Hot melting cheese is the ultimate comfort food. What can be more satisfying than a piping hot cheese toasty? We know that the café and fast food chain toasties are made with processed cheese. Great for melting, not so good for you!
So for those looking to use non-processed cheese in their next homemade cheese toasties (or lasagne, fondue or quesadillas), or any other recipe for that matter, we break down the best way to melt cheese and look at some of the best cheese for melting.
Best Cheese for Melting
Our ultimate favourite and best cheese for melting is Gruyere. Made with raw milk from cows grazing on the hills in Western Switzerland. It displays a wonderfully smooth texture when heated (providing you melt it right!).
Taleggio is a washed rind cheese, so emanates a serious aroma! Serious cheese addicts will love a bit of Taleggio melted onto toasted sourdough and topped with a fruity chutney. Certainly a contender for the very best cheese for melting amongst cheese lovers. Delicious!
The queen of melted cheese. Buttery and slightly fruity. Remember to remove the rind when melting this cheese.
Young Gouda melts brilliantly, mainly due to the fact that warm water replaces the whey during the production of this cheese. This lowers the acidity content, giving it a sweeter flavour.
Other good melting cheeses include Comte, Emmental, Asiago and Reblochon.
What Makes a Cheese Good for Melting?
Why are any of the above cheeses, the best cheese for melting? The simple answer to this question is: A combination of age and moisture!
Cheese is made from protein, fats, salt and water (and any other added flavourings like herbs and spices). These vary in quantity depending on the type of cheese. The fats and proteins are held in place by a protein matrix. This gives the cheese its solid texture.
When you heat cheese you are softening the protein matrix, the protein itself and the fat. Depending on the cheese in question, this produces some pliability of varying degrees. When heated to a high enough temperature, the protein matrix will collapse, releasing the protein and fat and causing the cheese to melt.
The moisture content of the cheese will largely determine how it melts. The longer a cheese ages, the less water it has. Some aged parmesan can carry a water content of just 30% or less, compared with fresh cheese which has a water content of up to 80%.
Low moisture = harder, more crumbly cheese (like cheddar). Firmer cheese requires a high heat to melt it because the protein bonds that hold together the fat and protein have a tighter formation and are therefore harder to breakdown.
High moisture = softer, more pliable cheese. Softer cheese (like feta) is much easier to melt because of the higher moisture content. Even in a large chunk, a higher moisture cheese like Fontina will melt better than a large chunk of parmesan.
The salt content also influences how well a cheese melts. Larger quantities of salt will draw more moisture out of the cheese, producing a drier, firmer cheese.
Tips for Melting Cheese
The last thing you want when melting cheese is to be left with a thick, stringy or grainy mess that has separated and left you with a layer of liquid oil on top. Here are our tips to try and avoid this.
- Only use the cheese that is suggested in the recipe: Usually we embrace recipe tweaks (to suit our tastes and what is in the cupboard!) However with cheese that requires melting we would always suggest sticking to the recipe! For example, if your recipe says to use gruyere, you simply cannot substitute this for that chunk of feta at the back of the fridge or some mozzarella. You will not get the same result! There are over a thousand different cheeses, each one made slightly differently from the other and therefore each one melts differently.
- Grate your cheese: Sounds obvious but if you are attempting to melt a firm cheese, ensure you grate it instead of chopping into cubes.
- Add some lemon juice or white wine: You can add a little lemon juice or white wine to a cheese to help achieve a smooth melt. This is because of the acid content (or alcohol content in the case of the white wine) in these foods which helps to break down the cheese proteins.
- Add Cornstartch to melting cheese: Adding Cornstartch to the cheese will act as an anti-clumping agent, giving you a smoother finish.
Which cheese do you believe is the best cheese for melting?