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Burning Question: Why Do Some Cheeses Melt Better Than Others?

Why Do Some Cheeses Melt Better Than Others?

Ah, the joys of melted cheese. There are few things in life that are so pleasurable. Yet why do certain cheeses melt uniformly, while others don't? How come a few won't melt at all?

Several factors play a part in the melting process. One is fat content: the more fat a cheese contains, the more a cheese's casein molecules are able to separate, and the better it will melt. For this reason, lowfat and fat-free cheeses tend to melt into a rubbery consistency. The water level in a cheese also determines how it will melt. A cheese such as Parmesan is hard due to its low moisture level. Its dense molecular makeup means its molecules, even when melted, have relatively little room to flow — which is why Parmesan, unlike brie, will never get runny when it's melted.

A handful of cheeses — among them, fresh goat cheese, paneer, queso blanco, and ricotta — will never melt at all. Unlike most cheeses, which are curdled with rennet, these are curdled with acid. Cheese made with rennet retains a malleable structure, while acid alters cheese proteins by causing them to clump together.

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