There are few things better than a perfectly smooth and velvety mac and cheese sauce. But, this is unfortunately not always the case on the first try. Maybe the cheese sauce you bought was a disappointment, or you accidentally made a mistake that caused it to become grainy.
If the sauce of your mac and cheese has become grainy, there are a couple of ways to fix this. You can make mac and cheese more creamy by adding some lemon juice or more milk.
Reasons Mac and Cheese Can Be Grainy
When your mac and cheese gets grainy, this is because the milk has curdled. When milk curdles, the proteins and liquids separate. There are a few reasons this could happen. Milk in sauce could curdle because there isn’t enough fat, there’s too much acid, or too much heat.
Not Enough Fat
If you use a low-fat milk, there is a high chance of your mac and cheese being grainy. So, first of all, be sure that you are using milk with a higher fat content. Milk with low fat contents will curdle much faster than milk with high contents of fat.
Too Much Acid
Often, homemade mac and cheese will require acidic ingredients like lemon juice or vinegar. These same ingredients are used to curdle milk to make cheese, so it only makes sense that they would curdle milk even in situations where that isn’t the desired effect.
Acidic ingredients are often the main culprit of curdling. To avoid this, if you must use one, keep it at a minimum. You can always add more, but often you can not add less.
Too Much Heat
Sauces that are based in dairy do not really get along with high amounts of heat, even though it is required for making mac and cheese. The following steps will help you avoid letting the milk curdle in the cheese sauce of your mac and cheese.
Avoid Grainy Cheese Sauce While Preparing
When cooking anything, time is of the essence. Taking your time whilst making mac and cheese can make a world of difference, especially with keeping it from taking on a grainy texture. Using equal parts of flour and fat make a great foundation, and blending them until they fully form the desired texture.
Keeping the heat at a low setting is another great tip to prevent a grainy texture in mac and cheese. It is a bit more time consuming than a high heat setting, but can prevent a great deal of damage. Be sure to keep the heat low throughout the entire process.
Extreme temperature changes are another culprit of curdling in mac and cheese. It isn’t something that many people put thought into, but taking mac and cheese straight from the freezer to the oven, and vice versa, is not very good for it. Try leaving it at room temperature before freezing or reheating your mac and cheese.
Pre-grated cheese can also cause mac and cheese to become grainy very quickly. Of course it saves time in the beginning, but can end up being a pain. Grating your own cheese will drastically help to prevent mac and cheese from curdling. Also, add the cheese slowly and stir in intervals to keep a creamy consistency the whole time.
Fixing Grainy Mac and Cheese
If you notice your mac and cheese becoming grainy as you are making it, first remove the pan from heat. Let it get to room temperature, and try adding one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to the mixture. High-fat cream also works in this case, be sure to stir thoroughly.
If your leftover mac and cheese has become grainy, similar steps can be taken. Before reheating, always let it come to room temperature. Next, warm up some milk that is high in fat and stir it into the pasta. Try not to overstir, and then reheat it. This should clear up any graininess.
Grainy mac and cheese can be a huge disappointment. Fortunately, there are plenty of tips to avoid this. Avoiding graininess happens during the preparation process of mac and cheese, and before you even bake it. There are also ways to minimize graininess in leftover mac and cheese.