The Secret Ingredient You Should Be Using On Your Grilled Cheese

A classic grilled cheese sandwich is one of life’s simplest pleasures, but there’s one easy tweak that takes it to the next level. This incredibly simple hack, endorsed by celebrity chef and author Gabrielle Hamilton, among others, uses an ingredient found in almost every refrigerator in the U.S. — none other than our old friend mayonnaise.

According to Ms. Hamilton, all you need to do is skip the typical butter application and coat the outside of your bread with mayonnaise instead. You don’t need to put any butter or mayo in the pan, either — just be sure to use a non-stick surface. Fry the grilled cheese sandwich on one side until it’s golden brown on the bottom, then simply flip and fry until the other side is golden-brown as well. Perfection!

So why mayo instead of butter? For starters, it’s creamy and much easier to spread evenly, which is especially helpful when your bread is soft or crumbly. Also, PureWow points out that mayonnaise has a higher smoke point than butter, which means that it won’t burn as easily. Good news for anyone who’s ever looked away from the pan for just a second and turned back to find their bread an unappetizing shade of black. Food Network “Sandwich King” Jeff Mauro distills what mayo brings to a grilled cheese like this:

“It’s eggs and oil. So the eggs give it some body, nice color to it, and the oil makes it pleasantly, y’know, greasy.”

One warning, though — this heavenly mayo hack won’t give you the greasy goodness you crave unless you’re using the full-fat version of the condiment. While there’s no shame in having a jar of light mayo in the fridge, the fact remains that its number one ingredient is water, which will make your grilled cheese sandwich kind of soggy. It also won’t brown up so nicely. So for all your cheese-grilling purposes, only regular mayonnaise will do.

You can, however, use flavored full-fat mayonnaise with great success. According to The Takeout, mayo varieties such as sriracha, chipotle, and aioli can make your simple homemade sammie taste like it came from a gourmet food truck. As a bonus, you get all that extra taste without running the risk of any goopiness from added condiments. You can even try making your own flavored mayos with herbs and spices of your choice to complement your cheese selections.

As to how a mayo-fried grilled cheese sandwich will taste — The Kitchn’s Dana Velden described the one she made as having, quote, “a delicious crust [that] offered a rich, slightly tangy flavor,” and claimed that it would be her go-to grilled cheese technique from now on.

But what if you absolutely can’t do without some butter in your sandwich? Perhaps you share the belief of some of the great chefs that butter makes everything better.

Fear not, butter fans, it turns out that compromise is possible. Southern Kitchen suggests you can still use the mayo-frying hack, and also add just a little dab of butter to the pan before you slide that sandwich in. Once it has browned on one side, add more butter as you flip. While the addition of butter will, once again, raise that smoke point — and, with it, the danger of a blackened sandwich — if you’re willing to keep a close eye on your cooking, you can have the crispy mayo crust plus that little bit of added buttery goodness.

Really, any grilled cheese sandwich recipe will be improved by this mayo hack, no matter what’s inside. What are you waiting for?