Grilled cheese is one of the tastiest meals to indulge in at lunch or dinner. The crisp exterior and pillowy soft inside of bread along with the salty, oozing cheese…it really is extremely satisfying and the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of thick tomato soup.
I know grilled cheese isn’t one of the most complicated dishes to make, but it does require constant attention. When frying the sandwich in a pan on the stove, you have to monitor it like a hawk.
The temperature of the pan gets harder to regulate over time, which means that the first side of the bread cooks evenly to an appetizing, golden brown, while the second side burns, leaving a bitter flavor.
I know that air fryers are great for evenly browning and crisping foods because they have a smaller cavity, which allows hot air to circulate quickly during the cooking process.
In fact I had great success with using an air fryer to create golden French Toast , so could the same be true for a grilled cheese?
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Read on to discover what happened when we attempted to make grilled cheese in an air fryer - or, if you’ve already decided you want to invest in this handy kitchen appliance, check out the best prices on the best air fryers we like right now:
Let's get air frying
In terms of a recipe, as grilled cheese is simply a sandwich - two slices of bread with grated cheese in the middle - I didn’t think I needed to rely on one.
However, when choosing the ingredients to create your grilled cheese there are some considerations to make.
The bread should be thickly sliced - as that ensures you still get a pillowy soft center. If the bread is too thin, it’ll be hard and crispy all the way through. Always spread the sides of the bread that will face out of the sandwich with 1Tbsp butter too, as this helps create the golden, appetizing color.
Finally, when it comes to cheese, you can choose whatever variety you prefer - although the sandwich works best with hard cheeses. In this case, I opted for sharp cheddar. No matter what type you plump for, make sure it's grated using the largest holes on a box grater to achieve the stringiness when you bite into the sandwich.
While I felt confident in my knowledge of how to make grilled cheese, I wasn't sure what timing and temperature to use.
I’ve previously used the appliance in place of cooking in a range, for example when I discovered cooking cinnamon rolls in an air fryer is better than my usual method - and the best results are achieved when using the same temperature as you would when using the traditional cooking method.
However, when it comes to using the appliance in place of a stove - whether that’s for shallow frying in a pan or deep-frying such as making Krispy Kreme style donuts in an air fryer - there’s no clear comparable temperatures.
So I turned to the internet for guidance and settled on a cooking temperature of 385 F / 196 C degrees and a duration of eight minutes, which I dialed in on the Instant Vortex Plus (our current best air fryer )
The only thing left to do was to start preparing the grilled cheese. When I make grilled cheese on the stove, I usually place both slices of bread butter-side down in the pan, then after a couple of minutes, I add the cheese to one slice, topping it with the second slice of bread so the buttered side is now facing up.
I then cook the sandwich for a further couple of minutes allowing the cheese to melt and secure the sandwich before flipping it in the pan and cooking for a final few minutes.
However, this method wasn’t going to be viable in the air fryer, as the non-buttered sides of the bread would also crisp due to the hot air flowing around the cavity, losing the softness I so crave when you bite in. So instead I opted to construct the sandwich and then place it in the air fryer.
Mid-way through cooking, many models of air fryer - including the Instant Vortex Plus - will play an audible alert warning you that it’s time to turn or shake the food.
This is to ensure the hot air can reach every inch of the food to ensure a crisp finish. I sometimes ignore this alert - for example, if the item is particularly delicate such as air fryer ice cream balls , or if I want only the top to be extremely crisp as with pork belly cooked in an air fryer .
However, given that I wanted both sides of the grilled cheese to be crisp and golden, I decided to flip the sandwich half way through cooking, but being extremely gentle when doing so.
I also placed the sandwich on a piece of parchment paper to prevent my air fryer basket from becoming a sticky mess as a few shreds of cheese always drop out of the sandwich during cooking.
Once the cooking time had elapsed, I was thrilled to see the side of the grilled cheese that was visible was an even golden brown color.
I removed the sandwich from the air fryer basket and cut into it - one layer of bread was crisp and the cheese was the right level of gooeyness. However, the other layer of bread wasn’t as crisp as the first and it certainly wasn’t as evenly browned.
Unlike with French Toast, where there is just one layer of bread - the additional thickness of the two slices of bread in the grilled cheese meant the parchment paper has hampered the browning process.
I considered using a metal baking tin but the circular 8-inch pan (one of the only ones I own that fits in the air fryer basket with enough space around the sides for air to flow) wasn’t big enough to accommodate the grilled cheese without squashing the sides of the bread.
So instead, I decided to place the grilled cheese directly on the crisper plate. I knew it would make a mess but luckily the Instant Vortex Plus has both a dishwasher-safe crisper plate and frying basket, which would at least make cleaning the mess far easier.
I re-made the grilled cheese and placed it in the air fryer to cook. When this version finished, it was clear I’d cracked it. Both slices of bread were crisp and evenly brown to an appetizing golden color, while the cheese was soft and melting inside. There was a fair bit of cheese, which had burnt onto the crisper plate. However, one cycle in the dishwasher removed this completely.
