short rib, gruyere, blackberry jam, pickled onions & watercress

Step into my lair young grasshopper, and you will discover the secrets of a Grilled Cheese Master.

Shocking as it may sound, there may not always be a grilled cheese vendor around when the yearning hits.  In these cases, you might have to make a grilled cheese sandwich at home.

But it’s not as simple as it sounds.  There are things you should know that could help make your good grilled cheese sandwich into a great one. (Mayo?)

Stephen Cusato from Food Freaks Grilled Cheese, a cart by Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn, recently did an interview with Scoutmob talking about how he makes delicious grilled cheese sandwiches.  We can attest to this.  In our opinion, Food Freaks was one of the highlights at the Taste of the Parks event last June.

So follow these guidelines, and you too can be a Food Freak at home.

Grated Cheese Melts Better
I’m not even going to begin to talk about American cheese right now. We don’t use it on the cart, so I’d never tell you to use it to improve your grilled cheese-making ability. It’s totally cool if you like it; it melts great and it’s classic. We just chose not to use it, mainly because it’s technically not a cheese. I digress: grated cheese just melts better than slices. FOODfreaks laboratory-tested.

The Bread is Half the Battle
Bread could cost us 10 cents a sandwich, instead it costs us about five times that. Why? Because bread makes up 50% of each grilled cheese, so we spare no expense. Orwasher’s Bakery bakes our bread but there are tons of great options for you to use. Our favorites are potato Pullman and wheat Pullman—Pullman is the traditional shape of bread you normally see in stores—as well as country white and free-formed sourdough. Free-formed means it’s not baked in a pan, but rather on a sheet for a more rustic shape. We’ve found the best no-frills grilled cheese is made with a good quality potato Pullman loaf. I promise it’ll make all the difference.

The Fort Greene

Use Mayo, Not Butter
Not what you expected, huh? You may even gasp in disbelief but yes, mayo is our lube of choice when making a grilled cheese. Mayo has a higher smoke point than butter, meaning it withstands heat better and allows the sandwich to cook longer, giving the cheese time to melt before the bread gets too dark. We actually put the sandwich on the cooking surface dry, toast it, then spread a very thin layer of mayo on both sides to create a golden brown exterior, one you just cannot get with butter. It also results in a less greasy sandwich.

Think Outside Just Bread and Cheese
FOODfreaks was created with the vision that a grilled cheese is an open canvas for culinary creativity. You could throw American cheese on Wonder Bread and call it the best grilled cheese ever, but the possibilities are much greater when you start to think differently. Empty out your fridge, slice up some vegetables, make your own spreads, and try to get wild. There is much more to a grilled cheese than cheese and bread. Fruits, jams, meats, and especially vegetables! I’ve even thought about putting seared tuna in a grilled cheese. Bottom line: Don’t be scared to get creative.

Proportions Matter
Not enough cheese or bread that’s too thick will not make a good grilled cheese. Same goes for adding extras. If you want to add a chicken cutlet to your grilled cheese, make sure it’s thinly sliced. If you want to throw in some roast beef or pastrami, don’t pile it high like Katz’s deli, then it just becomes a regular hot sandwich. A balanced ratio of bread to cheese to extras will make your finished product that much better, so pay attention to the amount of each ingredient you use.

You can follow Food Freaks Grilled Cheese on twitter here, and their website is here.