There is quite literally no food on Planet Earth more sacred, more delicious, and more iconic than the great grilled cheese sandwich. So how do you make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich? According to Reactions, a YouTube series from the American Chemical Society which explains the chemistry of our every day lives, there actually is a precise science for the perfect grilled cheese. I don't know about you, but this kind of science I can get behind.
We all know the perfect grilled cheese is determined by one major factor, which is the gooeyness of the cheese itself. Of course, the gooier, the better, so the perfect grilled cheese requires an understanding of how cheese gets gooey in the first place. According to Reactions, the whole process starts by adding bacteria to milk in order to make it coagulate, transforming the milk (a liquid) into cheese curd (a solid). As this process occurs, the pH of the milk/cheese substance drops. Remember that, because pH is important!
Milk contains a protein called casein, explains the video, which floats around and is bound together by little calcium molecules. When the pH drops, the calcium decides stop holding the casein together, creating the coveted gooeyness we all desire so intensely from our grilled cheeses. But if the pH drops too low, the cheese releases all the oils and moisture and leaves a dry, curdle-y mess.
Here, take a look for yourself:
Cheeses with a pH range between 5.3 and 5.5 are the perfect candidates for grilled cheese. So what cheeses fall within that golden range? These five options make for the best sandwiches, according to science:
Manchego is Spanish cheese. Made from sheep's milk, it has a creamy taste and buttery texture. Yum.
This hard, yellow cheese from Switzerland develops new flavors as it ages and never disappoints in a melty sandwich.
As one of the most popular cheeses in the world, it makes a lot of sense that people would want to melt gouda into their sandwiches. Because of its pH, they can!
With a pH range between 5.2 and 5.5, Swiss cheese is often a good option for a melty grilled cheese, although won't necessarily be as perfect as the first three.
Though we all love a good cheddar, it's important to note that the pH of cheddar can range widely, from 4.9 to 5.5. Since the melty-ness depends on the pH, make sure to get a mild cheddar for a better grilled cheese, since it's more likely to fit in the golden pH range than sharper cheddars will.
Basically, you're welcome, everyone.