how to make cafe style toasted sandwiches without a sandwich press
[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]

toasted cheese sandwich toasted cheese sandwich

When I was in college studying food science, I lived on campus. This was excellent for my social life, but not so great in terms of food quality. While college food was a step up from boarding school, in at least there was some type of choice, the options were mostly depressing – standard institutional food.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that the best bet was to get myself a toasted sandwich press, or a ‘breville’ as we used to call it. There was always an abundance of bread in the dining hall and most things taste better toasted between two slices. So my friends and I would load up on bread and whatever food looked the least disgusting and take it back to our rooms for a little communal toasted sandwich session.

We even got creative from time to time, lashing out and cooking bacon and eggs from the local 7eleven. If there’s one thing I learned, it was how many different things you can cook on a sandwich press.

Needless to say I ate my fair share of ‘brevilles’, so when I moved out into a proper house with some friends, we were pretty keen to explore cooking anything BUT toasted sandwiches. So my trusty and well loved sandwich press was relegated to the back of a kitchen cupboard, eventually being discarded during one of my many moves.

These days, enough time has passed that I can get excited about the thought of a toasted sandwich. But as a minimalist, I can’t bring myself to buy an electric sandwich press. The truth is, you don’t really need a sandwich press to make a really top notch toasted sandwich at home.

All you need is a frying pan and something heavy to squash your sandwich down. Sure it takes a little longer to cook one side and then the other, but honestly, it’s only an extra couple of minutes.

So today I have the most humble of toasted sandwiches, the classic cheese. Enjoy.

the minimalist toasted sandwich video from jules clancy.

toasted cheese sandwich

[5 ingredients | 10 minutes]
minimalist toasted cheese sandwich

serves 1

The mustard and mayo are really optional. I love using them to spice up the cheese a little but you could easily go without.

And feel free to use butter to grease the bread instead of olive oil. Or if you like keeping things as low fat as possible, toast without any extra oil, It won’t get as golden but your sandwich won’t stick.

Today I used fontina, a wonderful stinky Italian cheese but you could use anything that is going to melt well. Cheddar is always good as is something like a guryere.

2 slices rustic bread
dijon mustard, optional
whole egg mayonnaise, optional
your favourite melting cheese, sliced

1. Generously spread mustard, if using over one slice of bread and slather mayonnaise, if using on the other slice.

2. Layer cheese over the mustard to cover. Pepper generously.

3. Sandwich the other slice of bread on top, mayonnaise side down.

4. Preheat a frying pan on medium high. Drizzle the top of the sandwich with olive oil and place in the pan, olive oil side down.

6. Cover with a layer of baking paper or foil and squash the sandwich down with the base of a saucepan or something else heavy and flat. Cook for a few minutes, or until golden on one side.

7. Drizzle the uncooked side with a little oil. Turn and cook the other side, pressing down as before, until both sides are golden and the cheese is melted and lovely.

toasted cheese sandwich



  • I always make toasties this way. Nice hightlight, Jules! When I worked in a British pub, it was the Tuna Melt that got everyone excited: canned tuna, cheese, and red onion. While I have a jaffle maker, the pan-fry method allows more filling without the spillage.

  • My absolute favorite comfort food, especially now that Autumn has arrived in the Norhtern Hemisphere. Current obession – a locally made maple-smoked gouda on sourdough bread, sometimes with a little bit of ham. Mmmmm. A far cry from the American “cheese” and white bread my mother used to make!

    I know what I’m making for lunch now….

  • marie
    loving the sound of your smoked gouda on sourdough…. perfect fare for the fall

    wei wei
    if you’ve got access to a full kitchen, no you don’t really need one – but they can be a lifesaver when you’re in college ;)

    I’m hearing you about the extra filling – I should have mentioned that as another bonus. love the sound of your tuna melt – I have a serious thing for canned tuna. If only I’d heard about that one in college.

    actually you’ve reminded me of a story. A friend of mine was working in a pub and got asked to look after the kitchen, even though cooking wasn’t her thing. she put a ‘tuna surprise’ on the menu – the surprise being that there wasn’t any tuna in the dish – don’t think the locals were too impressed…

  • The universal (over time and space) college treat! In Philadelphia forty years ago my version was fresh rye bread with caraway seeds on either side of Swiss slices; I still make this but add a peeled garlic clove to the iron skillet while the butter melts. With a green salad it’s a wonderful meal.

