Top Tips from Home Cooks: Making the Best Mac & Cheese Ever
Our community of home cooks knows how to make a creamy, cheesy mac-and-cheese casserole. Here are some of their top tips from 5-star recipes, covering everything from making a lump-free roux to finishing the cheesy casserole on the grill. We also dish some top-rated recipes.
Making the Cheese Sauce
Add cold milk to hot roux while whisking to avoid lumps. Chef John has a catchphrase for this one: "Hot roux, cold milk, no lumps."
"Keep a careful eye on the milk when boiling," says g0dluvsugly, "as milk boils fast and burns easily. Burnt milk will show up in the recipes flavor if overcooked."
Adding the Cheese
After you've made the roux, stirred in the milk, and have allowed it to simmer, add the cheese. "Turn off the heat after you add the cheese," says Chef John, "saving a little bit for the top. I think a sharp Cheddar really is the best."
Making Mac-and-Cheese into a Meal
"To make it a more complete meal, I added broccoli and cubed cooked chicken," says cknits. Other home cooks have added ham, Spam, pulled pork, smoked sausage, leftover steak, hamburger, bacon, even lobster!
Preparing the Pasta
Adjust the amount of pasta to create more or less creamy/cheesy mac-and-cheese. "I followed advice to use less pasta since we wanted it a little creamier," says linda2d.
"Try using large shell pasta instead of macaroni, which hold more of the sauce in the pasta," says Tara.
Baking Mac and Cheese
"The secret to a perfect mac-and-cheese crust: a half cup of panko breadcrumbs," says Chef John. Mix up the panko with a tablespoon of butter, spread it over the mac and chees, and put it in a 400 degree oven until the top caramelizes and browns. "You're going to get the best crust ever."
Make sure your mac and cheese mixture is wet and saucy in the pan, otherwise it might get dry when it bakes. Don't be afraid to add a splash of the pasta water to loosen things up.
"Sprinkle a layer of panko and parsley on the top of the pasta before baking for some added crunch and color," says patchberrie.
Finish on the Grill
"We baked the mac-and-cheese on the grill over indirect heat while grilling steaks and broccoli," says linda2d.
Gluten-free Macaroni and Cheese
"Mascarpone makes this cheesy pasta extra creamy," says Leslie Kelly, "and potato starch thickens the sauce without flour."
Top-Rated Macaroni and Cheese Recipes
Check out our complete collection of Macaroni and Cheese Recipes.