Grilled Cheese (Air Fryer OR Skillet)

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This is the BEST Grilled Cheese Sandwich complete with crisp bread and a combination of three cheeses. We’re spilling all our”secrets” to take your grilled cheese to the next level without adding any extra effort.

This recipe contains directions for how to make grilled cheese in a skillet AND how to make an Air Fryer Grilled Cheese. (If you have an Air Fryer, you might not ever go back to a skillet!)

Overhead image of the grilled cheese

Our favorite Grilled Cheese Sandwich Recipe

Somehow in the eight years of posting recipes, I have never shared my go-to grilled cheese recipe. Which is a travesty, since we lean on these trusty sandwiches quite frequently. Especially when it’s soup season and Tomato Basil Soup or Easy Tomato Soup is on the menu! Is there a better combo than toasted, buttery bread with loads of melty cheese and a bowl of warm tomato soup?!

But truthfully, the frequency with which we make these sandwiches near tripled after making them in the Air Fryer a few weeks ago. Talk about a game changer. Yes, these sandwiches are still tasty made in a skillet, but the texture, flavor, and crispiness you get from Air Frying is unbeatable. Plus, they are practically all hands-off — the air fryer does all the work!

Today’s recipe is all about an all American Grilled Cheese Sandwich. If you’re looking to make a gourmet grilled cheese, I have some suggestions for how to “level up” your sandwich in the “FAQs” section. Or skip to our two favorite gourmet grilled cheese recipes: Grilled Cheese Margherita Sandwiches or this French Dip Grilled Cheese.

Process shots--images of the bread being spread with butter mayo, cheese, and salt

Grilled Cheese Sandwich Ingredients

  • Bread. The bread makes all the difference! We want to use a thick-sliced bread like Texas Toast. This particular type of bread is sliced thicker than regular sandwich bread which we’re relying on. If the bread is too thick, the cheese won’t melt and, too thin, the sandwich will be flimsy. Aim for bread sliced about 1 inch thick. 
  • Softened Butter. It’s important the butter is thoroughly softened so it can spread easily without mashing up or flattening the bread. Plus we want an even layer of fat to ensure the perfect bread toasting. See “quick tip” below.
  • Mayo. Real, full-fat mayo is our preference for sandwich flavor!
  • Garlic powder. This is optional — if you love garlic, you’ll love what this subtle addition does for the sandwich.
  • Salt is cheese’s best friend: If your grilled cheese doesn’t taste “cheesy” enough, chances are it’s a salting issue. Try adding a touch more salt and see if that doesn’t make a world of difference. Yes, even a sandwich needs salt — you’ll be amazed the difference this can make!
  • Cheeses. We add three cheeses! What’s the best cheese for grilled cheese? Our favorite combo that is affordable and kids and adults alike love: gouda, sharp cheddar, and munster. Delish!

QUICK TIP

Here’s how to soften butter quickly: fill up a wide liquid measuring cup with 1 cup water. Microwave the water for 2 minutes or until really hot then pour out the water and quickly dry the cup. Invert the hot measuring cup on top of the unwrapped butter atop a plate and let stand for about 5-10 minutes.

Process shots of grilled cheese-- images of the sandwich being toasted on a skillet

How To Make Grilled Cheese

The full recipe is below, so here are a few of our top tips to make the best possible sandwich:

  • Spread softened butter to the very edges ensuring good coverage for the perfect crispy exterior. 
  • If making the sandwich in a skillet or electric griddle, my number one tip is low heat and patience. In order for the cheese to melt at the same time the bread takes to toast and develop the ideal crunch and color, the heat needs to be medium-low to low. The total cook time will be anywhere from 5-8 minutes. Don’t rush it!
    • Heat too high = cheese that isn’t fully melted and/or burned (not toasted) bread. 
    • Start with a cold pan. Don’t preheat the pan like you do for most other recipes. We want the pan to heat up slowly and evenly distribute the heat to the cheese and the bread.

Process shots of grilled cheese-- images of the grilled cheeses being air fried

How To Cook a Grilled Cheese

Any non-stick skillet will work great. If you’re making a lot of sandwiches at once, an electric griddle/flat cooktop is a game changer! You could also use a sandwich/panini press.

As far as air frying, we use, love, and recommend this Air Fryer (affiliate link). Air fryers do vary a bit from brand to brand, so the timing for sandwiches may need to be slightly tweaked for your specific model. Also keep in mind that after the initial air fry, the machine is warmed up and will cook subsequent sandwiches a bit quicker.

Overhead image of the sandwich being dipped in tomato soup

Grilled Cheese FAQs

1How many calories in a grilled cheese?

This sandwich has just over 600 calories. The full nutritional breakdown can be found below the printable recipe.

2What is the best cheese for grilled cheese?

Cheese is the star of the show here, but who says there’s just one type of superior cheese? We like combining three cheeses for the ultimate sandwich! Our favorites:

  1. Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  2. Gouda Cheese
  3. Muenster Cheese

Other great options: Sharp White Cheddar or flavored cheddar, Monterey Jack, Gruyere, American cheese, Havarti

3Is mayo or butter better for grilled cheese?

We like BOTH! We enjoy the flavor of both so a little mayo on the inside of the sandwich and butter on the outside.

