Grilled cheese sandwhiches are delicious any time of day, week, or year, but they are especially delicious after a long day of hiking, rafting, or any other activity that leaves you feeling tired and accomplished. The warm, gooey cheese melting in your mouth, the crispy bread holding it all together; it's the perfect camping food, leaving you feeling satisfied and relaxed, and, perhaps most importantly, it's easy to prepare!
In honor of National Grilled Cheese Month, here are some tips to making grilled cheese while enjoying the great outdoors!
First things first - what type of cheese do you use? Well, to decide that, you'll likely want to know which cheeses will stand up better to your outdoor adventure than others. Backpacker Magazine took this task to their test kitchen, and came up with a list of the most trail-worthy cheeses. Here's what they found:
According to Backpacker, the low moisture content in aged hard cheeses helps extend shelf-life. In their lab, hard cheese stayed edible for more than two weeks when stored in the low 80s F. Wow! If you're going the "camp lite" route, I would still keep your cheese refrigerated! Another benefit to hard cheeses is that they typically have more flavor. Bring along bricks of cheese instead of sliced or shredded, as this should help the cheese keep for longer. They suggest storing the cheese in wax paper, and then loose plastic-wrap.
Top picks: Cheddar, Mozzarella, Parmesan
While moisture makes these cheeses mold more quickly, Backpacker's samples stayed fresh for a week at temperatures below 72 degrees F. At higher temps, the cheese went bad in as little as two days. Either way, as stated above, if you can, keep the cheese refrigerated in a cooler. Once you open the cheese, keep it in an airtight container.
Top picks: Brie, Cream Cheese, Goat Cheese
One of the most fun parts of cooking a grilled cheese is that you can use so many different varieties of cheese, toppings, breads, and spreads to change up the flavors and keep things interesting. Bring along any kind of cheese you want, but keep in mind their melt-worthiness; some cheese take longer to melt, which could lead to a burnt sandwich!
Aside from the cheese, some other key ingredients to consider:
- Butter or mayonaise to help crisp up the bread
- Bread - the world is your oyster. Multigrain, sourdough, white, rye, pumpernickle... it's really up to you and your preferences!
- Veggies - I'm a big fan of avocao and tomatoes on my grilled cheese. You can sautee-up any kinds of veggies you'd like (peppers, onions, eggplant, fire-roast tomatoes, add some lettuce or arugula. So many options.
- Meat - The obvious one here is bacon. Lightly crisp up some bacon and throw it in there. Some other ideas? Prosciutto, ground beef or turkey, sliced ham... anything you'd like!
- Spreads - jams, jellies, sauces, mustards; they can all add a little something extra to your grilled cheese. Try strawberry jam and brie cheese one night, maybe add some tomato sauce or a bacon-jelly.
- Cheese - just to reiterate, you'll want some cheese! Just cheddar is fine, or bring along some other flavors to mix things up a bit.
Next is the prep and cooking method. This depends, of course, on the type of camping you're doing - if it's more of a "camp lite" set up, you'll likely have a cast iron skillet on hand.
- First, get the fire going. Once there are some hot coals in the pit, rake some of them to the outside of the fire, and create a little bed of hot coals. Put the cast-iron skillet right on top of the coals, and warm up the pan as you get all of your ingredients ready. If you have another cast-iron skillet that isn't being used, and a firepit grate, fold down the grate over the coals, and place the second skillet on the grate.
- Next, prepare the sandwiches. First, spread any sauces or jams on one side of each of the slices of bread. Place the cheese and any extra ingredients - meat, veggies, etc. - on one slice, and top with the second slice. Spread some butter or mayonaise on the top piece of bread that is facing up at you. Make sure you cover the entire slice, but don't over do it or it won't crisp up right.
- When the skillets are hot, place the sandwich, butter/mayo-side down, on the skillet thats on top of the coals. Brush the newly exposed piece of bread with more butter/mayo, and lay the second skillet, from the grate, on top of the sandwich. If you're only using one skillet, just skip the instructions involving the second skillet. Now wait...
- If you're using the double-skillet method, after 2-3 minutes, once you hear cheese oozing out the sides, remove the top skillet and take the sandwich off of the bottom skillet. Set aside on a cutting board, and let cool for a minute or two.
- If you're using the single-skilled method, after 2-3 minutes of cooking (or once the cheese on the bottom half begins to ooze), use a spatula to flip the sandwich. Let it cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the cheese starts to ooze down to the bottom slice of bread. Remove from the skillet and let rest a minute or two.
- Cut the sandwich in half (or don't!), and enjoy!
Recipe: Good Ol' Fashioned Grilled Cheese
- Butter or mayo
- 2 slices of white bread
- 1 slice white American cheese, 1 slice yellow American cheese
Follow the instuctions above for a tasty classic!
Recipe: Hearty Country Grilled Cheese
- Butter or mayo
- 2 slices of hearty country bread, white or wheat
- 2 slices Gouda, 2 slices Swiss or Gruyere
- Dash of Dijon mustard
Again, follow the instructions above and you'll have a delicious gooey sandwich ready in no time!