People who hate American cheese either do not understand it, or have allowed classism to ruin it for them. I would not serve it on an assiette de fromage, but it is my go-to for burgers, bologna sandwiches, and simple grilled cheeses (especially when paired with tomato soup). It is designed by food scientists to melt and stretch and it won’t grease out or pull focus when applied to an all-beef patty. True food understanders appreciate it for the optimized product that it is. If American cheese has no more fans, that means I’m dead.
But even I—the number one American cheese enjoyer in America—did not expect it to hit so hard as a cheese crisp. My favorite TikToker/sorority house chef, Kevin Ashton, was the first to expose me to this intriguing idea, and I’ve been frying slices of American cheese ever since, both with and without pickles. Frying American cheese in a nonstick pan works well, but you can get a slightly different, aerated, super crispy cheese crisp if you move things to the air fryer.
What’s so different about air fryer cheese crisps?
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Where your standard, pan-fried frico is lacy and flat, your air-fried cheese crisp is bubbly and cavernous. The whipping winds of the air fryer cause the cheese to puff up dramatically, creating a network of large cheese bubbles that shatter with a hint of pressure. Depending on how long you crisp your cheese, there’s also often a layer of chewy, melted cheese in the center of the crisp, providing delightful textural contrast. It’s kind of like a cheese chicharon.
How to make a cheese crisp in your air fryer
Sorry to those with the toaster oven models; this is a recipe for basket air fryers. Set your air fryer to 400℉, then place a slice of American cheese (or several slices of cheese) on the floor of the basket (remove the little tray). You can try it with other cheese slices, but you’ll need to experiment with the cook time.
Cook for about 8 minutes. (There is a chance your cheese may fly around. This happens in my big air fryer sometimes, but not my small one. Take a peak after a minute and check on it.) Once your crisp is puffed and well browned on top, use a small silicone spatula to gently pry the cheese of the floor of the air fryer. Plate and finish with smoked paprika and/or a drizzle of honey.