The Toothpick Trick For Foolproof Air Fryer Grilled Cheese

From not getting the pan temperature just right to knowing when to flip, there are plenty of grilled cheese sandwich mistakes you can make when you're cooking the beloved meal on the stovetop. It's good reason why you might want to pivot to cooking it with an air fryer —the precision of the machine makes it ideal for making a grilled cheese that has the perfect crispy texture on the outside with mouthwatering ooey-gooey cheesiness inside. 

But, if you've ever tried to air fry a grilled cheese you may have run into a common roadblock; namely that hot circulating air can knock the top layer straight off of your sandwich. This can happen when cooking both a closed sandwich and an open-faced version. When it's closed, it may just be an annoyance of having to place the bread back on the sandwich. But, when it's open-faced, you may be left with a cheesy mess, plus the need to start all over. To eliminate this obstacle between you and your cheesy sandwich, all you need is a couple of toothpicks.

If you're air-frying a closed sandwich, once you've assembled it and preheated your air fryer, simply slip the toothpicks into the corners of the sandwich to keep it in place. Then, place it in the air fryer to cook. When it's time to flip, you can take the toothpicks out since the cheese will be melted enough to prevent the other slice of bread from being blown off. And for an open-faced air-fried sandwich, use the toothpicks to help secure the cheese to the bread.

Other ways to keep grilled cheese intact in an air fryer

If you don't have toothpicks handy, you can try using aluminum foil to make sure the top layer of your cheesy sandwich stays put. Simply wrap your sandwich with the foil before air-frying it. However, if you use aluminum foil, you'll want to be cautious that it doesn't come in contact with the heating element and warm up too much. Also, be mindful of your ingredients; if you've included acidic fillings in your sandwich, like tomatoes, the aluminum can wind up in your food.

Another option is to place an object on top of your grilled cheese to weigh it down slightly, like a small wire rack or a butter knife. Just be sure that it's lightweight so that it doesn't totally crush the sandwich — and don't forget to use potholders to take the rack or knife off before flipping.

Finally, you can help the ingredients adhere to each other by spreading a condiment between the cheese and bread. If you're making something a little more upscale like a brie and apple butter grilled cheese, spread the apple butter on the side of the bread where you intend to place the fillings and let the sweet and sticky goodness do its job of keeping the bread in place. If you're making a more standard-style grilled cheese, you're likely already using mayonnaise or butter on the outside; just swipe a small amount onto the other side, too, before topping it with cheese.

More tips for the best air fryer grilled cheese

If you're adding other fillings to your grilled cheese that are heavy enough to not be blown around in the air fryer, such as meats, consider air-frying your grilled cheese open-faced. This way, the filling can go on top of the cheese and bread, preventing either from being dislodged by the circulating air.

For a grilled cheese with the tastiest texture, you can also try pan-frying or toasting the bread lightly before air-frying the entire sandwich. This way, the bread is crispy on both sides and there's no risk of sogginess in the end. 

However you choose to proceed, always make sure to choose a type of bread that works best for grilled cheese. Pullman loaves, sourdough, white bread, and sliced multigrain bread are quality classic choices while ciabatta, focaccia, and brioche can take your air-fried grilled cheese to the next level.