frico grilled cheese sandwiches

With all due respect, I think you’ve been putting cheese on the wrong side of your grilled cheese sandwiches. Or, at the least, neglecting the better ones, the exteriors. Wait, hear me out. It’s basic food math that while cold cheese is good, warm cheese is better. But if you take that a step further — and if you’re new here, let me tell you: we will always take it a step further — you will agree that melted cheese is better than warm cheese, and the melted cheese that rolls off a piece of sandwich bread and sizzles on a skillet, browning and crisping, is the top of the cheese tower… A place I’d very much like to live. Do you think a cheese tower might exist somewhere? Might it be France? Now I’m picturing an Eiffel Tower made out of cheese and what were we talking about? Oh right: melted and browned cheese wins, really for the same reason that browned butter trumps regular butter: the fats melt away from the dairy solids and toast them until they’re caramelized and achingly delicious and you forget why you’d ever eat it any other way. Don’t fight it.

hearty wheat bread
orange cheddar, lots of it

Frico is the official name for it. It’s usually invoked in the realm of Parmesan-Reggiano, or at least in almost every restaurant since the wildly fric-wild heyday of the 80s and 90s, usually in lacy crisps that garnish soups, salads and the like to remind you that they’re fancy. They’re not actually fancy, though. They’re just a pinch of grated cheese, melted in a skillet or on a baking sheet until they bubble, crisp and can be lifted in one lacy disc with a spatula. And I see no reason they should they should be limited in flavor to Parmesan, or at least not when I’m craving grilled cheese and tomato soup, really the perfect early fall meal.

this image has been stamped on my brain

my strange tastes in grilled cheese

Here, we frico un-fancily, almost hideously, intentionally instead of accidentally between buttered bread and a hot skillet. It’s one of these tiny cooking things that you can do to what you were already making, using the same exact ingredients, that makes it infinitely better. These are my favorite tiny things.

there's butter and cheddar and melting
things get ugly and delicious
frico grilled cheese


I’ve missed you. I had realized once September hit that it was going to be chaos city in my orbit for a while, but I’d still gotten a bit of cooking done and hoped to find windows to update the site in the midst of it. You’d think by my third book tour, I’d know better. Nevertheless, London, which I returned from late Monday night (only to be fully awake again at 3:30 a.m. because hello, jet lag, and then under the weather since, bah) was otherwise such a treat, in part because it included so many sub-adventures, such as a half weekend in Abergavenny, Wales, an overnight stay at, yes, an Air Force base, a visit to Bath, Ely and Cambridge and oh, I also cooked on an Aga stove on a houseboat (link to come). It was hardly short on adventure, capped by a weekend visit from Alex, who told our son that he “was going away bring Mommy home,” which totally made my lip quiver.

my first meal in londonpaddington station, no bearson the train to walesat abergavennywelsh cakes in walessummer roll assemblyon an air force basea proper mostly full english breakfasta gorgeous kitchen near cambridgegoing to a houseboaton a houseboathere is londongin and tonic and crispsthis london townhouse: wantpeaches for peach sour cream pancakes

12 days is a very long trip. I was there long enough that the cars no longer looked funny to me, or gave me the panic-of-imminent-death that they were on the wrong side of the road. It was long enough that I came home and asked my son if he wanted porridge for breakfast, but I meant oatmeal. I’ve lost sight of why we whip cream for desserts, when a fruit crumble is so much better thickly drizzled with it cold and fresh. I may have called something “brilliant” yesterday, when it really wasn’t. I’ve always thought that the feeling of being away is increased by the number of times when you’re so caught up in the details of being there (maybe for good stuff like whee, I’m on a boat! or stuff that’s more amusing in hindsight like being consumed with why you’re stuck on a jammed train or a fully-booked hotel you’re trying to check into at 1 a.m. can’t find your reservation or have no idea where to transfer rails because what do you have against clear signage, London, what?) and by that standard, the trip felt even longer. This is wonderful when you’re on a family summer vacation but a little sadder when you’re away from them, and I’m feeling the need to excessively dote on my people now that I’m back, which likely means more home cooking, more soaking up of weekend inspiration, and more new fun ideas to share here. Everyone wins.

bike storage for 1000 train commuterspolpo, potato croquetteswe're also going to make this pizza from polpoon a london bridgethis medley might be the most british thing I saw all weekmushroom risotto at the river cafealex orders well at restaurantswhy doesn't my home look like this hotel?going to try to reverse engineer this muesli (modern pantry)next timethis house was like a magazineon the piccadily line patient husband, boot shoppingchasing the sunset home from london

[I may have gotten a little carried away with the phone photos in London? Many of these were original posted to Instagram, and you can follow me there.]

Tomato Soup: Can’t have grilled cheese without tomato soup, yes? Here’s a classic, homemade riff on a smooth creamy tomato soup (coughCampbellsstylecough). And here’s a chunkier base from fresh tomatoes that can be made with or without that thematic crouton on top.

Parade Magazine: I have five recipes for fall on the cover of the October issue Parade Magazine’s food monthly, Dash. Three are brand new (Roasted Bacon and Butternut Squash Pizza, Skillet Spirals with Cheese and Broccoli — a weeknight stovetop-then-broil mac-and-cheese — and Carrot Soup with Tiny Turkey Meatballs and Spinach) and two are possibly new-to-you, riffs on Smitten Kitchen Cookbook recipes (Baked Wild Rice with Kale, Caramelized Onions and Soft-Cooked Eggs and Harvest Roast Chicken with Olives and Grapes). All are things I absolutely love to make as the weather cools off and I hope will make it into your rotation too.

