Why do Macroni and Cheese separate? [here’s What to Know!]

You have found the perfect recipe for your macaroni and cheese. But, often, while making macaroni and cheese it curdles and separates. Wondering why that happens?

In general, macaroni cheese separates or curdles when the cheese has been exposed to high heat. The protein molecules in the cheese stick together to form lumps. This can be easily fixed by the addition of butter, cream, roux, milk, or cheese.

In this article, I’ll share with you some of the other related issues that you may be facing while making mac and cheese! Keep reading to avoid other common problems.

Why do Macaroni and cheese taste grainy?

Generally, your macaroni and cheese taste grainy as the fats in the cheese have cooked and separated. This happens when the cheese has been added to a bubbling hot mixture. The cheese gets curdled and forms lumps.

There are a few things you can do to prevent macaroni cheese from getting grainy.

  1. Use equal parts of flour and butter by weight to make your roux. That is 1 tablespoon more butter than flour, this will ensure that they are equal in weight.
  2. If you see your cheese getting grainy, immediately take it off the heat and whisk so it cools faster.

You can easily fix your macaroni cheese when it gets grainy by:

  1. Adding more butter
  2. Adding more roux and mixing evenly.
  3. Adding more grated cheese.
  4. Adding milk or cream.

Why did my macaroni and cheese split?

Macaroni and cheese split due to the overheating of the cheese during the cooking process. Cheese is the primary culprit amongst all the other ingredients that are used in the dish.

There are quite a few reasons why your macaroni and cheese have split. Some of them are listed below:

  1. Too high heat too soon.
  2. The cheese that you have used is not of good quality.
  3. Pre-shredded cheese contains a lot of additives to preserve it and not let it clump together. The additives in the cheese cause your macaroni and cheese to separate.
  4. Using low-fat cheese can also cause your macaroni cheese to separate as there isn’t enough fat content in the cheese. The cheese can not withstand the heat and hence curdle easily.

Cheese is mainly made up of fat, proteins, and water. protein molecules tend to denature and curdle together when exposed to high heat quickly. This is one of the primary reasons why eggs are tempered. Eggs are mainly made up of proteins that curdle when exposed to heat.

Thus, the eggs are heated gradually to prevent them from curdling. Similarly, cheese also contains a sufficient amount of proteins that curdle when exposed to high heat too soon.

How do you keep macaroni and cheese from splitting?

Now that we are aware that cheese is the main reason why your macaroni and cheese split. There are quite a few easy tips that can be implemented, although the whole process sounds very complex, and it is easy to prevent your macaroni and cheese from splitting.

Listed below are a few things that will ensure you have a dish that has a uniform texture.

  1. While adding the cheese keep the heat low to medium and stir constantly.
  2. Making a good roux, then adding the cheese generally ensures that the cheese will not curdle easily.
  3. If you are adding eggs to your macaroni and cheese then ensure that they are tempered and should always be added at the last stage.
  4. pick a good quality cheese. This cheese is generally aged well. Thus, has fewer additives.
  5. Almost always grate your cheese. This will eliminate the possibility of cheese curdling due to the presence of too many preservatives.
  6. As in the making of a roux hot and cold ingredients must not be added together as extreme temperatures will curdle it. Similarly, super chilled cheese or frozen cheese should not be used directly while making your cheese sauce. This will almost always curdle your macaroni and cheese.

Keeping the above steps in mind shall help you in keeping your cheese from separating while making a cheese sauce or macaroni cheese or in any other recipe where cheese is one of the main ingredients.

how to fix curdled macaroni and cheese?

If for any of the above reasons your macaroni cheese has curdled then it’s easier to fix than you think. So don’t chuck it in the bin just yet!

Have a look at some of the ways you can fix it.

  1. If you see that the dish is curdling, immediately remove it from the heat. Mostly curdling happens because the heat is high. Removing it from heat will stop it from cooking further. Which is easier to restore.
  2. You can add some cream or full-fat milk to the mixture as this will balance out the fat and the proteins. You can add a little, increasing it as you go. So, you have a better idea, of how much milk or cream is required to fix your dish.
  3. Another way is to add about 1 to 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. Adding acidity to the mix detangles the protein molecules of the separated cheese and thus you will get a uniform mix.

Suggested Read: Why is my Macaroni and Cheese Dry? [And here’s how to Fix It!]

why do macaroni and cheese separate when reheated?

Often you have a perfectly cooked dish, your macaroni cheese separates when you have reheated it. This happens quite often. Especially if you would like to enjoy the dish the next day.

To prevent your macaroni cheese from separating while reheating you can:

  1. Add Milk or cream. Gradually heat milk or cream so that it is hot, but not piping hot and whisk it into your macaroni cheese and then heat it.
  2. Add cheese: Adding in extra cheese before or while heating does not curdle your macaroni cheese.
  3. Gradually heat your macaroni cheese. First on low heat and once it is uniformly heated then it can be heated on high heat. This process is very similar to tempering and works in the same way as you are gradually heating the protein molecules.

Pro Tip: Never heat your macaroni cheese directly from the freezer or fridge. Bring it to room temperature or defrost it in the microwave before heating it.

Is it safe to eat curdled mac and cheese?

It is quite common for milk and cream-based sauces and recipes to curdle if they are not handled properly while cooking. Although there is no harm in eating them, however, they do not taste that great.

Once the proteins in the dairy – milk or cream, separate it is difficult to get them back. Thus, one has to be mindful while cooking or if it is not too late then you can try a few things listed below.

  1. Add in some cream or milk.
  2. Add a generous amount of butter and milk.
  3. Add some cheese
  4. Make a bechamel sauce and then add in the macaroni cheese and some extra cheese.

Here’s hoping that this article has given you better clarity on what to do if you face any of the questions above.

Similar Posts