Q: How do you melt cheese successfully?
A: Here are some tips to help prevent melted cheese disasters.
First, use the cheese the recipe recommends, if possible. Sometimes using a substitute will cause problems because it doesn't melt the same. There are many varieties of cheese, and they are all made differently. They differ in appearance, flavor, texture, and yes, in how they melt.
Second, all cheeses can be divided into three melting categories. They include stretchy and stringy, smooth and flowing, and nonmelting.
Stringy and stretchy:
¢ Queso Oaxaca
¢ String cheese
¢ Fresh cheddar cheese curds
Flowing and smooth:
¢ Monterey Jack
¢ Blue cheese
¢ Parmigiano-Reggiano (shredded)
These don't melt very well:
¢ Queso blanco
¢ Queso fresco
¢ Indian paneer
¢ Cottage cheese
¢ Fresh goat cheese
¢ Parmigiano-Reggiano (in large pieces)
Third, control the heat. Once you select a cheese, it is equally important to be gentle with how much heat you use to melt it properly. Even if you use the cheese listed in the recipe, too much heat can ruin it. Excess heat causes the proteins in the cheese to shrink and become tightly bound together. This pushes out water and fat. The result is globs of cheese protein in a pool of fat and water. Once this has happened, there's no going back.
To help prevent ruining a favorite dish, try using these tips:
¢ Use shredded cheese. This increases the surface area that the heat affects. It also reduces how much time it takes to melt.
¢ Let cheese warm to room temperature. This reduces the temperature range that cheese goes through and the time it takes to melt.
¢ Low heat is best. When melting on top of the stove, keep the temperature low. If using the broiler, keep a close eye on the cheese to keep the heat to a minimum.
Speaking of melting cheese, here's a fun way to make grilled cheese sandwiches, taken from K-State Research and Extension's Kids A Cookin' & Movin' curriculum. To find more fun recipes, go to www.kidsacookin.com.
1/4 cup low fat salad dressing
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
4 thin slices cheddar, Colby, Swiss or mozzarella cheese
4 slices (about 1/4 pound) deli turkey, ham or roast beef
8 slices whole-wheat sandwich bread
Spray waffle iron with cooking spray and heat. Combine salad dressing, mustard and honey in a small bowl. Spread dressing on one side of each slice of bread. Divide meat and cheese and place on dressing side of bread to make 4 sandwiches. Place 1 sandwich in the middle of heated waffle iron. Bake for 2 to 3 minutes or until sandwich is golden brown and cheese is melted. Repeat with other sandwiches. Serves four.
¢ Don't have a waffle iron? Use a griddle or skillet to toast the bread and melt the cheese. Heat the griddle on medium heat and watch carefully so the bread is evenly toasted on both sides.
¢ Cut the Waffle-Wiches into strips for easy dipping in ketchup or sauce.
¢ Read the bread label to make sure it says "100% whole wheat bread" for extra fiber and wholesome ingredients. Other words like "wheat" or "cracked wheat" do not mean the same as 100% whole wheat bread.
¢ Try different combinations of meat, cheese, sauces and bread. It's a great way to use leftovers!
Nutrition facts per serving: 240 calories, 7 grams total fat, 2 grams fiber, 15 grams protein.
Q: Can you tell me the difference between natural cheese and pasteurized process cheese?
A: Cheese varieties are categorized as natural cheese, pasteurized process cheese, cheese food and cheese spread.
¢ Natural cheese is made from a starter bacteria, rennet and milk, which is allowed to solidify. It may or may not be aged. Each natural cheese variety is processed, resulting in distinctive qualities.
¢ Pasteurized process cheese is prepared by grinding, blending and heating one or more natural cheeses together, which allows uniformity and keeping quality. American cheese is an example of a pasteurized process cheese.
¢ Cheese food is made by blending one or more cheeses without the use of heat plus the addition of dairy products such as cream, milk, skim milk or whey.
¢ Cheese food has a higher percentage of moisture than natural or pasteurized process cheese.
¢ Cheese spread is similar to pasteurized process food except that an edible stabilizer and moisture are added. This allows for smooth spreading at room temperature. Cheese spread is usually lower in fat and higher in moisture than cheese food.