One year ago: Homemade Wheat Thins and Crackly Banana Bread
Two years ago: Apple and Honey Challah and Apple Pie Cookies
Three years ago: Skirt Steak Salad with Arugula and Blue Cheese, Monkey Cake and Beef Chili with Sour Cream and Cheddar Biscuits
Four years ago: Roasted Tomatoes and Cipollini, Cheesecake Marbled Brownies and Grilled Lamb Kebabs + Tzatziki
Five years ago: Bourbon Peach Hand Pies, Raspberry Breakfast Bars and The Baked Brownie, Spiced Up
Six years ago: Tortilla de Patatas (recently updated and streamlined; still a favorite!) and Apple and Yogurt Cake
Seven years ago: Penne a la Vodka + Belgian Brownies and 44-Clove Garlic Soup (so good with all of the newly-dried garlic at the markets now!)

Frico Grilled Cheese Sandwich

A more tone-aware food writer would ask you to forgive them for the simplicity of this recipe. Grilled cheese? You think we need a recipe for cheese + bread + butter in a frying pan? But I won’t to because making it this way changes everything. You can’t be convinced by the aroma of buttery, toasting, crisping cheese in a hot skillet because you haven’t made it yet, but I think that once you experience it — I mean, take a deep drag off the kitchen air and be so happy that you’re home again — it will be what keeps you from making grilled cheese any other way again.

I like a hearty country wheat bread here, not too thickly sliced or it’s hard for the cheese inside to melt. You may more or less cheese depending on the size of your bread slices, and your tastes.

Yield: 1 sandwich. Scale up to share.

2 slices bread of your choice
2 teaspoons butter, salted or unsalted
1/2 cup (2 ounces) coarsely grated cheddar

Spread butter on one side of each slice of bread, the one that will be on the outside of the sandwich. Scatter all but 2 tablespoons cheese unbuttered side of one slice. Top with second slice, so that the buttered side faces out. Heat skillet over low-to-moderate heat. (I like to use a well-seasoned cast iron frying pan here.) Sprinkle 1 tablespoon cheese roughly in center of skillet. Place sandwich on top. Cook sandwich until golden underneath and cheese browns and crisps, about 2 to 4 minutes. Carefully lift melted (frico-ed) cheese and bread onto spatula, sprinkle remaining spoonful of cheese back in skillet, then flip sandwich over on top of it. Cook on second side until golden and crisp as well, pressing down on it with the spatula to encourage it to all come together.

Transfer to a plate, cut in half if desired, and dig in.

Alternate riffs on the classic: Are you a purist or do you like to put other things on your grilled cheese? I’m a sucker for sweet and sour red onions with a baby Swiss or gruyere cheese (this recipe in the book). But when I’m using classic cheddar, I either like a thin slice of tomato inside my sandwich, or sometimes, like the day I made these, the thinnest schmear of smooth Dijon and a dash of onion powder.

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216 comments on frico grilled cheese sandwiches

  1. I’ve been doing that for years without ever realizing there was a name for it! Frico grilled cheese (or ham & cheese, or meatball, or really anything) is the best!

  2. I used to work with a woman who loved to steal crispy cheese off our panini press. This recipe was made for her.

    Me, I like a my grilled cheese with just good bread, sharp cheddar, and a little garlic powder sprinkled on the butter.

  3. pam

    My god, woman. You are a genius. When I make my boys pizza, I always put little piles of cheese on foil in the oven so they get all crispy. Those are just for me.

  4. Oh my goodness. This looks amazing! It is an hour before lunch, and I shouldn’t have checked this blog. :) I was planning on making grilled cheese and tomato soup this weekend!

  5. What could ever not be perfect about crispy, melted cheese? Thanks for sharing your photos of England, I love and drool :) Now to check out your recipes in Dash. P.S. “I’m going to bring mommy home” might just be the most romantic thing ever!

  6. Lisa

    My dad always lets the cheese melt out and get crispy,whether it’s a grilled cheese sandwich or an omelet or anything else cheesy. He taught me well. I think if you don’t have cheese spilling out, you don’t have enough cheese!

  7. Brilliant. Just brilliant. Grilled cheese has been my go-to comfort food as of late. I’m staring down the barrel of some serious travel and it makes me excessively nervous. So I’m snacking on grilled cheese like it’s my j-o-b, and now I know that I need to adjust my cheese positioning. Lovely shots of London and delicious recipe as always!

  8. Abby

    I love the grilled cheese in your cookbook. When I have time, I make that. When I have less time, however, I like to take a couple slices of Swiss cheese and some chipotle dijon mustard and grill that, maybe with a few onion slices.

  9. Deanna

    Frico is the best! It’s the best reason to order a San Francisco burger when it’s on the menu. The holy trinity of sourdough, avocado and frico is never bad.

  10. so glad you’re back, it sounds like an amazing trip! i will try this version of grilled cheese, perhaps with a little avocado for good measure? or with queso fresco. i am decidedly obsessed.

    also, thank you for sharing the new recipes for fall! i am so sick to death of everything and really need some inspiration. oh and to turn down my dramatics, yes?

  11. That sandwich looks so perfect. I’m thinking comfort food at 3am after a late night (editing photos and writing…I only wish my late nights were more fun these days) and that me, that sandwich, and my DVR’ed lineup of shows would be so perfect.

    Congrats on your whirlwind adventures abroad and can’t wait to hear more. The photos and glimpses you’ve shared look amazing!

  12. There is something about grilled cheese that just screams “fall” to me. Maybe because it is best paired with hot tomato soup?

    There is this burger place in Sacramento (can’t remember the name now!) where they do an enormous slice of cheese on top of a regular size patty so that the sides melt down over the patty and crisp up. It’s pretty insane, and this post totally reminded me of those burgers.

  13. MJ

    Deb, I love your site! Every recipe I’ve made has been fantastic! Just wondering why you are using cheddar with yellow food coloring? I’m sure it photographs better but dyes that are banned in Europe are so unhealthy.

    1. deb

      MJ — I was using Cabot cheddar from Vermont, a lovely dairy farmer cooperative that has high standards and good practices. I hadn’t even considered that they might be using food dyes. I don’t have the package anymore, but when I’m back at the store, I will look. If it’s just food dye, I wouldn’t buy it again.