  • The butter not only adds a wonderful flavor, it also promotes a nice and even crispy exterior and browning on the bread.
  • The mayo adds a nice subtle flavor and creaminess that nicely complements the cheese.

4What goes good on a grilled cheese sandwich?

Here are our favorite additions to “elevate” your sandwich:

  • Caramelized onions
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Fresh herbs (like basil, thyme, parsley)
  • Pesto
  • Olive tapenade
  • Add in a sliced apple or serve alongside applesauce
  • Sautéed spinach
  • Ham or turkey
  • Sautéed mushrooms

5How do you make a Gordon Ramsay grilled cheese sandwich?

Gordon’s famous grilled cheese adds kimchi in the middle of the slices! Follow this recipe and add a scoop of kimchi atop the cheese before cooking.

6How can I add flavor to my grilled cheese?

Looking for more flavor? Try one of the ingredient adds listed in the 4th question.

For the quickest flavor-add, ensure you didn’t forget salt or even add an extra pinch. Salt is going to bring out the flavors really nicely.

Another way we like to add flavor (quickly) is to add a few other spices on top of the mayo. Try creole seasoning or cayenne for some heat. Add paprika and onion powder for some general flavor.

7Why isn’t the cheese melting on my grilled cheese?

This is likely because the heat is too high and or the pan is too hot. The outside is cooking before the inside has a chance to feel heat.

If you’re cooking several grilled cheese sandwiches, let the skillet cool down a bit in between.

8What can you substitute for butter in grilled cheese?

If butter is a no-go, I’d recommend spray the sandwich with olive oil cooking spray or, using a pastry brush, brushing the bread with a thin layer of olive oil.

Serve This Sandwich Alongside:

Grilled Cheese

This is the BEST Grilled Cheese Sandwich complete with crisp bread and a combination of three cheeses. We’re spilling all our”secrets” to take your grilled cheese to the next level without adding any extra effort.

Grilled Cheese

This is the BEST Grilled Cheese Sandwich complete with crisp bread and a combination of three cheeses. We’re spilling all our”secrets” to take your grilled cheese to the next level without adding any extra effort.

Ingredients

For ONE Grilled Cheese (Recipe easily increased!)

Instructions

  • SOFTEN BUTTER: Set out butter to soften at room temperature for at least an hour before making. Or see note 2 to quickly soften cold butter.

  • ASSEMBLY: Brush 1 side of each Texas Toast to the very edges with 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter. Flip both pieces to the other side and spread 1/2 teaspoon mayo on each of the other sides. Divide a tiny sprinkle of garlic powder on top of the mayo on each piece — about 1/8 teaspoon total. On one piece of bread layer the 3 cheeses right on top of each other. Finally right on top of the top piece of cheese, sprinkle salt, about 1/8 teaspoon right on top. Keep the two pieces of bread separate for cooking in a skillet or, if air frying, press the two piece together into a sandwich.

  • SKILLET: Set a skillet over medium-low heat (do not heat the skillet before adding in the bread) OR an electric griddle to 275 degrees F and place the two prepared slices of bread in the skillet with the butter-side-down. Cover skillet with a lid and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the underside of the bread is golden. Then sandwich the pieces together and continue to cook until sandwich is deeply golden and crispy and cheese is melted, flipping only once more during the cooking process, about another 3-4 minutes. The cooking takes about 5-8 minutes total; keep the heat at medium-low and be patient so the bread doesn’t burn before the cheese is melted. Once cheese is nicely melted and bread has developed a beautiful golden crust, remove to a plate. (If bread is browning before cheese is melted, decrease heat as needed).

  • AIR FRY: Place sandwich in the air fryer basket. (See Note 3) Don’t overcrowd the basket, only air fry 1 or 2 sandwiches — whatever fits with plenty of room. Air fry at 360 degrees F for 4-6 minutes. Flip and air fry for another 3-4 minutes or until deeply golden brown and cheese is melted. In my specific model, I cook for 5 minutes, flip and cook for 3 more minutes. Remove to a plate.

  • SERVE: Cut sandwich in half and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Texas Toast: The bread makes all the difference in a grilled cheese! We want to use a thick-sliced bread like Texas Toast or a similar bread at least 1-inch thick in width. This type of bread is sliced thicker than regular sandwich bread which we’re relying on. If the bread is too thick, the cheese won’t melt properly and too thin, the sandwich will be flimsy. If you are using a different type of bread (thinner or thicker), you’ll need to slightly adjust cooking times.
Note 2: Soften Butter Quickly: fill up a wide liquid measuring cup with 1 cup water. Microwave the water for 2 minutes or until really hot then pour out the water and quickly dry the cup. Invert the hot measuring cup on top of the unwrapped butter atop a plate and let stand for about 5-10 minutes.
Note 3: Air Frying: IF using a different bread than Texas Toast, you may need to press 2 toothpicks in the two corners of the sandwich to ensure the bread holds together firmly and doesn’t shift apart as it cooks. 

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 626kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 26.9g | Fat: 40.9g | Cholesterol: 105.3mg | Sodium: 1147.4mg | Fiber: 1.8g | Sugar: 3g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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