How Do You Define a Grilled Cheese Sandwich?

Photograph by Robyn Lee

No, I'm not talking about that kind of "[grilled cheese sandwich]" (though I did enjoy this thread, thank you very much, shoneyjoe, et al.).

I'm talking about honest-to-goodness grilled cheese sandwiches. Specifically, how you define them.

A topic posted last week in Talk ("Your Favorite Grilled Cheese Sandwich") became a bit ... well, contentious would be too strong a word—but it's evident that there is plenty of room for interpretation when it comes to this classic comfort-food dish.

A grilled Pawlet cheese and Benton's bacon sandwich from NYC's City Bakery.

Some folks said they liked to add meat to theirs, like duncan1205 ("Rustic bread with pepperjack cheese and dill pickles; rye with black forest ham, swiss and mustard; or just plain old whole wheat with american and mayo") or shoneyjoe ("...For a cheese 'plus,' sometimes a very thin slice of prosciutto [does it come any other way?] and maybe some tomato...")

Duncan1205's comment prompted engmcmuffin to pipe up: "Aren't you talking about a ham and cheese sandwich that's been grilled? Grilled cheese should have cheese. That's all."

And youraudacity seemed to second that sentiment, stating:

I hate when people add meat to their grilled cheese. That makes it a hot sandwich, and it is not a grilled cheese! You're ruining our classic institution with your bacon obsession. I HATE when people who "just LOVE bacon" indiscriminately put it on anything they can put their paws on.

But might have gone opened up a whole nother can of worms in the same response:


There also seemed to be a third way, which was less controversial. Let's call it the "protein-free" variety, as articulated by Bunnyman:

Well on my planet a grilled cheese sandwich is a cheese sandwich and not a meat with cheese sandwich. So we don't put a protein on it and consider it a "grilled cheese" no matter how tasty the end result is. We also use a panini press for maximum toasty effect....

A grilled cheese(???) with tomato slices layered in. Photograph by Robyn Lee.

It seems the simple and judicious addition of some sort of vegetable matter—tomato (dozertx) or pickles (mcanna and lammiepie), for instance—did not raise anyone's hackles. (Personally, I LOVE the pickle combo myself, for the same reason mcanna gives.)

Anyway, it seems that the issue never really got resolved, which is fine, because that thread was about "Your Favorite Grilled Cheese," not "What Defines a Grilled Cheese Sandwich?"

So here, in the form of a time-wasting pseudoscientific poll, let's put the issue to rest once and for all as far as serious eaters are concerned (at least until the next time the topic arises).

Does an official grilled cheese sandwich (OGCS) consist simply of bread and cheese? Or can you slip something in there and still get away with calling it a grilled cheese?

Take the poll, leave a comment, or both.

A grilled cheese sandwich includes ...(polls)