The most distinctive difference between a melt sandwich and other types of sandwiches is that a melt includes cheese that has been melted by means of grilling, toasting, or baking. There are many different types of melts, using different types of breads and fillings. Some of the most popular melts include tuna melts, patty melts, and the simple grilled cheese sandwich. A grilled panino is another popular type of melt sandwich.
Grilled cheese sandwiches can be made with most any type of bread or cheese. This type of melt sandwich sometimes includes spreads such as mustard or mayonnaise. In most cases, the sandwich is grilled in an iron skillet, along with melted butter or margarine. Variations on the basic grilled cheese include toasting the sandwich in an oven or serving it open faced, with lettuce and tomatoes as a topping. Grilled cheese sandwiches are usually considered one of the most popular sandwiches in the world.
A patty melt is a type of melt sandwich made using a pre-fried beef patty and cheddar or American cheese. Sometimes, patty melts include sautéed onions or mayonnaise. This sandwich is usually cooked in much the same way as the grilled cheese — pan fried in either butter or margarine. Patty melts can be made using most any type of bread, but are most often made with thick pieces of white or French bread. The beef patty typically consists of ground beef cuts such as round, chuck, or sirloin.
Tuna melts are usually made from a tuna and mayonnaise mixture combined with most any type of cheese. These melts are usually grilled in butter or margarine, or oven baked with the butter brushed onto the bread prior to baking. Tuna melts are sometimes topped with vegetables such as lettuce and tomato, either before or after cooking. This type of melt sandwich is very moist, so dense breads such as hoagie buns are often used. If thin cuts of bread are used, the sandwich may drip or break apart.
A grilled panino is a type of Italian melt sandwich consisting of thick bread, cheese, and most any type of meat filling. What makes a panino different from many other melts is that this sandwich is almost always grilled using some type of sandwich press or sandwich grill. These devices are similar to waffle irons, in that it cooks the sandwich from both sides at once. This process is used to create a bread coating that is much crunchier than that of a typical melt sandwich.