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3littlekeets

Key to creamy (not lumpy or stringy) baked or crockpot mac and cheese?

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Hi all,

 

Getting ready for the Thanksgiving feast and I've been asked to make Mac and Cheese. No matter what I do (velveeta, butter and flour roux, etc.) mine always seems kind of lumpy or stringy. I have melted the cheese ahead of time, made sure it wasn't too cooked, etc, and there are always chunks of cheese or things that look like cottage cheese left. HELP! What do I do?

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I've heard that cornstarch is the key to smooth, lump-free mac and cheese but not sure about in the crockpot. I think the very nature of the extended "warm" time is what will make the cheese stringy in a crockpot.

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I think that unless you're using some highly processed stuff (like cans of cheese soup or something), the long cooking time in the crock pot is going to break down the milk that's in there and make things wonky (is that a technical term?) Make a white sauce (butter, flour, milk), add your shredded cheese and it should all melt in--don't put in the noodles until it's all melted. Then mix in your cooked noodles, stick it in a casserole dish (bread crumbs or not are a personal preference) and it can stay there until it's time to reheat (in the oven while the turkey is resting?)

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I always use a simple recipe with a flour roux. Some things that help:

 

Measure out all of your ingredients ahead of time so you aren't stopping at a critical time to measure.

 

You want to cook that roux for about five minutes while whisking. You also must whisk constantly when adding the milk.

 

The Pioneer Woman has a good tutorial. I'm not crazy about the seasonings she uses though. Too salty for us!

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/04/macaroni-cheese/

 

Cheese tends to get stringy when it's added at too high of a heat. Don't crank up the heat after adding the milk.

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I always use Velveeta, but cut the cheese into chunks and add milk in a microwaveable bowl. Then I heat the two in the microwave to make a cheese sauce. Pour over the cooked macaroni, stir together well, and bake. Always turns out creamy. HTH

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I think that unless you're using some highly processed stuff (like cans of cheese soup or something), the long cooking time in the crock pot is going to break down the milk that's in there and make things wonky (is that a technical term?) Make a white sauce (butter, flour, milk), add your shredded cheese and it should all melt in--don't put in the noodles until it's all melted. Then mix in your cooked noodles, stick it in a casserole dish (bread crumbs or not are a personal preference) and it can stay there until it's time to reheat (in the oven while the turkey is resting?)

 

This is similar to how we do it. We no longer want to use highly processed things such as velveeta, for a variety of reasons. Making the roux and then adding the cheese works well.

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The key to creamy is actually cream :-) Also, don't buy pre shredded cheese. They coat it with stuff that you don't want I your Mac n cheese and it doesn't melt as nicely. If all of the steps are creamy, you're OK. Just go slowly. Melt butter with flour, but a litte less flour than you want to add. Then add cream, half n half, or milk. Keep whisking, cook slowly, and maintain creaminess. Grate your own cheese, and use cheeses that melt nicely. Straight cheddar is tough. I always toss in Parmesan, then pepper-jack, then some cheddar. Melt completely between cheeses. Make your cheese sauce a bit thinner than you really want it, and stir the noodles into the cheese so you don't end up with TOO many noodles in your sauce. Keep it a little extra saucy because it will thicken in the starchy noodles when you bake it. Top with more cheese and bake. Cover if you don't want your top noodles to get toasty.

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i cant use cheese any more, but using a high quality white cheese helped me - store brand yellow cheeses were the worst. but yeah, slow cooker is just too much. and i agree with the cream, and a variety of cheeses.

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I thought I'd read a recommendation for oven baked mac and cheese in Cooks Illustrated, to use evporated milk, because it won't curdle. I imagine cream would be the same.

 

But mac and cheese just is not one of those dishes I think requires either an oven or a slow cooker.

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