A non-blobby way to melt hard-to-melt cheese

Melted cheese

There are so many great cheeses out there, but many have a problem – they simply do not melt without breaking into greasy oil blobs. So when it comes to making Nachos, or a mac and cheese without first making a cheese (Mornay) sauce, cooks are often limited to a few cheese choices.

The secret to making hard-to-melt cheeses was developed by – no surprise, here – Kraft. Velveeta is the go-to cheese for Nachos, cheese dip, and other cheesy foods for a reason – it is a dependable melter. As discussed in this article by Scott Heimendinger (director of applied research for The Cooking Lab, the culinary research team that produced the Modernist Cuisine cookbooks), A better way to melt cheese, James Kraft discovered the solution in 1912.  As Heimendinger explains:

Kraft found that adding a small amount of sodium phosphate to the cheese as it melted kept it from turning into a clumpy mess of cheese solids swimming in a pool of oil. Kraft patented his invention and used it to make canned, shelf-stable cheese. He sold millions of pounds of the stuff to the American military during World War I. The technique ultimately led to the creation of Velveeta and a whole universe of processed cheese products.

You can apply the very same chemistry, however, to achieve much higher culinary purposes. The chefs in our research kitchen have made mac and cheese with an intense goat gouda and cheddar sauce, for example, and built gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches using cheese slices that melt like the processed stuff, but are made from feta or Stilton.”

But sodium phosphate is not readily available; however, sodium citrate is. And it works just as well. Here’s the process, ” When making cheese sauce, we add 4 grams of sodium citrate for every 100 grams of finely grated cheese and 93 grams of water or milk.

To make cheese slices, we reduce the amount of water to about 30 grams (cold wheat beer works very well, too), pour the melted mixture into a sheet pan, and let it solidify in the refrigerator for about two hours before cutting it into pieces, which then can be wrapped in plastic and frozen.

Because this method of stabilizing melted cheese bypasses all of the flour, butter and milk used in Mornay sauce, the resulting cheese sauce is much richer; a little goes a long way. But the sauce keeps well in the refrigerator and reheats nicely in the microwave, so save any extra and use it to top vegetables, nachos or pasta. “

We read the article in the Portland Press Herald, which lists an interesting Mac and Cheese recipe using this technique – check it out here. And happy melting.

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