It’s far easier making a grilled cheese in an air fryer than on the stove as it doesn’t need to be watched like a hawk. I’ll certainly be making this my go-to method for cooking grilled cheese in the future and I'd recommend you give it a go too.
Trying to buy a microSD card proved to me that Amazon is becoming a scammers' paradise
This article has been updated to include a response from Amazon.
Last weekend I attempted to buy a microSD card for my Steam Deck from Amazon. Okay, that’s not the most interesting start to a story you’ve probably read, but what should have been a quick and easy search and purchase instead turned into a rather demoralizing experience – and one which made me realize how bad the situation with scam products on Amazon has become.
I’ve bought plenty of things on Amazon before (and usually hate myself for it), but the situation with microSDs really shocked me. When you search for microSD cards, the results mix cards from well-known brands with unbranded cards that have prices (and capacities) that seem too good to be true – and sadly are.
Usually, if you’re buying storage such as microSD or a Solid State Drive (SSD) for your PC, you should invest in a well-known and trustworthy brand. However, as I was looking for a microSD card that would just hold some games, and with the Steam Deck not supporting the fastest microSD speeds, I clicked on a few of the unbranded options first.
The biggest initial red flag with these products is that they're drastically cheaper than other cards. A 128GB SanDisk microSD card would go for around £25 to £50 (between $30 – $65), but these unbranded cards cost a lot less.
Another big warning was the fact that some of these cards were promising 1TB (terabyte) of storage for the same price as a 64GB card. This obviously doesn’t make much sense, even taking into account that you pay extra for a well-known brand.
Also, 1TB microSD cards are rare – only a few manufacturers make them, mainly because it’s difficult to fit so much capacity into a small card. This means that legitimate 1TB microSD cards are very expensive – usually around £160 / $200, which is around 10 times the amount the suspect 1TB cards were going for.
So, lesson one: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is, so proceed with caution.
Reviews to the rescue
Usually, this kind of price discrepancy would be enough for me to close my wallet and run, but I was intrigued to know how retailers were able to sell these microSDs so cheaply. Rather naively, I assumed that they were offering the capacities that were advertised. After all, there were lots of them – and some were even showing up as 'sponsored' results. Surely Amazon wouldn’t allow such blatant false advertising?
How wrong I was.
One of the good things about buying from Amazon is that buyers are able to leave reviews, and while not all the microSD cards had reviews (another big red flag), many of them did. I was expecting poor reviews because maybe the microSD cards weren’t particularly fast or reliable, which would explain their cheap price.
However, to my horror – and amazement – reviewers reported that these were indeed complete scams, and that the microSD cards they had received didn’t offer the capacities that were advertised. I was shocked, as I hadn’t realized how easy it clearly is to sell fake products.
Lesson two: always read customer reviews. These are great ways to find out if a product is what it's claimed to be. If a product has no reviews, avoid it. Amazon has another, related, issue here, with fake reviews boosting the scores of certain products, but in this case, the legitimate reviews warned me off wasting my money.
How does the scam work?
The reviews didn’t go into detail about the scams, so I did a bit of digging myself. It looks like what’s happening is that real microSD cards are sent out, but with (much) smaller capacities than what are advertised. However, the cards are formatted in a way that makes the device you insert it into think that the card has the capacity the scammer claims.
As some of our readers have pointed out, this is done using custom firmware that makes the microSD card appear to have a larger capacity than it actually has, and this also means that data is deleted on the microSD card if you go over the real capacity. People who have bought the microSD card may not know that anything is amiss until they try to access the files they’ve saved on the card and find that their files are either corrupted or missing completely.
Once victims realize that they've been scammed, they invariably find that they can't contact the seller to ask for a refund.
Amazon needs to fix this
This situation is pretty awful, and it's not a good look for Amazon. You’re supposed to be able to buy in confidence from the site, but the sheer size of the online store seems to have allowed unscrupulous sellers to con unsuspecting buyers.
I was lucky, because I knew what to look out for, but there will be many people who may think these products are legitimate. To make matters worse, some of these fake products are highlighted as 'sponsored' products in the search results, again giving the impression that they're legitimate – and highlighting just how emboldened scammers have become.
Amazon’s well-known issues with false reviews can also make it hard to know what to buy. Since last weekend, I’ve searched again for the phoney microSD cards, and many have disappeared. While this may seem like Amazon is moving against the sellers, new fake microSD card listings have appeared, this time without the many negative reviews that warned me off buying others.
Amazon needs to do something about this, and quickly, as it’s certainly harming its reputation. In the end, I bought a microSD card from a known brand and a different retailer, so I could be sure it was legitimate.
If Amazon doesn’t crack down on these scams, then it could lose even more sales in the future.
We contacted Amazon, which gave us the following statement:
"We work hard every day to protect our sellers and help them grow their business. Bad actors that attempt to abuse our systems make up a tiny fraction of activity on our site.
