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My mac and cheese is pretty simple: elbows, béchamel, extra sharp cheddar, salt and pepper, hot sauce. I usually serve it unbaked, as I find it creamier. But I’ve been assigned baked mac and cheese for my Thanksgiving contribution. Whenever I bake it (usually at 350), I find it too dry for my liking. I’ve tried upping the amount of cheese sauce and briefly broiling the top instead of longer baking, but still not creamy enough. Any suggestions for keeping it very creamy? Is baked mac and cheese naturally more dry than non-baked? Might just be a personal preference thing on my part. :)

asked by campagnes over 6 years ago
6 answers 2700 views
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Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

added over 6 years ago

Yes, I think it's going to be less creamy because of the baking process. I'd make the cheese sauce a little thinner (adding more milk probably) and yes, would use about 20% more of it. I'd bake it at 300 degrees (so it warms rather than cooks) and then, yes, broiling it like you did -- that was a great idea!

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added over 6 years ago

I'm with Amanda -- I bake mine, occasionally, and when I do, it's always with additional milk to thin down the sauce, and going with a "soupier" product pre-baking. I top with a combo of bread crumbs and parmesan, and just bake long enough to crisp that up.

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added over 6 years ago

I hardly ever bake mine, but a good thing to do is slightly undercook your pasta, like just under al dente, so the pasta won't be overcooked once it has finished baked. And I agree, use more cheese sauce.

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added over 6 years ago

Why bake, make it your way. Bring your recipe the way you like it.

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pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

added over 6 years ago

The fancy French term for bechamel with cheese is sauce mornay. As Amanda has suggested you can make it "looser" but also mentally factor in the moisture content of the cheese you are choosing to use. It can make a big difference if it's a really dry cheese as compared to say, Velveeta.

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added over 6 years ago

awesome.. thanks for all the feedback! I agree, cheaterchef, I'd love to just bring my own mac and cheese, but they really dig that crunchy top, so I'm stuck with baked. :) I'll increase a slightly thinner cheese sauce and see how that goes.

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