      1. Brianne

        Orange cheddar vs white is an ages old debate. The yellow is made using annatto, which a seed, I think, so not an artificial food dye.

  14. CathyG

    I always read the descriptions of how to cook grilled cheese sandwiches and I wonder what does everyone do about the butter on the outside of the sandwiches – do you put it on your work surface with butter down, and then pick it up with your hand and get butter all over the surface and your hand? Do you try to build the sandwich after you put the first slice in the pan? If you make more than one sandwich at a time (I use a big griddle), do you have time to build each sandwich before the bread starts to burn?

    Here’s what I do: butter two pieces of bread and put them together so the butter is on the inside. Put it on your work surface and build your sandwich as if it were an open-faced sandwich, on top of the two pieces of bread. When you are ready to cook it, gently pick up just the top piece of bread (which now has butter on the bottom) and put it on the griddle, then pick up the other piece of bread and put it on top of the sandwich fillings with the butter on top. Voila – grilled cheese sandwich.

    Now I’ll have to add a step of sprinkling cheese onto the griddle beforehand. (Although I have always made it a practice to plop a handful of cheddar cheese directly on the griddle and cook it like a cheese wafer to eat separately from the sandwich).

  15. Alyssa

    Thank you! Just this weekend I had a breakfast sandwich that was essentially a BLT on bread that was Parmesan “frico-ed” eggs in a frame (the eggs were perfectly cooked and runny, and the cheese held it all together). It was fantastic and I kind of wondered how to frico at home, but didn’t know the word for it. I think this has given me the nerve to try it!

  16. I learned this method of grilled cheese making from Ruth Reichl’s blog a few years ago and I have never turned back. I didn’t know there was a proper name for it though. I am always the person who has to steal the burned cheese off the edge of the pizza too, so this method of grilled cheese is just brilliant.

  17. Anne

    My favorite part of making grilled cheese is always the pieces of cheese that fall out and get frizzled in the pan. It makes perfect sense to incorporate them into the sandwich!
    BTW, I remember learning on the Cabot Creamery tour in Vermont years ago that in Revolutionary America, they made the cheese orange so that people could tell it was American-made, since all of the imported cheese was white. Not sure if this is true, or if it’s urban (rural?) legend.

  18. I discovered this a few days ago when I was craving grilled cheese but ran out of the slices and only had grated stuff left. Dumped it all in on the bread tower style followed by an unceremonious topping with the other bread slice and some cheese fell off. I despaired and tried saving them (didn’t like wasting it) by rubbing the bread into it resulting in some cheesy-bready fusion. Same thing happened when I flipped the other side, some cheese stuffing came falling out so I repeated the process. Nice to know a name for it!

  19. SN

    I’m off to London next week and can’t wait to check out the DUO shoe store…and all the places you ate, of course. Did you try any of the delicious Indian food? Would love to know all you ate while there!

    1. deb

      Indian in London — I went to Cinnamon Club (?) but didn’t care for it. Tayabs came recommended for lower-key Indian, but we didn’t make it. Next time! (I only had about 48 hours to be a tourist.)

      Duo — So glad I’m not the only one to know the gospel of Duo boots. They say they’re trying to come to the US; I hope so as returning a pair that doesn’t fit well overseas… let’s just say, I did it once and will never, ever again.

  20. NeNe

    @MJ, the orange color of the cheese comes from annatto (sometimes called ‘achiote’) a South American plant. The seeds of the annatto tree has been used as a natural food dye for centuries. Cheese like Red Leicester and Cheshire are often dyed with annatto to mimic the color of true cheddar from Cheddar, England. It has been used to color many cheese and many foods like margarine, snack foods, etc. In the EU, annatto (E160b) is classified as a food additive, but it is not banned.

  21. Becky

    deb, you have made me miss London almost to tears! I’m from there but now live in buenos aires. Anyway, looks like you went to all the right places. I love your blog, and everything that I make from here turns out wonderfully. THANKYOU :)

    1. deb

      Delyth — Yes! That’s what I was there for. I gave a talk and signed some books. It was lovely.

      Deepa — Thank you! I’m so glad you won.

  22. I’m so glad you made this Deb, after you mentioned it at your talk in Ely. Love it.
    It was lovely to meet you, have been making good use of the hamper I won. :)

    SN – Check out Dishoom for great (amazing) Indian food in London. The black daal is incredible. And have a naughty chai afterwards.

  23. When I saw this pop up on my newsfeed, I definitely misread it as “frito grilled cheese” and thought you made some Frito pie sandwich. But this looks even better.

  24. Kieran

    MJ, why are you assuming that the cheddar is made with food coloring? The only ‘coloring’ I’ve seen in cheddar, if any, is annatto, which is a plant product.

  25. Joshua

    I always like some thin avocado slices in my grilled cheese sandwiches, a great complement to the sharp cheddar. I’m definitely going to have to try some frisco’d cheese on the sandwich, this is what I always thought made the best Mac&Cheese.

  26. Syd

    One of the restaurants here makes a shaved prime rib sandwich with frico and serves it with horseradish sauce and jus. Such a favorite, and my mouth started watering as I typed it.

  27. amanda

    This looks really good! It just popped into my head that a frico’d French toast might be an interesting experiment… And obviously fantastic for the figure!

  28. Emma

    I miss London dearly. Will second the Tayyab’s recommendation for your return trip. Was this recipe inspired by the British classic cheese on toast?

    1. deb

      Emma — So good to hear. Next time! I made this before I left, as I’d hoped to post it during the last week of September, to me, prime Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup Season. Alas. I also had another plan for cheddar frico for fall, and then a cheddar-baked dish… so basically, I had cheddar on the brain before I got there and being in the UK did nothing to diminish it.

      Rae — It’s very good! It’s made me an onion powder person. Feel free to link to the recipe.

