Meltology – A Review of Cheese Melting

Cheese is eaten in my house everyday, and it is a common ingredient in my recipes. Meals such as pizza and burgers are best with perfectly melted cheese, but past the more common cheeses of mozzarella and cheddar, my knowledge of how other cheese hold up to heat is a bit limited.

Hence, I decided to do another kitchen experiment. One I would like to refer to as “meltology”. I wanted to answer:

  • How long does it take to melt the cheese?
  • How long does it take to over cook it?
  • How does the consistency and color change with heat?

meltology_time0

For this first experiment, I chose six cheeses. Starting with the upper left corner and going clockwise, they are:

  • Mozzarella
  • Cheddar
  • Cotija
  • Romano
  • Brie
  • Gorganzola

I preheated the oven to 375°F and then viewed the cheeses as 2, 4, 6, 8, 14, and 18 minutes into baking.

Two Minutes

meltology_2minutes

 

 Four Minutes

meltology_4minutes

 

Six Minutes

meltology_6minutesA

 

meltology_6minutesB

 

Eight Minutes

meltology_8minutesA

 

Fourteen Minutes

meltology_14minutes

At 8 minutes the mozzarella was the first to brown, but it was the most forgiving in terms of consistency of texture and rate of browning over the course of heating.

This mini-experiment showed me that gorganzola has an optimal window of heating – by 14 minutes it began to turn an off putting brown.

The cheddar stayed supple, as did the brie, whereas the Romano turned crisp.

The most interesting part to me was the cotija. While I knew going into this that it was considered a non-melting cheese, I hadn’t considered that it would actually brown. The toasted cheese tasted good and had a chewy consistency.

meltology_8minutesB

Cheese melting is largely impacted by the curding process and moisture content.According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking, acid curded cheese do not melt, and low moisture means it takes longer to melt and the cheese will not “flow”.

meltologyTable1

While my cheese melting test wasn’t very extensive it did give me a better appreciation of the differences between cheese varieties.  Happy Melting!

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Chile con Queso with Fresh Roasted Chilies and Cashew Cheese

I have been waiting all summer for fresh roasted chilies from my local farmers market. While I could roast peppers myself, you just can’t beat the chilies roasted over coals in a hopper. Last week I was informed that there was only one more week of waiting, so I put my name down for two bags of their medium Anaheim roasted chilies, assuming it was the quart sized bags they had last year.

What I hadn’t been told was that the list wasn’t for small bags of chilies, it was for bushels. BUSHELS. I had ordered TWO bushels of roasted chilies. I ended up leaving the market with one bushel, with the assurance that the other would go fast (which I have no doubt, seeing as how many people ask for them).

In case you are wondering, this is what a bushel of roasted chilies looks like . . . Getting through the entire fifteen pound bag may take a while, and will be why chilies may be a frequent ingredient in future postings.

bushelChilies

The first thing I wanted to make with my chilies was Chili con Queso, surprisingly with a cheese substitute – Cashew Cheese. Cheese makes up a generous portion of my diet, which is why eliminating dairy from my diet temporarily to rule out a food sensitivity was difficult, and the few dairy-free cheeses I tried didn’t satisfy my craving. Thankfully, my cheese famine was short lived, though I’m always on the lookout for a good alternative, since some of my good friends have had to maintain a longer dairy hiatus.

Imagine my surprise when at a food event this April I stumbled upon cashew cheese.The unique aspect about the Beyond Better® product I picked up is that it is the only dried version on the market, making it a simple option to pack with you that requires only water for reconstitution. It is a diary-free, gluten-free, organic cheese substitute that actually tastes like cheese!

beyondBetter

To make my Chili con queso, I cooked ½ pound of ground beef , then added the cashew queso dip and water,

dip1

dip2

then I added a bit of the diced freshly roasted chilies and some diced cherry tomatoes . . .

dicedChilies

dip4

for a hearty, kid & husband approved, lunch of queso and blue corn chips.

cashewQueso2

Now I just have to figure out what to do with the remaining 14 ½ pounds of chilies. . . .


 

Chili con Queso with Fresh Roasted Chilies and Cashew Cheese

½ lb ground beef
4 oz package of Beyond Better® Spicy Queso Dip
1 ½ cups water
½ cup freshly roasted chilies, diced
½ cup diced cherry tomatoes

Cook beef in a skillet over medium heat until fully cooked and browned, breaking it into small pieces. Add the queso dip and water and stir until no clumps remain. Heat for 1-2 minutes longer, until thick and bubbly. Stir in the chilies and tomatoes, and then remove from the heat. Serve with corn chips.

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