Need to know
- Whether grated or sliced, our experts agree – be generous with the cheese. And use at least two varieties
- Finely chopped raw onion, shallots or chives are our secret ingredients
- Use day-old bread for crispier results – Wonder Wholegrain White Smooth Bread came out top in our tests
It's a comforting classic loved far and wide, but what makes the perfect melty cheese sambo? Is it really a crime to include a slice of tomato? And is the mi goreng noodle-cheese toastie really a thing?
We grilled two CHOICE experts on everything from which bread to use, how many cheeses you need and their insider hacks to take your toasties to oozy new heights.
CHOICE expert taste-test panellist and fromage aficionado, Penny Lawson of Penny's Cheese Shop (home of arguably Sydney's best cheese toasties), pumps out her famous sandwiches every day and usually sells out before lunchtime. So she knows a thing or two about toastie perfection.
When it comes to bread, Penny uses day-old sourdough: "I think it makes a better toastie, as slightly less moisture in the bread creates a crispier crust." She also believes the flavour of sourdough bread improves after a day.
CHOICE kitchen guru, Fiona Mair, recommends using a thick-cut bread (any type you like will do). If you're a fan of white bread, we've tested Australia's best supermarket sliced breads to see which one rates the best for both nutrition and taste.
The cheese, ham and jalapeno toastie from Penny's Cheese Shop in Sydney's Potts Point.
Fiona says: "If you're making a plain cheese toastie, choose a sharp, stronger-tasting cheese like cheddar or a great melting cheese like swiss, gouda or gruyere. My perfect combo is cheddar and swiss."
Penny also recommends using good-quality cheese and combining a cheddar with a melty cheese such as gruyere, mozzarella or alpine cheese.
"To up the delicious factor you might also want to add a nice stinky cheese," she says.
Both experts give the top tip of grating your cheese onto the bread so it melts more quickly and evenly. If you like the convenience of pre-grated cheese, find out which is the best shredded cheese in our review.
Fiona recommends you use at least half a cup of shredded cheese.
CHOICE tip: If you're using strongly flavoured meat or char-grilled vegetables, consider pairing it with mozzarella, which has a milder flavour than stronger cheeses such as cheddar or swiss.
Our experts part ways when it comes to whether or not you need butter. Somewhat controversially, Penny doesn't use butter at all. "Mine are more like a triple decker in the order of cheese, bread, cheese, bread, cheese," she says.
But, hold up – did someone just say parmesan-crusted?
Fiona's hot toastie tip is: "Sandwich the bread together and spread the outer sides of bread liberally with butter. For extra flavour, grate some parmesan onto a plate and press the outer buttered bread onto the grated parmesan. When you cook it, it will give you a nice golden parmesan crust."
If you're on Team Butter (yum!), check out our butter taste-test and reviews to find out which one you need to attain toastie perfection.
Want some noodles with that? Dutch Smuggler's mi goreng cheese toastie takes fillings to the next level.
Cooking, condiments and fillings
Fiona says: "Add a sprinkling of pepper or cayenne pepper for a bit of spice. I like to add finely chopped chives, green onions or mayonnaise for added flavour. Cook your toastie in a large skillet or frypan over medium heat. You can also cook in the oven on a flat tray or in a sandwich press."
Penny cooks hers under the grill and says: "I personally like raw finely chopped onion, added after the cheese has melted. Or fresh chives. My customers would argue very strongly for the inclusion of jalapeño and salami. I am an absolute 'hard no' on fresh tomato in the sandwich though (but I'm OK if it's served on the side)."
I am an absolute 'hard no' on fresh tomato in the sandwichPenny Lawson of Penny's Cheese Shop
But it's your toastie, after all, so you can get as weird and wonderful with your fillings as you like.
Be inspired by Sydney cafe, Dutch Smuggler, famous for its carb-on-carb mi goreng toastie (a seriously good mix of noodles stuffed in bread, mixed with spicy mayo, a fried egg and cheddar cheese).
Melt Brothers Grilled Cheese Co in Brisbane also comes to the party with a US-style mac and cheese jaffle complete with maple bacon, smoky barbecue sauce and aged cheddar (as an aside, they also give you the option of adding potato gems to your cheese toastie, which we can definitely get on board with).
Want to share your favourite cheese toastie fillings with the world? Leave a comment below.