  29. Jill L

    I’m just coming home from San Francisco, reading this in the airport with delicious cowgirl creamery cheese and an acme loaf of bread in my bag, and now I know what I’m doing with it!! Just to find the perfect tomato to sandwich in, and I’ve got dinner tomorrow!

  30. Drew

    So glad to know there is an official name for toasted cheese. I have always called it “Heidi cheese” because when I was little, my volume of Heidi showed her toasting cheese on a long fork over a fire with her Grandfather (always wondered why it didn’t drip off the fork?). I always put an extra slice of cheese on the griddle for my treat when making grilled cheese sandwiches. I like to sprinkle cracked black pepper over the butter and add well drained capers inside for a “grown up” grilled cheese. Will certainly be trying your frico technique!

  31. Stef

    Ah, nothing that a couple of slices of good bacon (or ham) and a sliver of tomato can’t make even better! I’m off to make some for dinner… Thanks Deb!

  32. Erin

    I’m drooling on my keyboard; that looks so good!

    I used to do something like this with grilled cheese when I was a kid. Fancy up the standard american cheese grilled cheese with a bit of parmesan on the outside. It was my “signature dish,” LOL.

  33. Melanie G

    Oh, goodness, that crispy cheese outside the sandwich really is the best thing ever! I will definitely have to try this :-)

    Your photos are wonderful!

  34. stephan

    That sounds amazing.

    My two suggestions for riffs on grilled cheese:
    1) Toasted bread, a thin schmear of mayo, tomato slices, topped with good cheddar and broiled – served open-faced.
    2) An egg-in-the-hole grilled cheese sandwich. I particularly like it with Cabot’s Habanero Chedder.

  35. Brenda

    Smoked Provolone works great too–only put a slice on a hot nonstick pan, and let it brown, and then flip it. Drain on paper. Make a PLT–you will never miss the bacon. It is chewy, salty and smoky and delicious.

  36. Cathie

    It has a name?! We just call it “pan cheese.” Because it’s cheese that leaked out onto the pan. My friend drops a handful of cheese onto the waffle iron, which seems pretty brilliant.

  37. Yes! I always find myself burning my tounge (and fingers) eating those little cheese drippings! What a great idea to do it on purpose – and not just as a garnish. Because we all know it’s the main event.

  38. Megan

    This looks delicious! And a lot like what I ate every Sunday dinner while studying in France~a croque monsieur. My host family had small children, but we all loved it! Crispy cheese on the outside is a win-win.

  39. Kristina

    My Swedish grandmother was a great one for open-faced sandwiches, chief of which in my memory (and therefore in my kitchen) is a broiled open-face melted cheese and fresh tomato sandwich. How fabulous to put a little crispy cheese underneath! I always toast the bread first, so I am thinking I will do the crispy cheese/bread on the skillet, toast the other side, and then add more cheese and tomato, then broil. Yum. Also, we always added a little mustard in a pretty dollop on top, so that seems right to me.

  40. Jesse

    Have you read any C.S. Lewis? Your opening paragraph reminds me of a concept he writes about in Mere Christianity. In the chapter on Christian marriage, he describes thinking in terms of good, better, and best (as opposed to thinking in terms of good or bad). And of course that should be applied to cheese.
    I love Lewis and I love your website and, despite being gluten- and dairy- free, though lenient on the latter, this has been a lovely post. Thank you :)

  41. susan

    I’ve always wondered how to get the crisp cheese finish on the outside of a pan fried sandwich. I first tasted this as the bread used for a California burger at favorite restaurant. It uses sour dough bread, has caramelized onions, cheddar, avocado, lettus and thousand island dressing. It has tomato, too, but I always take that off (cuz I have certain food combination issues, eek!) Can’t wait to try this.

  42. Tucker

    I love this blog. I added fresh spinach, and a small amount of blue agave nectar to mine, the sweet plays so well with the salty savory cheeses and bread.

  43. Barbara

    Love this idea, this will be my weekend sandwich with my homemade veggie soup, but with my favorite add in, thin sliced apple slices,, preferably Macintosh, here in Vt, and Vt. Cabot cheddar all the way~~have a wonderful fall weekend….

  44. Sue O’Sullivan

    I was just reading through the frico grilled cheese comments, saw Dennis’s and let out a happy yelp. I grew up in Storrs CT and on our twice a year trips to Hartford we always stopped at Shady Glenn in Manchester CT. I’m 72 so this must have been from 1949 when it opened. Always had the cheeseburger with the fabulous crispy cheese. And unlike in most of life, Shady Glen is still going strong. Bliss. I’ve lived in London for 50 years so my visits there are few but sacred. After this post I’ll be crisping up some cheese, thanking Deb and thinking of Shady Glen. Here in London I went to a friend’s 60th recently and one of the sons presented two gorgeous chocolate layer cakes which somehow I just ‘knew’ were from Smitten Kitchen. I was right, the cookbook was in my friend’s kitchen, and the cake was delicious. Now that’s a good son!

  45. Right at the beginning of the recipe- immediately after the title, you wrote I won’t and I think you meant” I want”! (But I won’t to because making it this way changes everything.)

    Your posts are always so clean of typos, I thought you’d like to know! :)

    Great to see a post from you this morning!

  46. Naomi

    Welcome back home! I was super excited to read the broccoli mac-and-cheese on Parade, but sadly there is no recipe (only ingredients). I know you’re not personally responsible for how the recipes end up being published, but I hope someone at Parade realizes and corrects the error soon! I love any recipe that lets me eat mac-and-cheese and call it healthy :)

  47. Jennifer P

    I found it funny that you talked about being wide awake at 3am because jet lag because I am reading this at 3am as I am jet lagged after coming back yesterday from 3 weeks in France. Tomato soup sounds fabulous as I am trying to get rid of the cold I brought home as a souvenir from my trip!! I do sort of the same thing to my grilled cheese but I press grated Parmesan cheese into the butter that is smeared on the outside of the bread.

