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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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Spectra Spectra 8 years
Good to know. I never buy fat-free cheese because I think it tastes like rubber and I did notice that it also never really melted right. I also noticed that whenever I use ricotta, it doesn't melt...I just kind of thought it was because ricotta's so spreadable/thin.
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
Wow I never knew!!
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
this is really helpful. i think that a lot of us think that we're doing something good by getting lower fat cheeses to cook with and then we find that it's not quite working out so well. i guess the key here is to figure out alternative low fat options for the other pieces in a dish and hope that the cheese doesn't counter balance it too much.
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