Nothing beats a smooth, creamy, and cheesy cheese sauce. Find out today how why cheese sauce gets gritty and how to prevent it!
While I get that there are 5 food groups, in my world, there are 8. Sure we have dairy, fruit, grain, lean meats and proteins, veggies but for me, I also like to consider pizza, bacon, and cheese as their own separate food groups.
Oh sure I know they technically fall under the other 5 but these other 3 play such a high role in my life that they deserve their own group. In my household, and specifically my fridge, I have an entire cheese drawer with nothing but cheeses in it.
At any given point in time, there are at least 8 different varieties of cheeses and no, I’m not talking about the individually sliced stuff. And yes I do like Velveeta by the way. That stuff is the bomb for a creamy cheese sauce!
But have you ever made (or had) mac and cheese that wasn’t creamy or smooth? Instead, it was grainy or gritty? Kind of gross, huh? So there are a few reasons why this happens and what you want to avoid.
- Use real cheese and not cheese food (i.e, the individually wrapped slices). If those say they are real cheese without a million additives then you’re OK.
- Velveeta – so no, technically it’s not ‘real cheese” as it’s made with whey protein concentrate, milk protein, and other additives to create a pasteurized cheese product. Again if you want to use I won’t judge you.
- Grate your cheese instead of buying pre-grated cheese. Those cheese are packaged with additives (powders). Those powders hamper your cheese melting/smoothness.
- When you make your roux (butter/flour) then adding your milk (béchamel) you must add your cheese to the heated mixture slowly. *NOTE! Do NOT add the cheese to the mixture if it’s boiling/bubbling. Adding cheese to a bubbling mixture will cause the cheese to break down. The emulsifiers and coagulants break down when heated thus causing a gritty texture.
- Remove the hot béchamel from the heat. I tend to remove the pan from the heat completely when adding the cheese to prevent it from getting too hot and curdling/breaking.
- Add the cheese slowly – if your recipe calls for 2 cups of shredded cheese add in a little bit at a time. Add some, stir till melted and add more. Continue to add and stir.
Recipe Reviews & Comments
What if you have to reheat it? For example…leftover cheddar chowder soup? Will it turn gritty when re-heated? I keep trying to make that soup, but when I add the roux to the soup it turns gritty! UGH
So when you make the soup fresh, is it smooth and not gritty or clumpy?
To reheat, thaw overnight in the fridge (if frozen). To reheat, reheat on low. Don’t rush it. That’s how I do it and it comes back together. The trick is to make sure it’s not gritty or clumpy to start with.
Best Kitchen Wishes!
Gritty cheese—-I had this happen at a party one evening and was so embarrassed. I always remove from heat before adding my cheese now.
Thanks for the time and effort you put. To your blog and recipes.
Susan Shingler says
I wish I had known this 2 weeks ago. Ended up eating gritty theatre sauce. Is there any way to fix this?
There are a few ways:
1. Pour it in the blender to smooth it out and then heat it slowly, adding more cheese.
2. Add a scant tablesppoon of lemon juice off the heat and whisk the heck out of it.
3. Add more butter and flour (make it into a thick paste) and then whisk the mixture slowly. It should melt into the sauce.
I prefer number one personally.
Best Kitchen Wishes!
Thank you for this bit of science. I just made a decadent Mac n cheese but only I detected a fine grittiness and had forgotten what caused that.
This tip goes at the top of the instructions. I’ll let my béchamel cool to around 180° so it does not break the cheeses.
Leslie Hunt says
I learned this the hard way. Lori knows what she’s saying. I’ve made Rouxs that look like Orange Oily Rocky Road ice cream. YUCK!!!
Like Lori says use a 1:2 ratio if possible. DO NOT HURRY!! DO NOT USE HIGH HEAT. Use love, you will be loved. For the brave, try substitute a little Bacon Fat into the Oil ratio. Add fresh Roasted Green Chili’s to the mix at the cheese stage. Have Fun!! Black Pepper is your Friend
Thank you Leslie! I love “Use love, you will be loved.” That is perfect! Thank you so much!
Best Kitchen Wishes!
Thank you! I made a homemade Mac and cheese last night and it turned out oily, and the cheese sauce was curdled looking. Now I know I added the cheese too quickly and kept heat on much too long. I’ll try it again using your tips!