  48. Andrea Harris

    So Deb, this is what you make when Union Sq rolls away all the vegetable stands.
    You can’t fool me—I recognize a Bread Alone bread. Luckily, you have almost 2 months to buy chard and kohlrabi. Get chopping! BTW, the London photos look fab!

    1. deb

      Andrea — Noooo! I still have a ton of vegetable dishes coming from the market — and fruit, so stock up on those Italian plums, broccoli, sweet potatoes to get ready for next week. I actually made this because I wanted to make some fresh tomato soup with the tomatoes that are still everywhere, but didn’t get to it. The sandwich stands alone, though. :)

      Jennifer P — Me too! Been sick since I got back. Totally not the icing on the cake.

      Naomi — Yikes! I emailed the editor and she’s about to get it fixed. In the meanwhile, it looks like someone pasted the directions, maybe from the print issue, in the comments.

  49. Nicole

    Jennifer P, we do the same, but with mozzarella and a bit of pizza sauce on the inside (and maybe pesto or pepperoni) and we call it “pizza grilled cheese”. My kids beg for it for dinner!

  50. Jen

    I definitely have to try that. I love the crispy cheese bits that fall out of quesadillas. I make our grilled cheese with coconut oil instead of butter and smear hummus inside. Delish!

  51. Naomi

    My grandmother used to make what she called “fried cheese”: Put a large chunk of Cheddar cheese in the hot cast iron pan and let it totally melt, then scoop it out onto the plate. It would harden as it cooled and turn into a chewy piece of loveliness that I will never forget. It would have some crunch around the edges, but mostly just chewiness. I know it’s not the same as frico but this post certainly reminded me of it. I’ve never heard of anyone else doing this.

  52. Jenna

    Can your next book tour be in Australia? I hope so, I would totally be there and know many others would as well! Any recipe featuring cheese has my full attention so definitely making this tomorrow!

  53. Chris Bryant

    Mmmm. I can smell the toasty, buttery essences. I’ve been doing something similar Open-face cheese toast for quick, stand-in-kitchen lunches. Lay some shaved onion on a white hot skillet. Once toasty, sprinkle grated cheese (2 tbl-ish) over top. When oil is separating from the cheese and lacy edges begin to crisp, drop a mayonnaised slice of bread on top. Wait a minute or so till it marries, then flip bread and heat-toast the other side. Flip back to cheesy side a few seconds, then serve. I sprinkle with the pickled mustard seed I make and dashes of this & that condiment as I go. We side this with soup, especially oyster stew.

    Ha. As you said, at first gloss it doesn’t appear to qualify as a recipe. But describing the process, I see that it is. Cheers!

  54. beverly

    when heating up left over pizza, saute in a bit of butter, put cover on so it warms out, but then flip it over and fry the top–cheese will crisp up, any tomatoes char, etc. also like to saute naan in butter, put parmesan on top, and flip it.

  55. Liane

    So glad you enjoyed my lovely city of London (I’m an expat who has been living here for 9 years). Wish I wasn’t away while you were here or I would have loved to get a signed book…another time. In London, we eat cheese on toast, which is basically an open-faced sandwich (you put it under the grill in the oven versus on top of the stove)…but I might have to try this out and see if the husband likes it (which he will as we have about 6 types of cheese in our fridge). Thanks!

  56. Fabulous idea for adding a rustic spin on the classic grilled cheese sandwich. It makes sense but I still would not have thought to do it! I can’t wait to this recipe at home. Your pictures made me absolutely nostalgic for Europe. I recently visited Italy & France but would love to visit England in the very near future.

  57. Kit

    Holy. God. I am making this. Probably on, like, Sunday. YES.

    Is it weird that my favorite part of this post was the picture of yours & Alex’s SHOES? Oh my god. It just reminds me of last December when my fiancé traveled 700 miles away from me to visit his family (whom, for the record, he had not seen on Christmas in like SIX YEARS, which was why I said it was fine), and it WAS mostly okay right up until Christmas, at which point I became extremely upset. And your picture reminds me of a couple of days later when he returned home and I promptly expired from happiness. We’d had a spate of bad fights just before he went on his trip, but missing him so hard for eleven days pretty much fixed any uncertainty I’d been feeling about staying together. Anyway, I’ve got a case of the wobbly lip myself over here.

  58. Kathe

    I’ve done this quite a bit, both with grated cheese and with thin slices. The benefit of thin slices is that you can use a couple different types of cheese and make a patchwork look on the outside and every bite is just a little different. Also, try lightly buttering and browning the inside of the bread slices first. It creates a beautiful extra crunchiness!

  59. Stephanie

    I am not a purist. I like tomato slices or peppers, multiple cheeses, kimchee, etc. A recent favorite, perfect for fall, is truffled gouda with pear slices.

    My recent shift in grilled cheese making is skipping the butter. Instead, I pour a bit of olive oil into a bowl, put salt & pepper (sometimes truffle salt) and red pepper flakes for the heat-seekers, and brush it on the bread. Kind of like the frico, it adds flavor to the outside of the sandwich. I’ll add grated parm next time and see if it fricos!
    Then it goes in the cast iron pan, fairly low heat, with another cast iron squishing it down. Flip over, pan goes on it again. This gives a crispy outside, squishes out some cheese to crisp, and helps ensure the cheese melts before the bread burns.

  60. Aylah

    Hi Deb,
    Next semester I am studying abroad in Stockholm and my friend and I are planning to take a long weekend in London! What was your favorite thing that you did there? More importantly, what was your fave restaurant?!

    Thank you!!

  61. Bonnie

    I have also been doing this for quite some time – I mix the butter on the outside of my bread with parmesan and mashed up roasted garlic (or fresh garlic if I’m trying to be quick). I also fell in love with a product I found at a farmer’s market on a vacation to london – it’s an onion marmalade (with more garlic!) that I used with comte cheese until I ran out…and now can’t get any more, sadly, since they only ship to Europe.

