Your curiosity got the better of you today. Here you are wondering if it’s really possible, or worth it to smoke a sandwich. Read along and find out for yourself. This Smoked Grilled Ham and Cheese sandwich is a gateway to a new portfolio of indulgence. Smoky, crispy, savory, it’s just pure simple magic.
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Grilled Cheese Everyday
Childhood kicks off the love for grilled cheese with a few slices of white bread and Kraft singles.
We still buy that cheese every so often, you can’t beat that melt.
Adulthood is no different. I’ll go to a bar or restaurant and see a fancy grilled cheese with brie, apples, smoked bacon, pork belly… I’ll probably order it. Give me that crusty loaf of bread. The chef likely has picked the perfect combination of cheeses specifically to pair with the fruit jams or cured meats. Grill it with mayo or copious amounts of butter and bring it over, I’m ready.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to write up a novel to explain how to make a smoked grilled ham and cheese sandwich. We’re going to focus on technique more than anything. You’re free to combine any delicious ingredients you find, and I’ll show you how to succeed.
Smoked… Grilled Cheese?
Yes, it’s actually smoked, and grilled. Simply put, we’re going to take a super hot cast iron that’s been preheated in your smoker and cook the grilled cheese. The cold butter, ham, and cheese will pull in just enough smoke flavors without overwhelming the sandwich. You’ll have an ultimate smoked grilled ham and cheese within minutes, and you’ll be pissed off that you didn’t make more.
Keeping it Classic: Ham and Cheese
Your head might be swarming with all sorts of ideas. This article is more about the technique of it all, so I wanted to keep the recipe pretty pure and straightforward with smoked grilled ham and cheese.
Let’s talk about the choice of ingredients before we discuss the process.
Smoked Ham Slices
This is a given, we need to use some delicious smoked ham. Choose your weapon on thickness or smoke flavor. I recommend a fresh ham that still has the outside bark, such as the one above, rather than the processed ham that looks like it slid out of a giant can of Spam. Trust me, you’ll have way more flavor.
True, I sure love to spend time smoking hams, but that’s not on our regular rotating menu. Grabbing a pack of the Smithfield® Anytime Favorites™ Quarter Ham is a close second. You can see in the photos that these are thick slices. We love using these for breakfast skillets too, giving us a lot of options in the house.
Choosing the right combinations of cheeses is much more difficult, and important, than any other decision you’ll make today. You should definitely use smoked gouda, this is a non-negotiable. Obviously, it’s smoked, so there’s that. It also has a great melt factor, very important for grilled cheese sandwiches.
You need a flavor profile to pair with smoked gouda. I’m choosing medium cheddar. Don’t roll your eyes at me because I didn’t go sharp, or extra sharp. Did you know that sharper cheddars don’t melt as well as milder cheddars? It’s a thing! (Insert a mind-blown animation). Choose sharper cheese if you want that profile, but make sure that you shred it first to ensure that it has a better chance of melting.
Do you want even more melt? Add a third cheese like Monterrey jack, provolone, or pepper jack.
Crispier crust? Try sprinkling on some fresh-grated parmesan on the outside of the bread right after you butter it. You’ll absolutely need to use fresh-grated, the green tube is no bueno here.
Other Layers of Flavor
You might’ve noticed there are a few cloves of garlic in the photo above. Those ended up being grated into the pile of cheese, adding that savory, garlic flavor that just takes the sandwich up a level. I’d also recommend flavorful spread like Dijon mustard, or hot sauces on the inside of the bread. We gotta talk about the bread.
In Crust we Trust
Keep the classic white bread in your pantry, we need to upgrade for this recipe.
My recommendation is to pick u, an artisan loaf of sourdough. Tangy flavors pair well with salty cheeses and ham. The most important factor is the crust and strength of the bread. We’ll need to have bread that can withstand the heat and temperatures of the grill because it’s going to be cooking for longer than your typical stovetop grilled cheese.
Artisan bread also has the best crust. Load it up with softened butter, try compound butter if you’d like, and build that sandwich. Be very generous with the butter, and we’re trying to make the crispiest crust without burning the sandwich.
Do you cook grilled cheese with mayo on the outside? That will work here as well, but make sure you’re pretty generous. The fat will help cook and protect the bread from burning.
Time to Smoke and Grill
Heat up your smoker or grill to about 350-375°F. It doesn’t have to be set up for indirect grilling, we are not going to be smoking the sandwich low and slow. You can use a kettle grill, pellet grill, or a live-fire oven like the one I’m using here.
Use wood chips for the best smoke flavor. Apple or cherry wood pairs very well with ham and the cheeses. We won’t be cooking very long, so there’s no need to use a lot of fuel.
Preheat a cast-iron skillet, preferably 10-12″ if you’re going to be making 2 sandwiches at a time. Once your grill is heating up, toss the skillet inside while you assemble the sandwich. It’ll be warm enough when you’re ready to add them in.
Buttered bread is all you’ll need, so there’s nothing else to add into the skillet before you are ready to go. Build the sandwich with the buttered sides of the bread facing out and add it into the skillet when you’re ready.
This is one of those moments where a sandwich press or burger press comes in handy. You can also use another cast iron pan, but it will benefit the sandwich if you can press it down with some weight.
I’m using a larger, heavier Finex 8″ Flat Press to do the job. It’s big enough to weigh down 2 sandwiches and also made of cast iron, so it’s meant for grills and smokers.
You’ll need to stand by and watch closely because the magic happens fast. Check your sandwich after 3 minutes and make sure you have a nice crust building up. Flip them carefully and put the press down on the other side, giving it another couple of minutes. Timing is going to depend on a lot of factors, so this guide isn’t going to be exact. Use your intuition and don’t let the sandwich burn.
What’s your favorite combination?
Comment below if you’re trying out this method and let me know what you think. Here is the link to try the Smithfield® Anytime Favorites™ yourself. The smoked grilled ham and cheese is my favorite combination, simple and pleases the family. What are other combinations you’re using?Print