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Illustration by Maya Chastain

There’s nothing quite like a grilled cheese sandwich to simultaneously satisfy your lunchtime hunger pangs and make you feel like a kid again. But this classic isn’t just for youngsters! There are ways to elevate it, to make your grilled cheese sandwich truly amazing. It’s all in the ingredients.

Cheese lover Adrienne Cheatham—who also just happens to be a chef at the Institute of Culinary Education—was more than ready for the challenge of ranking the best cheeses for melting in a sandwich.

“Grilled cheese, to me, is one of the most perfect foods ever created and is truly a gift to mankind,” she says. “Whoever was the first person to make a cheese sandwich, slather it with butter, and toast it until the bread is GBD (golden brown and delicious) and the cheese melts into a pull-able mass should be canonized as the patron saint of all things awesome.”

While Cheatham is always up for a debate about the best type of bread and spread to use in the perfect grilled cheese sandwich, the cheese is obviously the foundation…so let’s start there. Below, she ranks her favorite cheeses for melting from “good enough to use” to best, based on both flavor and melt-ability.

Manchego is one of Cheatham’s all-time favorite cheeses for snacking, but she doesn’t necessarily recommend it for grilled cheese or other dishes that require melting. Why? Well, it’s because the elements that make Manchego so delicious at room temperature—namely, its flavor, texture, and funkiness—are often most pronounced in more aged versions. According to Cheatham, aged cheeses don’t melt especially well…but if you’re Manchego-obsessed, you can probably still make yourself a pretty good sandwich out of it.

Although Muenster melts well, Cheatham says that it tends to lose a lot of its flavor in the melting process. The texture is so great, though, that she’ll often include it on a hot sandwich with other ingredients. It’s just not ideal for a basic grilled cheese.

Raclette melts well, has a slightly more pronounced flavor, and still has a subtle, creamy quality for anyone who doesn’t love a funky taste. Cheatham also highly recommends raclette for grilled sandwiches with other ingredients.

Cheatham calls Provolone a “largely underrated cheese for grilled cheese.” She suggests stacking a few slices on your sandwich for some serious cheesy stretching after melting. It has a mild flavor, but is still on the nutty side and pairs particularly well with butter.

Monterey Jack lends itself especially well to grilled cheese because of the way it melts. Also, if you like a little extra flavor in your sandwich, you can opt for the pepper Jack variety for some heat.

“Melts like a champ!” Cheatham says. If that endorsement isn’t enough, she also recommends pairing it with acidic ingredients like tomato or cornichon on your sandwich… although it’s pretty delicious on its own, too.

Gruyere is a go-to ingredient in many melted-cheese dishes (like macaroni and cheese) for a reason! It melts well and has amazing flavor after grilling. Expert tip: when making your grilled cheese sandwich with Gruyere, start with your pan on a low temperature to ensure that you don’t burn the bread before the cheese melts.

If you love the way Gruyere melts but want to try something with a little extra flavor, you may want to give Comté a shot.

Cheatham calls Taleggio a “true grilled cheese star.” There’s a wide range of Taleggio varieties out there, so you can find something with just the right amount of funk for your palette. Keep in mind that the flavor becomes more subtle when melted, “leaving you with a beautiful melt and enough flavor to stand up to the bread, but not too much to drown it out,” Cheatham says.

There’s nothing especially refined about American cheese, but you grew up eating it on your sandwich for good reason. It melts easily and tastes creamy and even now, one bite of that simple grilled cheese sandwich will take you right back to your childhood.

“Winner winner, chicken dinner!” Cheatham says. “While I love sharp cheddar, it doesn’t melt as well as mild cheddar, becoming oily and chewy instead of gooey. Mild cheddar brings the perfect melt and perfect flavor that you can let shine on its own.”