  62. Amanda

    I made a grilled cheese the other day you would of been proud of, since they were your ingredients! I used the homemade Ricotta of yours, added your Peach Butter and slid some ham in better the cheddar cheese!

  63. Maria in Oregon

    Jet lag sucks! I always find it’s much worse going from here to Europe, rather than the other way around. Although I do remember last time I flew to Oregon from over the pond I stayed up till about 4 am talking with my folks!

    My Dad lived in Abergaveny for a while during WWII when children were sent out of cities to live in the country to avoid the bombs. (Who’d want to bomb Wales anyway? There’s nothing but sheep!) He lived above a sweet shop owned by a distant relateive. It was an adventure to him. Hey, your grilled cheese makes me crave Welsh rarebit!

  64. Courtney

    I love panera’s grilled cheese which puts some on the outside, but have always been scared to do it at home, where I have to clean the pans. You’ve convinced me to give it a shot, now I just need to buy or bake some good bread.

  65. jdens

    Ever since your tomato and corn pie recipe, I’ve put tomato and mayonnaise on all my grilled cheese sandwiches (when I have both in stock). Those flavours just go together so well.

  66. Welcome back Deb! You tugged at my heartstrings with the story of your 12-day sojourn across the pond apart from your beloveds. I just put my roasted tomato puree in the freezer for tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons. This will make a lovely improvement.

  67. OHSue

    I do this with Parmesan on the outside and cheddar on the inside. My son raves to friends when I offer this food to them. He say, “you don’t know grilled cheese until you have my mom’s”

  68. Marla

    Deb – leave it to you to improve upon what one would think cannot be improved upon (was that British enough for you? now reverting back to plain ol’ American) and making that improvement amazing! frico, eh? (oops – Canadian) to deliberately melt cheese on the outside of the sandwich is awesome. can’t wait to try it. and your Dash article was so – you! I want to try everything right now! nice photos, too.

  69. kate C.

    I was so excited to see your recipes in Dash on Sunday! Usually I look through that thing and throw it away because it never has any good recipes… not this one, though! :)

  70. karen on the coast

    aahhh, what a lovely post, worth the wait, although I was beginning to will youto come back, we have missed you…and then there is ” capped by a weekend visit from Alex, who told our son that he “was going away bring Mommy home,” ” … how absolutely chivalrous and manly of your husband, I can just imagine how that must have caused a place in Jacobs little heart to swell a bit with pride for his dad…the picture of your feetshoes speak of that, the knight in shining leathers coming for his princess in her golden slippers…precious. And the crispy grilled cheese goodness keeps it down to earth. I am undecided if I will have mine with that creamy tomato soup or some pickled tomatoes a la veggie slaw…aw heck, I will just have to have it twice.

  71. Mel in Durham

    I have accidentally had cheese on the exterior of my grilled cheese but now I will put it there on purpose! I think the best grilled cheese are made with mayo, it adds some ooziness (is that a word) to the sandwich without strong flavor. You can also substitute mayor for butter on the outside of the sandwich, it browns just like butter and you can’t really tell the difference in taste.

  72. mathilde

    Love your instagram pictures! May I ask howyou edit them? Which app?
    And frico grilled cheese sandwiches, how genius isn’t that?

  73. Susan

    I made just the bread with the cheese toasted on the outside (is that what’s meant by frico?) to serve with our meal last night. I only did the one side with the cheese and toasted the other with plain butter. O.M.G. This is so good. Can you imagine a tuna melt done this way? Well, if you like tuna melts…

  74. KatieK

    These sandwiches look brilliant. But what I really wanted to write about was how tickled I was to see Deb’s recipes in Parade’s Dash from last week. I made the chicken with grapes and olives last night for the second time (first from the cookbook). Major plug to all you out there who saved the recipe from Dash or have the cookbook and haven’t tried this chicken. The olives, grapes and rosemary combine to a very tasty menage a trois, the sum total being something way beyond each ingredient. Even my non-olive eaters got it. Had a drum stick for breakfast and it was heaven.

  75. Allie

    Hi, I have a question about your carrot soup recipe that you linked to. I don’t have a blender of any kind and want to make this soup. Do you think it will still be tasty without blending the carrots, or will it taste like mushy carrots with meatballs?

  76. EmmaB

    I just made this for our lunch on a sunny Sunday in Cambridge, we ate it sitting outside in the sunshine. I can’t believe I didn’t know that you were here recently, I was even at Ely farmer’s market last weekend and seem to have missed you completely. And I looked at your blog several times recently and wondered why there was no new post from you in a while!

    The sandwiches were delicious, we loved the addition of the cheese on the outside and they were great with tomato soup. This is going to be my new favourite autumn recipe. Next time I will try with a little mustard or perhaps with a mix of gruyere or parmesan with the cheddar. Thanks for the recipe!

    PS your icebox cake is our new family favourite, I have made it four times since discovering the recipe and my son requested it as the cake for his 21st birthday

  77. I am very excited to try your frico grilled cheese sandwiches! I have made several of your recipes, have enjoyed them thoroughly and appreciate the steady stream of solid, good ideas for the kitchen. Thank you!

  78. When I first saw “fried cheese” on a menu I was very excited, thinking that this was what I ordered. I was so disappointed to get barely warm mozzarella coated with bread crumbs. This is the real deal and I can’t wait to try it for myself!

  79. Melissa

    We have been thoroughly enjoying the added frico of grilled cheese since the first minute I saw this post. Today at lunch, I spread some Dalmatia Fig Spread between the bread when it came off the skillet. Wow… these little sandwiches are gonna single handedly alter my cholesterol levels, LOL. Thanks so much for sharing this fab idea.

