Making grilled cheese sandwiches can be a great way to use up leftover vegetables or meats. But what about when you have leftover grilled cheese sandwiches? What can you do with them?

That was my question the other night after I came home to a slow cooker that had been unplugged and four hungry teens (two of my own, two who might as well be my own). Dinner was ruined and there was little in the house. My freezer is broken and all my frozen meats and leftovers are at a friend’s house. I had two choices: break down and spend a small fortune on pizza or figure out what I could scrounge.

I made a plate piled high with grilled cheese sandwiches filled with the various cheeses I could find in the fridge. While the sandwiches were grilling I peeled a bunch of carrots and cut them up to add some veggies to the meal. When the boys were done eating, there were 2 1/2 sandwiches left and I wanted to see if I could save them. 

I decided to do two things. First, after they had sat in the refrigerator overnight, I tried to reheat them three different ways: grilling them in a pan again, baking them in the toaster oven, and toasting them in the toaster oven. I also asked my Facebook friends for ideas on how they can be made into something else. Here are the results of my efforts.

Reheating a grilled cheese sandwich

I didn’t even attempt to microwave the sandwiches. No one wants a hot, soggy grilled cheese. I was pleased to find that all three of the methods I tried worked well enough that I would have no problem serving the leftover grilled cheese to my kids (or showing them how to reheat it themselves). I did think one of the methods worked better than the others.

  1. Re-grilling in a pan: I let the pan get nice and hot at medium-high and put a little butter in the bottom. I put the grilled cheese in the pan, and placed a lid on to help keep the heat in to melt the cheese. The lid was placed on crooked so steam wouldn't build up. After about two and a half minutes, I flipped the grilled cheese and let it cook another two and half minutes. The result was great. The bread was crisp again and the cheese inside was melted. This was the best method, in my opinion. It tasted the most like a freshly made grilled cheese and the bread was crisp, but not dried out.
  2. Toasting in a toaster oven: I used my convection toaster oven, and I set it to toast two slices of bread at level four. I put the grilled cheese directly on the rack. Halfway through the toasting time, I flipped the sandwich. The result was a sandwich that had melted cheese inside and crisp bread, but the bread was a little dried out.
  3. Baking in a toaster oven: Using the same toaster oven, I set it to bake at 350°F. Without preheating the toaster oven (it heats very quickly because of its small size), I put the sandwich directly on the rack for 10 minutes, flipping it halfway through. The end result was a grilled cheese that was crisp on the outside, but more dried-out than the toasted version. Also the cheese wasn’t fully melted through.
Although I think the pan-grilled method of reheating the grilled cheese resulted in the best quality, I’ll probably suggest to my boys that they use the toaster oven method. Here’s why: I am always encouraging them to eat leftovers for after-school snacks instead of making something new. Since they're teenage boys, an after-school snack often looks like a meal.

They’re busy kids, and they are not going to take the time to do heat up leftovers if it takes more for than five minutes or has too many steps to go from fridge to mouth. They will be more likely to pop a leftover grilled cheese in the toaster than they will to heat up a pan, put butter in it, use a lid to help melt the cheese, and take the other necessary steps. The toasted method also means they won't have a pan to clean up. 

Turning leftover grilled cheese into something new

I usually get many suggestions when I ask my Facebook friends about getting creative with leftovers, but I only had a few this time. One friend commented, “This is why God made dogs.” Here are a few ideas for getting creative with leftover grilled cheese.

  • Make them into salad croutons.
  • Cube them up and put them into tomato soup.
  • Chop into pieces in your pan. Pour in scrambled egg mixture plus leftover chopped meat and/or veggies. Scramble. Plate and put some chopped tomatoes and basil on top.
Do you have any additional suggestions for turning the leftovers from grilled cheese into something new?

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.