  • My trick for adding a little something to a grilled cheese sandwich is to sprinkle some onion powder and celery seed on one of the outer sides of the bread. And of course to use three or more cheeses… thinly sliced parmesan, mozzarella and some sharp cheddar are lovely.

  • My family loves toasted sandwiches. Our favorite is pumpernickel bread, mustard, muenster cheese, and caramelized onions. When the kids come home from college this is always the first thing they ask for. Good and easy to make food ideas are need to keep a busy family happy. Thanks for sharing (Palm Harbor, Florida, USA)

  • susan
    love the idea of adding a little clove of garlic to the melting butter – great

    you’re right – a mix of cheese can be a wonderful thing

    caramelised onions make everything taste better ;)

    thanks for sharing this video – i used to watch alton when I lived in california – he is crazy – but love his method – if only I had 2 cast iron pans – although – thinking my skillet and heavy based frying pan could work a treat – will try it out and report back.

  • You made me drool all over computer. I wish we were allowed to have a press at school, they almost banned hairdriers (kidding). I just found your blog through foodgawker and I am so happy to meat another lentil lover, unless lentil love is an australian thing in that case I am moving down under.

  • polwig –
    not allowed a sandwich press at school? wow that’s hardcore!
    glad you’re loving lentils – I’m pretty sure lentil love is a global phenomenon, but highly recommend the life in oz

    you’re right – anything toasted is a good thing

  • You can almost never go wrong with a toasted sandwich. Or a toasted anything for that matter. You give something that delicious blackened crunchy crust and it immediately is transformed into a yummy treat. This sandwich looks great ;)

  • Looks so good! I’ve never owned a press, nor thought I needed one. I do what you do, mostly. I think pressure will definitely improve on my sandwiches. I usually butter the bread or the skillet, but I’d like to try the oil drizzling now. Our favorite grilled cheese is a local farmhouse bread with this great local-ish cheddar.

    (Also, your blue scarf and blue eyes are adorable!)

  • I used to be in the army and we used to use a clothes iron. You put the sandwich down iron on top wait a bit. Turn it around do the other side. Nice

  • Had never thought of using mayonnaise. Sounds like a winner! I often add a slice of smoked ham with emmenthal cheese, a sort of Croque Monsieur and when I’m on my own just cheddar and hamburger relish!

  • you know something, jules?
    I think you’re really innovative, I like the part on use a pot to act as press! COOL!

    my folks won’t be home for most of Oct, so I need to ‘cook’ myself.
    well, I can get food from downstairs but it’s get boring after a while + I’m rather choosy, so the best is to get what I like to eat and prepare the way I like it.

    given my ‘skills’ in cooking, I need to get some ideas so I chance upon your site when I google ‘minimalist cooking’.
    I roughly heard about you as I’m following Leo (zenhabits) and a couple of other minimalist folks online.

    keep up the gr8 work!

  • Oh yes, the classic grilled cheese! I love mine made from really sharp English Cheddar, some very good fresh loaf of crusty bread and a piping bowl of Tomato soup. MmmmmMmmmm!

  • I’m a new reader; I also happen to be a first-year college student who’s spent most of the past two months whining about the horrible quality of the dining hall offerings. Your blog is a godsend! I love how everything here is so quick but so delicious-looking. I think I will try making a sandwich like this tomorrow!

  • @TOM – Toasted sandwiches and grilled sandwiches are two different animals. Maybe in your brain they are the same thing, in mine they are clearly not. Toasted means BAKED by radiating heat (oven, toaster, or toaster oven), GRILLED means cooked by direct heat contact either in a pan, a panini grill, or any other heated element that TOUCHES the bread. You can not make a ‘grilled cheese’ in a standard toaster. But you can make a toasted cheese sandwich. BIG difference.

  • made one, served with a bunch of tomatoes. thank you and it’s so easy to make! :)

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