For a meal to be dubbed perfect, it must be complex in terms of taste, and simple in terms of preparation. And the thing that unites these two is sauce! Now, who wants their veggies, meat, or fish plain? The addition of the simplest sauce will make an ordinary dish outstanding. Be it by highlighting the dish’s flavor, or adding contrast to it, it is the very basic rule in cooking: sauce makes everything better! One of the most sought for sauces must be the cheese sauce. If you too, love a rich, creamy, and velvety cheese sauce then read along!
What makes cheese a great ingredient to be added in sauces is the fact that it is the chameleon of ingredients. Its ability to blend so well with so many different foods and components makes it a popular item in the food industry.
6 Steps to the Best Cheese Sauce
- Be sure to break the cheese down to smaller chunks. Regardless of whether you choose to dice it, crumble it, or shred it, make sure to do it while the cheese is still cold, it will make the process a lot easier. Remember that a great rule of thumb is not to put cold things into a hot liquid right away, so once you’ve fragmented the cheese let it sit at room temperature prior to adding it to the sauce.
- This leads us to the next very important thing you should bear in mind: Add the cheese last! Once the sauce has come to a boil, turn the heat off and proceed to add the cheese. The residual heat will allow the cheese to melt down without curdling.
- To be on the safe side and avoid curdling altogether, make sure to add a thickener (cornstarch or potato flour). Also, if a recipe calls for cream, don’t be tempted to replace it with milk or half-and-half (the cream’s fat content is higher and will again prevent curdling).
- Avoid adding too much cheese! Although one might think that this is a good idea because it is called a cheese sauce at the end of the day, it is not! Adding too much cheese in the cheese sauce might result in a mixture that is not that sauce-like, i.e. it might smother the moistness that is needed to keep the cheese in liquid form.
- Do not over-stir! Stirring too much will release the cheese’s protein and it might lead to the formation of lumps.
- A chewy cheese is a definite no-no! So, to avoid this, sprinkle an acidic ingredient over it before adding the cheese to the sauce (lemon juice or wine will do the job).
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Cheese for Your Cheese Sauce
Of course, the crucial part of the cheese sauce making is choosing the right cheese. And with the huge palette of cheeses one can opt from, this part of the cooking process becomes much harder. There are a few general rules one should follow, though.
The Melting Factor
Remember, not all types of cheese melt! So, trying to melt a cheese that has a high melting point, might result in just the opposite: a stiff and dry wedge. This is why some cheeses, say Halloumi, are great for grilling and frying.
It is not all that straight-forward. Why? Well, there are also cheeses (fresh goat cheeses, ricotta, and Indian paneer) that would melt heavenly on pizzas and sandwiches but strangely enough, adding them to a cheese sauce will not give the best results.
Also, reduced-fat cheeses will take longer to melt than the regular ones. This is why it is recommendable to shred reduced-fat cheese prior to melting it and melt it at a lower temperature for a longer stretch of time (otherwise it might be tough).
Go for types of cheese that have been made using rennet. Cheeses that have been made with rennet have a softer structure than those made using acid. This is so because the water in the latter will cause the proteins to stick together, making globs that are harder to melt.
The Age Factor
The age of the cheese is of vital importance when preparing a cheese sauce. Usually, aged cheeses have a stronger flavor, so adding them in a sauce will definitely bring out the most in the flavor department. However, implementing aged cheese in your cheese sauce might lead to a grainy texture because of the cheese’s reduced ability to blend.
For the best results feel free to add a mixture of aged and younger cheeses for the best of two worlds: incredible taste and a rich consistency.
Types of Cheeses to Use in Your Cheese Sauce
Now that we’ve covered the more general part, let’s get down to the specific cheese types:
A fun fact about this cheese is that it is the namesake of the town that it originated in: Cheddar, England. While there was a time when cheddar was eaten in England exclusively, now it is one of the world’s most consumed cheeses. One thing all cheddars have in common is the milk they are made from: cow’s milk. The color and texture vary from ivory to yellow, and from crumbly to smooth.
Melting: Moderate to excellent melt
Aging: 9 to 24 months.
#1.The Nacho Cheese Sauce calls for cheddar precisely, and it is a great change of pace from the other nacho dips. Who doesn’t want a smooth, creamy sauce to dip their tortillas in? And it only calls for 5 ingredients, one of which is salt. Convenient and pocket-friendly!
#2.The Baked Potatoes with Loaded Broccoli Bacon Cheese Sauce is another recipe with a tasty cheddar cheese sauce. These are totally dinner worthy, but you can also serve them as a side dish with grilled chicken or steak.
If you are a total Nacho fan, then go ahead and check out Hot to Make The Ultimate Nachos.
Another cheese type that is made with cow’s milk, and another one that bears the name of the city it originated in, that is Monterey, California. Texture-wise it is a semi-hard cheese and it is quite possibly the best choice for recipes that call for melted cheese. In terms of taste, it has a mild buttery taste with a slight tang.
Melting: Excellent melt, prone to oiling off
Aging: 1 month.
#3.The Broccoli with Cheese Sauce recipe calls for three types of cheeses: cheddar, Velveeta and, of course, Monterey Jack. Dipping the broccoli in a velvety cheese sauce must be the tastiest form in which one can consume this vegetable or any other veggie for that matter. (it will go great with asparagus, carrots, and cauliflower). So, if you can’t get your kids to eat steamed veggies, try luring your little ones into eating them with this cheese sauce.
There seems to be a division in the food world between Gorgonzola lovers, and those that find it appalling. Either way, the moldy cheese that comes from Italy made from unskimmed cow’s milk has made its way into many recipes, cheese sauces included. It has a crumbly texture and it is a bit saltier than regular cheeses, the type of mold used in its preparation is the Penicillium glaucum mold. An interesting fact is that Gorgonzola is aged in a cave.
Melting: Over melt and overflow
Aging: 3 to 4 months.
#4.The Filet Mignon with Cheese Sauce is THE recipe if you want a high-end dish made in only half an hour. Get some beef broth and whipping cream, add the Gorgonzola and voila: you have a perfect dinner!
The original spelling being Gruyère (from Gruyères in Switzerland), is a semi-soft cheese which is pretty distinct both in taste and texture. It is rusty brown in color and pitted with tiny holes. Although due to the complexity of its taste, it is hard to be described, earthy and nutty with a slightly fruity note would be the closest to a description of it.
Melting: Moderate to excellent melt
Aging: 3 to 10 months.
#5.The Sweet Potato, Kale, and Sausage Bake with White Cheese Sauce is a dish that will definitely become your family’s favorite!
Don’t let the name mislead you. This is what Americans know simply as fresh goat’s milk cheese. In fact, if you have a basic knowledge of French, you’d know that “chèvre” translates to “goat”. Now that we’ve settled this, it is safe to say that this type of cheese is made from goat’s milk. As for the flavor, this cheese is characterized by an acidic, lemony taste.
Melting: Melt and flow resistant
Aging: not aged (eaten immediately after it’s been made).
Although this cheese falls in the “melt resistant” category, we decided that a cheese sauce recipe that doesn’t require cooking is sure going to come in handy on hectic days.
#6.The Zucchini Fritters & Goat Cheese Sauce is one such recipe, all you need to do is just mix the goat cheese, yogurt, chives and salt and pepper together and you have yourselves a nice creamy cheese sauce.
Great dishes don’t have to take too much of your time, and we have all of the recipes above to prove it. So, go ahead, prepare a creamy cheese sauce and enjoy it with anything from nachos to fillet mignon!