"We use sophisticated tools, including machine learning, to combat them, and we are making it increasingly difficult for bad actors to hide. We block bad actors before they reach our site and we work with sellers and law enforcement to hold them accountable by withholding funds and pursuing civil and criminal penalties.
"These bad actors show a flagrant disregard for our community, our policies, and in some cases, the law, and do not reflect the flourishing community of honest entrepreneurs that make up the vast majority of our sellers."
What your breath rate really tells you about your health
It can be hard to know exactly what your breath rate tells you about your health – after all, breathing is an unconscious action, so most of us don’t think about it unless it becomes challenging. But with wearable fitness trackers giving us so much data, you may be wondering exactly how to interpret those breath rate stats.
We spoke to a respiratory physiologist to get the lowdown on breath rate – including how to track it, what it reveals about your health and what you can do to improve your breathing.
What is breath rate?
A person’s breath rate is simply the number of breaths they take per minute. This can vary from person to person.
Professor John Dickinson is an exercise respiratory physiologist at CHHP London with a specialism in assessing exercise respiratory symptoms in athletes. He has tested over 1,000 elite athletes from various sports, including Olympians and Premier League footballers.
“A healthy breathing rate is somewhere between eight to 14 breaths per minute, at rest,” he explains. “It will depend on the person. Anything above 18 breaths per minute, at rest, is a little bit fast. So if someone’s doing that they've probably got some sort of hyperventilation issue going on.”
How can you track your breath rate?
Breathing changes throughout the day, according to our activities. Therefore Professor Dickinson recommends measuring your breath rate after a period of rest, or first thing in the morning.
You can measure your breathing rate by counting the number of breaths you take over the course of one minute while you're at rest. Do this by counting the number of times your chest or abdomen rises in the timeframe.
Wearable fitness trackers tend to measure breath rate during sleep. They measure the time between heartbeats, which shortens when you inhale and increases when you exhale. The heart-rate sensor on your device tracks the small differences in these intervals while you’re asleep, to determine your average breathing rate for the night.
What does breath rate reveal about your health?
Professor Dickinson says that having an abnormal respiratory rate can indicate a variety of things, including issues with the cardiovascular system. However, if it's not causing you any issues, then it's probably best not to be too worried.
“But if you’re concerned about your breathing rate, it’s worthwhile going to your doctor,” he advises. “There could be some underlying cause. It might be a cardiovascular issue, but it could also be anxiety or stress.”
Other factors that can affect a person’s breathing rate include injuries, illness, exercise, and mood.
How does breath rate change with exercise?
According to Professor Dickinson, your breath rate is a great indicator of your general fitness when you exercise. During exercise the lungs bring oxygen into the body, to provide energy and remove carbon dioxide,” he explains. “The heart pumps the oxygen to the muscles that are doing the exercise.”
“When you exercise and your muscles work harder, your body uses more oxygen and produces more carbon dioxide. To cope with this extra demand, your breathing has to increase and your circulation speeds up to take the oxygen to the muscles so that they can keep moving. Your breathing rate will increase during exercise, but as you get fitter, the time to recover from being out of breath will shorten and your overall breathing rate may decrease.”
It’s worth noting that while you may notice an increased breathing rate while exercising, you should not experience extreme shortness of breath or chest pain. If you do, stop immediately and contact your doctor.
How can you improve your breath rate?
A 2018 review published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience showed that quick, shallow breathing may contribute to a host of health problems, and having greater control over breathing can bring many benefits to our mental and physical health.
Professor Dickinson recommends regular exercise, for overall health and to help improve lung function. As part of his research at the University of Kent, he’s also looking into what optimal breathing really is – because it’s not just the rate of breaths that matters, but the quality.
“When I'm trying to teach people what a good breath is, the focus is on initiating the breath within the lower ribcage, which also allows the ribcage to fully expand,” he explains. “You want to avoid lifting the ribcage up using the shoulders - because by doing that, it’s difficult to expand the lungs fully. Effectively, the more your rib cage moves, the more air can go into your lungs. So what we're looking to do is get good, efficient, smooth movement across the whole of the rib cage.”
What are the benefits of improving your breath rate?
Professor Dickinson says there are many benefits to having a healthy breath rate, including optimizing your aerobic ability to exercise, relaxation, and overall wellbeing. The act of breathing is a multifaceted process that uses up a lot of energy in the body, so breathing efficiently can help reduce that energy cost.
“We estimate the cost of breathing can be somewhere between 12 to 20 percent of your total energy expenditure,” he says. “So if you're breathing more efficiently you're going to be close to that 12%.”
“Having an efficient breathing pattern improves the efficiency of exercise because you're using less energy to breathe. Having a really good breathing pattern can also reduce anxiety and stress. A lot of people use breathing exercises as part of meditation and mindfulness. So, having a good relaxed breathing pattern can have that kind of psychological effect as well, of making you feel less stressed.”