  80. Holy Cow! I’ve been on a gourmet grilled cheese bender for months, experimenting with various combinations of Goudas and blue cheese, but really nothing beats a good sharp cheddar and I can’t wait to go totally frico on the next one! I usually stir Dijon and grated parmesan into the butter and I love caramelized onions and/or slow roasted tomatoes, occasionally I add some prosciutto when I’m feeling fancy. Thanks for sharing the UK pics, I hope the Brits were as gaga over you as we are.

    1. deb

      Eline — I… I really don’t know what to say. ;)

      Hannah — You can use any other cheese you’d like in there… gruyere or comte would be my second choices, but it’s a matter of personal taste, of course.

      mathilde — I mostly use the VSCO camera app. I don’t always edit.

  81. Kathy K

    Has anyone tried making a grilled cheese on a George Foreman grill? I have one sitting in the cupboard, unused, and thought that it might work as a ‘Panini press’? This amazing recipe and the inspiring comments have me headed to the kitchen to experiment!

  82. Shreeti

    Made this tonight for dinner. Was doing a panini night with the family, but since I was eating vegetarian thought I would make this. Was absolutely delicious. Was wishing I could have another :)

  83. Deb,

    We love cheese sooo much at our house we have a family comedy routine about it called, Chessy goodness! At least we think it’s funny. I never share the cheese that melts onto the skillet I eat it, cook’s privilege. But now, now, I can share it with the rest of my family. This is the best, homiest, cheesiest goodness meal ever.

  84. Vicki B

    What a wonderful trip for you! Love the idea of an inside out grilled cheese sandwich. It reminds me of a burger place in my town, that does the craziest thing called a “cheese skirt”. You can see it on the web site. Somehow it involves throwing an ice cube on the grill and putting a dome lid over the whole thing. Seriously, they can leave off the burger and bring me one big cheese skirt!

  85. Katy

    Can’t wait to make this. I am reading this jetlagged after a trip to NYC! Sorry about the bad London signage… I managed to walk in the wrong direction in Brooklyn for half an hour and then get on the wrong subway, if that’s any consolation… Thank you for recommending Kutsher’s. We went there for lunch on Friday and I had my first ever matzo ball soup and the best pastrami I’ve ever eaten x

  86. Rebecca

    Hi Deb! Just tried making this…couldn’t resist, it looked so incredible. But all the outside cheese stuck to the pan! I was left with a normal grilled cheese (which was obviously not the end of the world), and felt completely mystified as to how to keep it on the bread! I used a nonstick skillet, and lots of butter. Do you have any other tricks?

    1. deb

      Rebecca — That’s so weird because I cannot imagine for the of me how cheese — something that’s basically oil + dairy solids — could stick to a nonstick pan. It’s the least sticky thing, ever. Did it brown at all?

  87. Emma

    Like Frankie said, this is a GAME CHANGER. I am a huge grilled cheese fan, and these look next level. Thank you for sharing! I’m going to try tonight. And if any of you Smitten Kitchen devotees are looking for a food related giggle while cooking, I suggest you check out Funniest food blog I’ve seen all week.

    Thanks again!

  88. meg

    I got really excited when I thought this said “frito grilled cheese.” I do love a good grilled cheese sandwich, so frico will do, too!

  89. kimberly

    Deb, I just have to say- you are awesome. I have been reading your blog for 5 years now (wish I had found it sooner!) and I’ve never tired of it. I own your cookbook, which is happily covered in flour and wine… and it’s recipes like this that keep me coming back to you. Just fun, delicious, accessible food, but always with a bit of something inspired, luxe or adventurous. Please keep doing what you do!!

  90. #1 You’re right, I’ve been making grilled cheese wrong my whole life!

    #2 I’m not sorry to say, I think I took this recipe and turned it into pure guilty, wonderful sin. I had some leftover grilled salmon, so I made salmon salad (heavy on the onions), put that between two pieces of bread with some swiss cheese inside, fried it bottom-down in some butter, then, before flipping, put sliced cheddar cheese in the pan. Thus it came out with a cheddar cheese crust on top. Then I ate it. Then the next night, I did it again… with bacon.

  91. Very delicious :)
    I cook very similar one, I use a mixture of any kind of cheese, egg and parsley (if exists) on the top of the bread slice. Then put in the oven to cook the top, cheese melts and the color turns yellow-brown. İn the breakfast I prefer either toast or this.

  92. Sarah

    I probably eat grilled cheese (or some variation thereof) about once a week. And I always pick the browned bits of cheese off the pan (usually burning a finger in the process) to eat as they cook. How did I not think of this?? And that, there, is the beauty of this site – coming up with such simple, yet amazing, things like this that we all wonder why we never thought of them ourselves! (Browned butter in everything, especially Rice Krispy treats, is another one…)

  93. Tucker

    I made this. I don’t think I will melt the cheese on the outside again, the jollies per cheese oz. goes down with that much cheese. I used sourdough one night, and when I made it again a few nights later, I used a fresh walnut cranberry bread from “Sprouts”. I t was a crowd/wife pleas(her).

  94. Julia

    I made the baked rice and kale with an egg from Parade magazine that was mentioned in the intro. Quartering the recipe and baking it in two French onion soup ramekins was just right for our family of two. We liked it. Thank you!

  95. Allison

    Tried this. My husband went crazy over these. I didn’t do anything different that the normal grilled cheeses we always have, I just put the cheese on the outside and suddenly its “The best grilled cheese he’s ever had.” LOVE IT!

  96. Linda

    I just took a loaf of your NY rye from the oven and it will make a tasty grilled cheese with swiss to have for supper. I was immediately reminded of Shady Glen burgers in Manchester CT. The cheese almost creates a plate around the burger.

  97. taue

    I LOVE this sandwich. For you NYC carnivores out there, this place on 149th and Broadway called Harlem Public makes what I guess you’d call a frico cheeseburger. They use parmesan and thick slices of really good sourdough.

    Frico-ize ALL the sandwiches!!

