Take a moment to close your eyes and think about your favorite gooey, creamy cheesy food.
Perhaps you’re thinking of a cheeseburger from your favorite pub or your mom’s homemade mac and cheese – or even your favorite boxed brand of mac and cheese. There’s just something magical that happens to cheese when you warm it up – in fact, melted cheese can be a more powerful flavor than cheese alone, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.
According to the post, “Heat brings out cheese’s umami flavor, the fifth flavor after sweet, salt, sour and bitter that is also found in foods like soy sauce, savory broth and seaweed.”
Obviously, the cheesiness is what makes these foods delectable – but what you may not be aware of is all of the science that goes into perfecting the art of melted cheese.
It’s more complicated than you may think. People prefer different types of melted cheese depending on what they’re eating. Pizza cheese should stretch, the cheese on a cheeseburger should hang like a tablecloth and the cheese in mac and cheese needs to be creamy, according to food scientists at major cheese companies.
Perfecting those melted cheeses can be difficult, but food makers and restaurants are giving it a try.
By tweaking the different factors that go into making cheese, like the aging process, food makers can come up with various options. One solution may be to combining processed and natural cheeses for the best of both worlds: flavor, a smooth melt, the right texture and stringiness.