An Egg-in-a-Hole Grilled Cheese (or Bird in a Nest as we call it in the Pacific NW) is a deliciously messy twist on a classic breakfast sandwich. Easy to make and fun to eat!
One of my favorite childhood breakfasts was an egg cooked in the middle of a piece of pan-toasted bread. In the Pacific NW, we call that combo a Toad-in-a-Hole. (I later learned that a toad-in-a-hole is also an English breakfast dish involving batter and sausages, but that's another recipe for another day.)
As a young mom, I made an army of toads-in-a-hole: they are fast and easy to make, and kids love them because they are unique and fun to eat.
I did a little investigating and learned that Egg in a Hole, in fact, has a ton of names. Around the world it is known as egg-with-a-hat, egg-in-a-boat, toad-on-the-road, circus toast, one-eyed Jack, frog-in-the-pond, the Popeye, peek-a-boo eggs, hobo eggs, lighthouse eggs, and about fifty more aliases along the same lines.
It wasn't until the late-noughties, though, that I learned of the next stage in the egg-filled toast evolution: a fried egg and grilled cheese mash up known in Oregon as a Bird-in-a-Nest. (Allegedly named after the the catchphrase "put a bird on it!" from a signature Portlandia sketch.)
Whatever you want to call it, this easy to make breakfast sandwich is simply a grilled cheese sandwich with an egg in the middle. Be sure to serve it with a knife and fork - it can get messy!
★ Bread: Use any bread that you enjoy for a grilled cheese sandwich. Thinner, soft bread works best.
★ Cheese: Use a melty cheese like Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, Co-Jack, Gouda, Havarti, or American.
★ Butter: We use a 50/50 mixture of light olive oil and butter, which we brush onto the grilling surface before placing the sandwiches on it.
You can also use salted or unsalted butter, spread directly onto the sandwich faces. Mayonnaise can also be substituted.
★ Eggs: For best results, start with room temperature eggs. This allows the egg to cook more evenly.
How to Make this Breakfast Sandwich
Fry the Sandwich
Preheat an electric griddle to 275°-300°F (135°-150°C), or heat a heavy skillet over medium-low.
Layer sliced cheese between two pieces of bread.
Brush a 50/50 mixture of light olive oil and melted butter onto the grilling surface, or generously butter the outside face of each piece of bread.
Place the assembled sandwich on the preheated griddle and grill for 4 minutes per side, or until it is light honey brown.
Remove sandwich from heat, and onto a plate or cutting board.
A. Using a round biscuit-cutter, empty can, or the rim of a drinking glass, cut a hole out of the middle of the sandwich.
Return the sandwich to the skillet, placing the cut sandwich-middle on the grilling surface outside the sandwich.
B. Crack an egg into the hole in the middle of the sandwich.
Continue to grill the egg in the sandwich for about 2 minutes; until the sandwich is golden brown and the eggs have set up well on the bottom.
Check the sandwich holes often as they grill: they seem to cook faster than the sandwich with the egg.
C. Flip the sandwich over and grill it on the other side until the egg is done to your liking.
Serve sandwiches warm, and be sure to offer a fork for eating it.
Once you have the basic concept, this sandwich recipe offers so many possibilities! Here's a few examples we've enjoyed. (These usually happen in the process of raiding the fridge for a weekend brunch.)
• Ham & Cheese: Add ham to the sandwich before grilling.
• Turkey: Use sliced turkey, Gouda, and rye bread. Next time, I think I'd add a little Dijon to the bread (inside) before grilling.
If you add meat to the cheese sandwich, you may need to use a paring knife to cut through when making the center hole.
We recommend using an electric griddle or skillet when grilling sandwiches. The secret to a perfectly toasted sandwich is to grill it low and slow; an electric skillet will help keep that temperature even throughout the cooking process. You can certainly make this sandwich in a regular skillet (and we have, many times) but an electric skillet definitely makes things easier.
The sandwich takes far longer to grill than the egg takes to cook. If you crack the egg in the middle of the sandwich at the beginning of the grilling process, the egg will be overdone by the time the sandwich is cooked.
By partially grilling the sandwich on both sides before cutting the hole and adding the egg, you end up with a golden sandwich and a dippable egg yolk in the middle.
More Sandwich Recipes
Egg-in-a-Hole Grilled Cheese Sandwich
- 4 slices bread
- 3 ounces cheese thinly sliced; Tillamook Medium Cheddar, Gouda, Jarlsberg, etc.
- 1 tablespoon butter melted
- 1 tablespoon oil any neutral oil: canola, light olive oil, etc.
- 2 large eggs
- Preheat an electric griddle to 275°-300°F (135°-150°C), or heat a heavy skillet over medium-low. Combine melted butter and oil in a small bowl. Set aside. Layer sliced cheese between two pieces of bread. Brush the butter-oil mixture onto the grilling surface (or generously butter the outside face of each piece of bread if you prefer).
- Place the assembled sandwich on the preheated griddle and grill for 4 minutes per side, or until it is light honey brown.
- Remove the grilled sandwich from the heat, and place it on a plate or cutting board.A. Using a round biscuit-cutter, empty can, or the rim of a drinking glass, cut a hole out of the middle of the sandwich.Return the sandwich to the skillet, placing the cut sandwich-middle on the grilling surface outside the sandwich.B. Crack an egg into the hole in the middle of the sandwich.Continue to grill the egg int he sandwich for about 2 minutes; until the sandwich is golden brown and the eggs have set up well on the bottom.Check the sandwich holes often as they grill: they seem to cook faster than the sandwich with the egg.C. Flip the sandwich over and grill it on the other side until the egg is done to your liking.
- Serve sandwiches warm, and be sure to offer a fork for eating it.
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Originally published January 9, 2015. Post has been updated with new content, images, and recipe instructions to improve reader experience.