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How to get my cheese to melt completely

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I emigrated from the United States and one thing I really miss is the meltability of American "cheese". (The scare quotes are because it's a cheese-based product rather than real cheese.) There's no such product here and the solid cheeses I've found here1 don't melt the same way. American "cheese" when melted in milk over a flame forms a liquid; real solid cheese when melted in milk over a flame forms… milk with semisolid cheese in it.

So my question is twofold:

  • Maybe I'm doing it wrong. Is there a way to melt, say, gouda, in milk to form a liquid?

If not, then:

  • I understand that the reason American cheese melts so nicely is that it has sodium citrate. Assuming I can get hold of some (which is a separate question), what do I do with it? That is, at what stage in my cooking do I add it, and how much do I add?
  1. though they have definite advantages over American "cheese"

Why should this post be closed?

2 comments

Would a short list of European cheeses which melt solve your problem? ‭Peter Taylor‭ about 1 month ago

@PeterTaylor, not really, as I really would like to know how to melt a cheese I already know that I like. (Moreover, I'm not in Europe. :-) ) It may be of some help, and I'd appreciate the information, say in this site's Discord chat, but I think it would neither answer this question nor fully meet my needs. ‭msh210‭ about 1 month ago

2 answers

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Everything @MonicaCellion said is correct but to provide some more background information: The reason that cheese like Gouda, Cheddar and Tilsiter (and any solid cheese) don't melt the way you expect is because they are relatively dry. So trying to melt it in one piece won't really work.

Grating the cheese allows the respective surfaces of the bits to be relatively evenly and thoroughly warmed, leading to an actual melting process. I usually take milk or cream, grate the cheese and cook everything on a low heat until I have a thick cheese sauce. (Low heat so I don't burn the milk or cream.) The result is a thick sauce, clumps may also be visible.

As for the part about sodium citrate: If you can get something, you could indeed use it at home to achieve something similar to the experience you're missing right now - and the best part is that it doesn't matter kind of cheese you use.

Some chemical background information about sodium citrate: Sodium citrate actually comes in three "flavours", as mono-, di- and trisodium citrate. For cheesemaking, we're interested in trisodium citrate as it helps to keep everything together.

Cheese consists of three major components: fats, proteins and water which are bonded together and form cheese. As soon as you heat up cheese, these bonds can dissolve and break. Fats and waters now may separate from the proteins, leading to the aforementioned thick sauces with occasional clumps.

Trisodium citrate helps to fix this problem by changing the melting process: It prevents that fats, proteins and water separate from each other and helps to distribute these components equally in the to-be-used base component, e.g. milk or cream. The result is a cheese sauce, similar to the ones you can buy as dips in supermarkets.

A recipe for a do-it-yourself cheese sauce at home: https://www.foodrepublic.com/recipes/take-modernist-cuisines-nacho-cheese-sauce-for-a-spin/

2 comments

Many thanks ! . ‭msh210‭ 28 days ago

Thanks for the explanation of why it works like this! ‭Monica Cellio‭ 27 days ago

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Recipes for cheese soup, sauce, and dip usually call for heating the liquids first and then adding the cheese, rather than starting with cheese and liquid in a cold pot. In this queso recipe, milk (with aromatics and seasonings, but I don't think that affects the outcome) are brought to a boil and then the cheese is mixed in. In this recipe for macaroni and cheese, milk and sour cream are heated (but not boiled) and then the cheese is mixed in. I haven't made either of the recipes I linked, but I have in the past made a cheese soup that took the same approach and my (US) grated cheddar melted.

Update: today I made a cheese sauce thus: put some butter, cream cheese, and cream in a pot and heated slowly until it was all liquid, then added seasonings, then stirred in cheese and turned off the heat. The cheese was a mix of Monterey Jack and cheddar. I ended up with a smooth cheese sauce, no cheese clumps.

All recipes I've seen start with grated cheese. If you're cubing or slicing it, try grating it instead.

I do not know how US cheddar compares to cheddar in other countries, and I've not tried this with other cheeses like gouda.

1 comment

Many thanks! I'll see how it goes. ‭msh210‭ about 1 month ago

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