Cheese melting moments

cheese-melting-momentsShow me a person that does’t like melted cheese and I will show you a person that just hasn’t tried the right one. Two of my favourite winter dishes right now made using melted cheese are a classic Swiss Fondue and the Italian Fonduta. Then there is pizza, enchiladas, a cheese soufflé, blue cheese sauce, Welsh rabbits…..I could go on forever about how much I love melted cheese.

But melted cheese has also given cooks a few headaches, sometimes it just doesn’t melt as it should. Why? Well, with 1000’s of different cheeses to choose from, each differing in appearance, flavour, texture and melting qualities, things don’t always go as planned. Some cheeses don’t melt at all! So lets take a look at what happens to cheese when it melts then the best cheese to use for different applications.

Cheese with its complex network of milk proteins, butterfat and water won’t melt like a block of ice per-say. When cheese is heated, the butterfat starts to melt and the cheese softness. As the cheese is heated further, the protein structure changes and depending on the cheese it may begin to flow like lava, which is what a cheese like a Monterey Jack will do.

A cheese like Mozzarella on the other hand will become stringy, as you see on pizza. The higher the temperature you put Mozzarella under, the more water evaporates from the cheese. It will start to resolidify, the proteins tighten and as the heating continues the cheese will brown and blister.

When heating your cheese, be gentle. Choose the correct cheese for the dish, remember if it is heated to quickly the proteins tighten up squeezing out both water and fat, resulting in rubbery globs awash in a pool of grease. Most likely not what you’re looking for!

A few tips on getting your cheese to melt beautifully;

  • Shred your cheese to reduce the surface area to help it melt evenly
  • Bring the cheese to room temp before melting
  • Use a low heat so the proteins are less likely to seize and squeeze out the fat and moisture

Which cheese do you pick for which dish.

Fondu: Gruyere, Emmentaler.

Grilling: Fontina, Cheddar, Jarlsberg.

Lasagne: Mozzarella, Ricotta, Parmigiano.

Mexican: Monterey Jack.

Macaroni cheese: Cheddar, Colby, Emmentaler.

Enjoy your cheese melted moments!