  98. CathyG

    Last night I made quesadillas and without even thinking about it I put a handful of cheese down on the griddle before I put the tortilla on top of it. I remembered that instruction from this post but I forgot that it was for sandwiches – as long as it’s cooking on the griddle, might as well Frico it. MMMMMMmmmmmm.

  99. Hitch42

    I first saw this done by Chef John of Food Wishes on YouTube. I got up from my computer and made one right away. I will never eat another kind of grilled cheese sandwich! It is the most glorious thing ever.

  100. Michael Leuchtenburg

    My mixture of Gruyere and Cheddar definitely stuck rather badly to my steel pan. It actually tore a piece of the sandwich as I was scraping it up! Delicious but quite difficult to remove from the pan.

    Perhaps there’s still some of the sugar from the milk in the cheese? Gruyere does have a somewhat sweet taste to it.

  101. Susan

    WOW! Had these for dinner last night with Butternut Squash soup. That fabulous CRUNCH of the toasted cheese… de-lightful… de-licious… de-yummy!

  102. Kate

    Love this site, Deb! I’ve made a ton of your recipes and they instantly become part of my go-to rotation — except this one. I love toasty cheese, but when I made this, the butter seemed to prevent the cheese from sticking to the sandwich. Instead, it became cemented to my pan. I’ll spare you the gory details, but rest assured it was one of my more spectacular kitchen-fails.
    I would love to to try again, but would appreciate any ideas on where I went wrong. Too much cheese? Too much butter? Pan too hot? I used an aluminum pan at the same temperature I use for eggs, slicked with melted butter. Please help! I’m not actually an incompetent cook, though I sure feel silly asking for help on a grilled-cheese sandwich. Every sandwich I eat that is not frico’ed will taste like ash in my mouth until I figure out how to do it!

    1. deb

      Kate — Did you keep cooking it? It will always stick at first, but by the time the cheese is release its oils, it should come off. Preheating the pan well helps, too.

  103. Sarah

    Maybe this is too obvious to be listed anywhere in the comments, but: Frico QUESADILLA. A little smushed avocado, salt, and pepper flakes on the inside. Serious game changer. (And my new afternoon snack.)

  104. Kate

    Deb — Pan was preheated. I did let it keep cooking, and the cheese did release a lot of oil. Perhaps I took it off too late? I let it sit until the cheese was rather browned and crusty (delicious) and by then, it was nearly impossible to remove from the pan without destroying the sandwich. Thinking I will try again and pull it off sooner.

  105. Oh my god, I cannot believe I missed this the first time around. I am OBSESSED with burning cheese to a pan and eating it. This recipe somehow legitimizes that love.

  106. I don’t do it all the time, but every once in a while I love to thinly slice some jalapenos and throw them in. I finally did this tonight when I wanted a little snack post-4th of July. Also, I have no idea where I heard it, but somewhere I saw a suggestion of a little bit of jam for a salty-sweet flavor. It didn’t wow me the first time, but I want to try tweaking the ratio more.

  107. Elena

    I come from the place where Frico was invented and I do not agree with you. Frico is NOT cheddar cheese.. it is made by local (and much better than cheddar) Italian cheese. In Italy hundreds of cheeses are available, do not use imitations to cook Italian recipes.

  108. Marianna

    Deb, I have been meaning to share with you that The Smitten Kitchen cookbook is is THE BEST. I purchased it a few years ago and it is my go to cookbook , never leaves my counter. Every thing I have cooked using your recipes is delicious . Just made the ricotta raspberry scones for the first time. My family loved them! I just found your website today! I will be a frequent flyer here.
    Thanks for making me look like an awesome cook!

  109. Tamar

    I made Frico’ed savory french toast tonight. I dipped challah in the standard egg/milk combo (with lots of fresh thyme because my thyme plant is about to stage a takeover of all the other herbs on the sill, a crushed garlic clove, some cayenne, and a small splash of garlic/chili sauce) then dredged it in coarsely grated Pecorino-ish cheese and fried. It was delicious, though it has lots of potential to be more…interesting, even without the frico. Perhaps a sauce/topping? We had it with a chopped tomato/basil salad, which was nice and refreshing. Perhaps a different combo of flavors in the egg/milk? And so I came here to ask….
    Deb: would you consider a looking into a recipe for savory french toast?

  110. I lovvvvvve butter, but for grilled cheeses, I use mayo instead of butter for the browning. It makes for a crispier outside, and the taste difference is negligible.

  111. Deb, I was so hoping that on this London book tour trip you’d have surprised us all by saying (and showing!) that you had at least run into Hugh Grant or Colin Firth in Soho or some other LDN nabe, but alas, guess you weren’t in the right place at the right time.

  112. Tabitha

    Good morning! I am always intrigued and inspired with your recipes and accompanying stories. Can you tell me how/when/where you began showcasing your food and travels?
    Thanks so much for your time and for the wonderful depiction of the food you clearly love!

    1. deb

      Thanks. I started this site in 2006 (here’s the first post, which I assumed nobody would ever see). Nothing to starting a site; free and easy. What you do with the space and how long you stick with it is up to your insanity level. ;)

  113. jwgmom

    I make my grilled cheese with sliced sweet pickles, or sweet relish if I am feeling lazy, and a little yellow mustard. These must be spread on the sandwich before cooking. Next time I am adding the frico touch.

  114. Helen

    This sounds amazing, and I think would be an ideal accompaniment to your cream of tomato soup. Have you got a recipe for the ‘sweet and sour onions’ you refer to?

  115. So there s no shortage of grilled cheese recipes out there, but Smitten Kitchen s Emmentaler on Rye with Sweet and Sour Red Onions is so worth a try. It s just so many nice flavors in one gooey, marvelous sandwich. I want one right now, and its not even m.

  116. Pam

    I have to say, I LOVE reading your website. You’re way of writing is so completely you, quite charming. And I’ve tried so many of your recipes with great success. Thank you for always bringing new inspiration to my email in-box!