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Cooking Tips

Want the Creamiest Mac ‘n’ Cheese? Buy American.

It’s scientifically proven to make the smoothest sauce.

If you’ve ever made mac and cheese from scratch, you probably know that the best tasting cheeses—mature, nutty-sharp cheddars and Gruyères—are poor melters. Heat them, and their fragile emulsion (a fat-moisture network held together by proteins) breaks down into a greasy, curdled mess. 

Mac and cheese recipes typically get around this breakdown by stabilizing the cheese with a béchamel: the classic French white sauce made by cooking flour in melted butter to form a roux, then thinning out that starch-fat paste with milk until the mixture turns silky smooth. When you stir aged cheese into the sauce, starches from the flour wrap around proteins in the cheese, preventing them from squeezing out fat and recombining into slumpy curds. Some cooks even fortify the sauce with egg yolk, which adds emulsifiers that also help stabilize the emulsion.

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But my colleague, deputy editor Andrea Geary, found a much simpler way to make a sauce that’s both flavorful and silky-smooth in her Simple Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese: Replace the béchamel with American cheese. So-called process cheeses like American contain emulsifying salts, which not only keep the American cheese itself smooth when melted, but also change the nature of the proteins in the aged cheeses so that they can more effectively stabilize the fat-moisture network. 

Even better, the whole ensemble comes together in one pot. All you do is simmer the macaroni in a combination of water and milk, which will form the base for the sauce; stir in shredded American cheese (buy a block at the deli counter) along with some seasonings until the mixture is smooth; move the pot off the heat; and add shredded extra-sharp cheddar. Residual heat from the sauce will gently melt the cheese without any risk of it breaking.

For the full recipe, click here.

The American cheese–based sauce will stabilize the cheddar as it melts.

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.