We’re big fans of grilling, which is why we’ve explored cooking so many different things over live fire, from savory pizza and summer corn to juicy fruit and even sweet desserts. One arena that has been sadly neglected so far, though, is grilled cheese—and we don’t mean the classic ooey-gooey sandwich, but actual pieces of cheese cooked on the grill.
With the right method, you can cook pretty much any kind of cheese on the grill. Here are a few different ways to do it.
Straight on the Grate
Certain types of firm cheese like Greek halloumi and Indian paneer can withstand direct contact with a medium-hot grate, which means you can grill slabs or slices of them to serve on sandwiches, in tacos, or as a vegetarian main with a salsa or chutney topping, or skewer cubes of them, whether alone or with meat and veggies, for a cheesy kebab upgrade.
Other cheeses you can grill this way include kefalotyri (which you may know from salty saganaki), Brazilian grilling cheese (or queijo coalho, if you can find it), “bread cheese” (which is also sold as juustoleipa, or Finnish squeaky cheese in some parts), and Mexican panela. New in 2019, “Bonfire Cheese” is also making its way into stores across the U.S. These cheeses will all soften somewhat, but won’t lose their shape or melt away as their exterior crisps up. Just lightly oil your grate to prevent sticking.
In Tin Foil
Softer cheeses like brie and Camembert get deliciously gooey and a little smoky on the grill, but they need support to keep them from oozing right through the grate. Aluminum foil is a perfect vessel that makes cleanup effortless too. You can cook the cheese on its own in the foil pack, then add a relish or fruit chutney for an easy appetizer to scoop up with crackers or grilled toast, or you can add aromatics to the cheese before you grill, including herbs, spices, and even a little booze. Be sure to use heavy duty foil so it doesn’t tear.
On a Plank
Cedar planks aren’t just for salmon; they’re a great tool for grilling any type of cheese, from firm to soft. Just make sure the plank is big enough that a spreading slab of cheese won’t spill off the sides. Goat cheese, blue cheese, and feta should all mostly hold their shape even as they soften, and intact wheels of brie and Camembert have rinds that will help keep them together, but if you have, say, a big, cut wedge of brie or a honking hunk of young mozzarella, keep an eye on it and pull it off before it oozes into oblivion.
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Different types of wood will impart their own subtle flavors, but no matter what kind you choose, be sure the plank is specifically intended for food (i.e. untreated) and soak it in water (or even wine) for at least 20 to 30 minutes before putting it on the grill.
In a Skillet
There are several good reasons to cook in a cast iron skillet on a grill. When it comes to cheese, it lets you have completely molten goodness with a hint of smoke and a crisply caramelized bottom, for an epic dip. This is also how the Argentinian favorite, provoleta, is often made.
Bonus: Cold Smoked
We tend to associate grills with searing heat (for good reason), but they can also be used in a more delicate manner. For instance, a well-regulated, extremely cool grill is great for smoking your own cheddar and other cheeses. Allowing the smoked cheese to cure in the fridge for a week or two will intensify its flavor, and you can use it in everything from sandwiches to mac and cheese, or even grilled quesadillas for a double dose of smoky flavor.
Grilled Cheese Recipes
Next time you cook outside, try one of these actual grilled cheese recipes:
Slabs of grilled halloumi are great in plated salads (like this one with figs), on sandwiches or burgers, or simply paired with fruit as an appetizer or side dish (try it with peaches and basil-jalapeño sauce, or top grilled halloumi with fresh cherry salsa). It’s also a great addition to skewers of all sorts, like our salad-course-on-a-stick with red onions and tomatoes. And yes, the lettuce is grilled too. Get our Grilled Greek Salad recipe.
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You can also use Mexican panela cheese for these (it’s so mild it’s almost bland, but that just means you can get creative with your toppings). Set out an array of bright salsas and sliced avocado and you have a marvelous, meatless taco bar. Get the Grilled Halloumi Cheese Tacos recipe.
Cubes of paneer stand in for chicken in these fragrant tikka skewers (and while this particular recipe is written for the oven, you can definitely make it on a medium-hot grill too). If you like more of a project, you can even make your own paneer at home. Get the Paneer Tikka Masala recipe.
You don’t have to be camping to enjoy liqueur-infused, warm, oozing cheese, but it’s nice to know you can eat this well even in the wilderness. Still, break this out anytime you want a low-effort fondue over the flames, and don’t forget to toast some crusty bread for dipping. Get our Boozy Campfire Cheese recipe.
You can grill firmer cheeses on planks too (see: plank grilled bread cheese, made on maple wood), but plank-grilled brie is especially impressive, even more so when topped with jammy, smoky fruit and melting onions. Using cranberries makes this a perfect thing to grill for fall, but you can switch up the fruit with the seasons—from spring strawberries to summer stone fruit—in order to enjoy this all year. Get the Cedar Planked Brie with Smoked Onion Cranberry Chutney recipe.
Hot-smoking cheese on your grill is another option, and while you have to babysit this a little bit, it’s definitely worth it. Unwrapping the cheesecloth is like opening a smoky little gift of warm, bronzed cheese, which you can enjoy right away while soft and gooey, or allow to cool and slice for salads, pizza, or sandwiches. Get our Smoked Mozzarella recipe.
A huge puddle of melted cheese plus chorizo, jalapeño, and beer makes for a fantastic dip for tailgating, or any other occasion (you know, like Tuesday night), and grilling it in a skillet is a nifty trick that adds a whiff of smoke. If you’re grilling in the morning, our Breakfast Queso Fundido includes scrambled eggs (and includes directions for doing it on the grill), but it’s missing the beer. Get the Chorizo Queso Fundido recipe.
Everything Else You Need to Know
Header image courtesy of Elena Shashkina/Shutterstock.