Grilled cheese sandwiches the Benny & Joon way

Johnny Depp, clad in a ric-rac-trimmed apron, is an appealing figure as Sam in the 1993 film Benny & Joon as he cooks a stack of grilled cheese sandwiches using a clothes iron. But will this technique actually work when practiced by ordinary folks in an ordinary kitchen? On December 5, 2004, Roy and Laura set out to make grilled cheeses sandwiches the Benny & Joon way. (Benny & Joon film capture from Depp Impact)

Photo  of ingredients
For this series of experiments, we used standard grilled cheese sandwich ingredients: Wonder bread, Kraft yellow American singles, and butter. The iron is an old "Happy Home" brand dry (non-steam) iron. Because this is not a movie set, we chose to conduct the experiment on a wooden cutting board instead of an ironing board.
Experiment I - Rayon - setup
For the first experiment, we preheated the iron to the rayon setting (Sam's preferred setting) for five minutes. Each slice of bread was coated with one pat (1/2 T) of softened butter.
Experiment I - rayon - showing damage to top slice of bread
We conclude that either the rayon setting was too low or the amount of butter applied was too great, possibly both. After prolonged contact with the iron, the bread was still slow to brown, and it lost its structural integrity, as can be seen here where the slice of bread has torn near the upper crust, exposing the cheese beneath.
Experiment I - rayon - finished product
The final product on the rayon setting. Note that the weight of the iron has compressed the bread severely. The total thickness of the finished sandwich was less than 1/4 inch and it was both soggy and saggy, even after we gave it some time to cool. Nevertheless, as dedicated researchers, we felt obligated to eat it.
Experiment 2.1 - wool - in progress
For the second experiment, we preheated the iron to the wool setting, theorized by Benny and his sister Joon to be the better setting, while spreading a smaller quantity of butter on both slices of bread. The sandwich browned more thoroughly and more quickly, in approximately 20 seconds per side.
Experiment 2.1 - wool - finished
The finished product, first experiment on the wool setting.
Experiment 2.2 - wool -- second helping - in progress
This finished product was more satisfactory, although the bread still showed some compression. The third sandwich, shown here in the process of cooking while the second is in the process of consumption, was prepared using considerably less butter on each side.
Experiment 2.2 - wool - finished
The finished product demonstrates the importance of spreading the butter evenly. Note that portions of the slice have not browned at all; these were depressions that remained unbuttered. There has been less compression than on the second sandwich.
Experiment 2.3 - wool, no butter, in progress
For the final experiment, we cooked one sandwich with no butter whatever.
Experiment 2.3 - wool, no butter, finished
This finished product is less appealing in terms of color, has an unappetizing cardboard mouth feel and lacks the dstinctive butter flavor that makes the grilled cheese sandwich such a favorite. We do not recommend this.
Photo of iron, showing butter/breadcrumb deposits
The process has left the iron with considerable burnt-on butter and cheese deposits to be removed at a later time. Right now we feel the need to recover from the consumption of our experiments.

CONCLUSIONS: This experiment has demonstrated the ability of the clothes iron to cook grilled cheese sandwiches. Although this appears to have some disadvantages compared to the conventional stovetop method, it is easier to check the browning progress and avoid burning.

Contrary to Sam's assertion (as later reported by Benny and Joon), Benny and Joon appear to have been instinctively correct in their preference for the wool setting for cooking grilled cheese sandwiches with a clothes iron. We were not able to duplicate Sam's success using the rayon setting.

Because the weight of the iron caused compression of the bread in this experiment, we would recommend a second experiment be run using a firmer bread and, for the sake of the experimenters' palates, perhaps a better grade of cheese.

Use of the cotton setting was beyond the scope of this experiment.