Even though our favorite way to enjoy cheese is on a platter with simple accompaniments, we know that nearly any composed dish is better with some hot, gooey cheese. Cooking with cheese as the star ingredient takes a little skill, and since quality cheese gets expensive, you want to approach your stove or oven well-prepared. The last thing you want is to end up with a pile of coagulated cheese in a pool of its own oil.
Here are our top 5 tips for cooking with cheese.
1. Use a cheese that's made to melt.
The best melting cheeses have the perfect ratio of moisture content, age, and acidity. Look for semi-firm wedges like Gruyère, Raclette, Fontina, low-moisture mozzarella, and a 3-month gouda.
2. Bring it to room temperature.
Cold cheese won't melt as evenly and can even leak out oil when heated. Be sure to temper for at least 20 minutes, and even longer if you're cooking with a particularly large wedge.
3. Grate it fresh.
Pre-shredded cheese has preservatives and additives like powdered cellulose, which can affect the texture when melted. Grating it fresh from the block ensures the best flavors and a silky ooze.
4. Don't cook it too high or for too long.
Cooking cheese at too high a temperature will cause it to separate. If you cook it too longer, it will dry out and lose its velvet-y richness. If your dish requires a long bake-time, experiment with adding a splash of cream to maintain moisture.
5. Store your cheese right!
Poor storage can ruin the flavor and the texture of a cheese, so make sure it's tucked into cheese storage paper or bags to maintain proper airflow and humidity levels. Even when you're cooking with it, you want to make sure you're enjoying the cheese just as the cheesemaker intended.