled cheese having American roots and toasted cheese originating in Britain and Australia.