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Supacase's avatar

How do I keep cheddar from separating or becoming grainy when cooked?

Asked by Supacase (14543points) May 27th, 2012

I need to make mac & cheese and the recipe calls for sharp cheddar. My experience is that cheddar doesn’t always melt as smoothly as I would like. Is there another type of cheese I can add to help it stay creamy or do you have any other tips?

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11 Answers

CWOTUS's avatar

My (limited) experience with this has always been that grated or very finely diced cheddar melts great and is as creamy as one could want.

janbb's avatar

Are you stirring it into milk to make a cheese sauce or just putting the chunks in with the macaroni? If you are making a cheese sauce first, shredding or dicing it as @CWOTUS says and then stirring it in small batches into the warm milk should make it smooth.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Warm saucepan, already warm milk and finely grated cheese sprinkled in slowly, stirred slowly. I like to use evaporated milk because it’s richer and seems to have enough fats for the cheese to spread into.

bewailknot's avatar

I have also found quality in cheese could make a difference, but it has been a long time.

jerv's avatar

Cheddar will always be grainy. If it isn’t, then it isn’t cheddar. Using shredded cheddar makes it melt quicker, but doesn’t make it less grainy (unless you are using the type of cheddar that I would not consider to qualify as “cheese”; I am fussy about my cheese).

Colby-jack works well, but is a mild cheese that may not appeal to all taste buds. Still, it melts rather nicely. A mix of shredded cheddar and shredded Colby-jack strikes a nice balance; some of the cheddar flavor, but far smoother. That is how I usually roll.

Adding a little Smoked Gruyere kicks up the flavor, though you do not want to use too much of that.

@bewailknot Very true!

Kardamom's avatar

I hope you aren’t just putting grated cheddar cheese directly into a pan to melt it, or directly onto your cooked noodles.

You need to make a roux or sauce first (which is equal parts flour and fat, ususally butter) that have been whisked constantly over low to medium heat for about 5 minutes. Melt the butter in a pan first, making sure not to burn it, then slowly whisk in the flour a little at a time. You will end up with a gooey ball that sort of has the consistency of peanut butter. Here is a picture of the roux to show you what it’s supposed to look like just before you add the warmed milk or cream.

Next, cream or milk, that has already been warmed (either in another pan or in the microwave) is slowly poured into the roux and mixed thoroughly. You will need to stir this mixture for another 10 or 15 minutes to make sure the flour loses it’s raw taste. At this point you can turn off the heat (or just have it on super-low) then add the shredded cheese into this mixture, stirring constantly. It should melt in easily and not be grainy.

Then this cheese sauce is ready to be poured over your noodles. Your mac and cheese can be eaten right away, as is, or it can be put into the oven in a casserole dish and baked (which I prefer).

josie's avatar

1. Mix 1:1 it with Monterey Jack.
2. See @Kardamom Except do NOT bake it. Heat the mac and cheese mixture all the way through in a pot, and then put it in a casseroule and put it under a broiler to brown the topping or the surface of the food, but do not bake it.

wallabies's avatar

I’ve never had this grainy problem….I just throw cheese chunks or whatever into the hot pasta and it melts nicely. I add a little cream to get it to a smooth consistency. I have had To Die For mac and cheese, and mine isn’t that good, though, so there are more tricks. Like bread crumbs.

JLeslie's avatar

Use Kraft Vermont cheddar. Comes in a block in a green package. It melts smoothly and very sharp.

I agree with @Kardamom for really amazing mac and cheese you need to make a roux first, and @josie that adding some monterey jack or meunster is a good idea. And, @wallabies mentioned the breadcrumbs on top, and under the broiler to brown the top. Delicious! But very bad for you. But, that’s beside the point.

FYI: J. Alexander’s has amazing mac and cheese.

Sunny2's avatar

Do not use high heat. If you melt it with milk, do NOT let it come to a boil.

Kardamom's avatar

@wallabies When I make my “To Die For” mac and cheese, I sautee mushrooms with a little bit of chopped onion in a bit of olive oil in a separate pan, whilst the noodles are boiling. Then I set the schrooms aside and make the roux. After the cheese roux is ready to be poured over the noodles I dump in the already sauteed schrooms along with a piece of crumbled bacon (in my case vegetarian bacon) and mix well. Then I put the whole shebang into a casserole and put Panko bread crumbs over the top and bake until they’re just browned on top. I use the sharpest, yummiest cheddar cheese I can find. It is divine!

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