Grilled ham and cheese the way momma made it! If you must know, the secret ingredient here is… love. Although admittedly it wouldn’t be the same without the tomato and mayo.
This recipe definitely focuses more on technique than it does on specific ingredients. And by technique I don’t just mean knowing how to cook with cast iron, I’m talking about how to make a seriously tasty grilled ham and cheese sandwich in general.
And I know what you must be thinking, that this sounds a bit silly. I mean it is just a ham and cheese after all… But is it really?
Let’s just start with the griddle basics; there are three secrets to making a great tasting grilled sandwich of any kind at home, and especially in this case the ham and cheese.
Secret number one: Your cast iron skillet should be well seasoned. And by well seasoned I mean if you can bake cheesy potatoes at 450 degrees for about an hour and nothing sticks, not even those golden crispy brown edges… then you have the right skillet.
The second secret is knowing how to monitor your temperature. If it’s smoking it’s too hot. It’s just that simple. If it’s smoking your oil is is evaporating, which means your butter will burn, your bread will burn, your meat will burn, your rendered fat will create a sticky, gooey mess that clings to the bottom of the skillet… and then burn. So keep a constant eye on your temperature and pay attention to signs. Cast iron cooking is an art of love, which takes patience and time. And that very well may mean a medium to medium-low temperature at times. Surprise, I know!
On the subject of cast iron cooking temperatures, you should always heat your skillet incrementally. Like an open campfire or a bed of coals, it’s easier to increase temperature than it is to lower it once it’s hot. The same applies to your cast iron skillet. Once it’s too hot it’s very difficult to drop the temperature in time before your food starts to burn. So take your time, and increase your temperatures when needed incrementally.
Oh and as far as oil is concerned there are several great cooking oils on the market that are great for cast iron because the smoke point is high. I use Canola oil because the smoke point is 500 degrees Fahrenheit. And it’s cheap. Avocado oil is awesome, 500 degree smoke point as well, but pricy. If your oil is 500 degree smoke point and your skillet is smoking, well, now you know why I say your temperature is too high.
Okay but enough about temperature the third and final secret is the order in which to add the ingredients. If you can use rendered fat (grease from meat) to your advantage with additional ingredients, then the order in which you add ingredients to your skillet plays a large roll in the end result of your dish’s flavor. For example; here we want to cook our ham first, then the bread. That way our bread toasts in all of the juices that get cooked off from the ham. The difference is a very tasty flavorful grilled sandwich, vs. just toasted bread on the outside.
Before you get into the ingredients I just want to say that I personally recommend Boar’s Head Deluxe Ham here, and you really should not skip the tomato and mayo. People from around here (Lincolnton, NC aka L-town) eat mayo-mater sammiches on the regular so if you cut the mayo and tomato out they might look at you funny. Besides, we’d have to change the name to something else like… I don’t know, just a ham and cheese sandwich.
- 4oz Boar’s Head Deluxe Ham
- 2oz Mayonnaise
- 1 Tomato Slice
- 1-2 Slices Cheese Of Choice
- 2 Slices Bread (I used Pepperidge Farm Hearty White)
- 1 Tablespoon Oil
- 1-2 Tablespoons Butter
- Freshly Ground Salt & Pepper.
- Heat 12″-14″ cast iron skillet to medium-low heat then add in oil and butter to sizzle.
- Add ham to skill and season with salt and pepper. Flip every minute or so until lightly browned on the outside. Do not fold, cut, shred, or separate slices of ham.
- Add cheese of choice. I used Cheddar but I have found that anything melty works great here! Remove from skillet once cheese starts to melt and set aside on paper towel to drain.
- Add mayo and tomato to bottom slice of bread, and add bottom slice of bread to skillet. Move around to soak up rendered juices from the ham and butter.
- Transfer ham and cheese to the bottom slice of bread with mayo and tomato. Top with top slice of bread and season with salt and pepper.
- Peek under bottom slice of bread every minute to make sure it is grilled to liking. Once you’re happy with how toasty it is, flip and do the same for the top of your sandwich. You may want to introduce a small sliver of butter for the top slice of bread, that’s up to you.
- Cut in half or quarter and enjoy!