Gossip Grill – It’s National Cheese Day!

Welcome back to our latest installment of Gossip Grill – your source for all things grilling!  If you’re reading this on June 4, you might already be aware of the gossip – it’s National Cheese Day!  If you’re anything like us, you probably incorporate cheese into at least one meal every day.  It’s easy to just throw some cheese on a sandwich or pour a mound of parm onto pasta.  While we are happy to celebrate the glory of cheese, this is a grilling blog, so we need to keep it relevant!  That’s why today’s discussion is all about cheese on the grill – and we’re not talking grilled cheese sandwiches.  Let’s dig in!

What Do We Mean by “Grilling Cheese” (As Opposed to Eating Grilled Cheese)?

When we think grilled cheese, we immediately think of the lightly toasted sandwich that’s made on the stovetop and served along with tomato soup.  While that is one of our favorite comfort meals, grilled cheese is NOT the same as grilling cheese!  Grilling cheese refers to cooking a type of cheese that can withstand high heat without melting into a gooey mess. Instead, it develops a crispy, golden-brown exterior while maintaining a firm, slightly softened interior. When grilling cheese, it’s often sliced thickly to prevent it from falling apart.  Here are some popular types of grilling cheese:

  • Halloumi: Originating from Cyprus, halloumi is a semi-hard cheese made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk, and sometimes cow’s milk. It’s known for its high melting point, which makes it ideal for grilling or frying. Halloumi has a firm texture and a salty flavor.
  • Paneer: Common in Indian cuisine, paneer is a fresh cheese made from cow’s or buffalo’s milk. It doesn’t melt when heated, making it perfect for grilling or frying. Paneer has a mild flavor and a firm, crumbly texture.
  • Queso Panela: This Mexican cheese, also known as “panela,” is a fresh, white cheese made from cow’s milk. It has a smooth, firm texture that holds up well on the grill.
  • Queso de Freír: Popular in the Caribbean and Latin America, this cheese is made from cow’s milk and is designed specifically for frying. It doesn’t melt easily and becomes golden and crispy when cooked.
  • Provolone (Specifically Provolone Valpadana): Provolone, particularly the non-aged version, can be grilled. When cooked, it becomes soft and stretchy without melting completely.
  • Raclette: Traditionally used in Swiss cuisine, raclette cheese is melted and scraped off onto dishes. When grilled, it becomes gooey but maintains its shape long enough to be served over food.
  • Kefalotyri: A hard, salty Greek cheese made from sheep’s or goat’s milk. It is often grilled or fried to make a dish called saganaki.

How to Cook Cheese on the Grill

  1. Prepare the Cheese:
    • Slice the cheese into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thick slices. This thickness helps the cheese hold together and develop a nice crust without melting too quickly.
    • Pat the cheese slices dry with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture. This helps achieve a better sear.
  2. Optional: Marinate or Season:
    • For added flavor, you can marinate the cheese slices in olive oil, herbs (like thyme, rosemary, or oregano), and spices (like paprika or chili flakes) for 15-30 minutes.
    • If you prefer, simply brush the cheese slices with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Preheat the Grill or Grill Pan:
    • Preheat your grill over medium-high heat until it’s hot. A properly preheated surface ensures the cheese will sear nicely.
  4. Grill the Cheese:
    • Place the cheese slices on the preheated grill or grill pan. Leave some space between each piece to ensure even cooking.
    • Grill the cheese for about 2-3 minutes on each side. Look for a golden-brown crust forming before flipping. Use tongs or a spatula to turn the cheese carefully.
    • Depending on the type of cheese, it should be nicely browned on the outside and slightly softened on the inside without melting completely.
  5. Serve:
    • Remove the grilled cheese from the grill and let it rest for a minute or two. This helps the cheese firm up slightly before serving.
    • Serve the grilled cheese slices as a standalone appetizer, in salads, on sandwiches, or as part of a main dish. You can drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with fresh herbs, or add a squeeze of lemon juice for extra flavor.
  6. Tips:
    • Temperature Control: Keep an eye on the grill temperature. If it’s too hot, the cheese may burn on the outside before warming through.
    • Avoid Overcrowding: Don’t overcrowd the grill or pan. This ensures even heat distribution and better searing.
    • Experiment with Flavors: Try different marinades and seasonings to find your favorite flavor combinations.

How Do You Serve & Eat Grilled Cheese?

1. As an Appetizer:

  • Plain with a Drizzle: Serve grilled cheese slices with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of fresh herbs like parsley, thyme, or mint. Add a squeeze of lemon juice for extra zest.
  • Dips and Spreads: Pair grilled cheese slices with a variety of dips such as hummus, tzatziki, or a spicy salsa.

2. In Salads:

  • Mediterranean Salad: Add grilled halloumi or paneer to a salad of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and red onions. Dress with a lemon vinaigrette or balsamic dressing.
  • Grilled Vegetable Salad: Combine grilled cheese with grilled vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, and eggplant. Toss with fresh basil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.

3. As a Main Course:

  • Grilled Cheese Skewers: Thread grilled cheese cubes onto skewers with vegetables like cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions. Serve with a dipping sauce.
  • Tacos or Pita: Use grilled cheese as a filling for tacos or pita bread, combined with toppings like lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and a tangy sauce.

Now Go Celebrate!

We’ve given you all the best gossip on grilling cheese, so get out there and make something spectacular!  Here are some unique recipe ideas to get you started.

P.S. – Another little piece of gossip to share…we’ve heard that Trader Joe’s has halloumi cheese in stores right now (it’s a seasonal item and it is often expensive at cheese specialty stores)!

What kind of cheese are you going to throw on the grill?  Let us in on what you plan on making!


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