Microwaving Cheese – The Complete Guide
Cheese is perhaps one of the most versatile foods around. It comes in a wide array of shapes, sizes, and types. Some are unique to specific areas of the world, while many are widely available everywhere.
Regardless, chances are that you have probably found yourself using cheese for your recipes countless times.
That said, one of the most commonly asked questions about cheese is: can you microwave it? While some high-moisture and/or fatty cheeses, such as American cheese and mozzarella, can be microwaved and retain their quality, low-moisture and/or low-fat types of cheese, like feta and parmesan, are easily overcooked, possibly ending up burnt, chewy, or rubbery.
Luckily, we are here to shed some light on the subject. We’ve listed some of the most popular cheeses around and checked to see the actual effects microwaving can have on them.
Microwaving Cheese – Things to Consider
Most likely, you’re putting your cheese in the microwave to melt it. The solid milk fat, which is the prime ingredient in cheese, will start to boil once it reaches the temperature of 90° F.
From there, you will see the cheese start to soften and eventually liquefy. If you keep the microwave going, you will notice that beads of melted fat will start to rise to the surface of your cheese.
As the internal temperature of the cheese continues to rise and become hotter, an interesting thing happens – namely, the bonds of the cheese’s principal proteins start to break apart.
Once that happens, it is only a matter of time before the cheese starts melting and collapses into a thick and viscous fluid.
Of course, the melting point of the cheese will vary across the different types. There are also several factors and physical characteristics that need to be taken into account.
Listed below are some of the factors that will affect your microwaving experience:
- Moisture Content – The moisture content of your cheese affects how it reacts to being put in the microwave. High-moisture cheeses include cream cheese, brie, and mozzarella. Low-moisture cheeses include crumbly cheeses like parmesan. Needless to say, the former will react more favorably to being microwaved, as their high moisture content will allow them to liquefy with relative ease. The same can’t be said for low-moisture cheeses, however.
- Age – The age of your cheese will also affect the way it reacts to the heat of your microwave and how it ultimately melts. For instance, fresh mozzarella becomes stringy after prolonged exposure to the heat of the microwave. Meanwhile, aged cheddar melts smoothly. All of this has to do with the bonds of the cheese’s calcium atoms and how they change over time.
- Fat content – When you microwave fatty cheeses like Cheshire and Leicester, the first thing you will probably notice is how well and how fast they actually break down and liquefy. As a rule, cheeses with high-fat content are great to microwave as they melt rather easily.
- Acidity – Cheeses with high acidity will often become stringy during the melting process in the microwave. The most prominent examples of these are the Emmentaler and gruyere cheeses. On the other hand, Italian ricotta and certain goat cheeses won’t even melt at all. Instead, they just retain their shape.
Taking these things into account is important. After all, knowing the physical characteristics of the different cheeses will help you get a better idea of how they will fare in your microwave.
That said, we need to look at the different categories of cheese to help you become even more familiar with them.
Microwaving Different Kinds of Cheese
By now, you are probably well aware of the wide variety of cheeses out there. There is nothing stopping you from putting them in the microwave and hitting the start button to see the results.
But if you don’t want to risk your cheese, we’ve listed below some of the most popular cheeses and presented the things you can expect if you decide to microwave them.
Different Types of Cheese
Similar to wine, cheese is one of those foods that inspires a certain degree of obsession. This is made apparent by the seemingly endless list of cheeses being made all around the world.
Before we delve into the actual microwaving process, it is also important that we present an overview of the different types of cheeses.
The table below shows the different types of cheese that you might encounter. We have also provided some examples so you can better imagine what they look like and how they differ from each other.
Different Types of Cheese
|Cheese Type||Physical Characteristics||Fat Content||Examples|
|Fresh Cheese||No Rinds||19-24%||Mozzarella, Cottage Cheese|
|Aged Fresh Cheese||Wrinkled rinds colored white to grey-blue||19-24%||Ricotta, Mozzarella|
|Soft White Rind||White Fuzzy Rind||24-26%||Chevre Log, Camembert|
|Semi-soft Cheese||Typically sticky with a layer of fine to thick grey-brown rind||26-28%||St Nectaire, Reblochon,|
|Hard Cheese ||Hard cheeses are typically oiled or waxed. They also have grey crusty surfaces.||28-34%||Cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyere,|
|Blue Cheese ||Blue cheeses are known for their rough and gritty texture.||28-34%||Gorgonzola, Roquefort,|
The texture, fat content, and moisture levels of your cheese will ultimately play a role when you decide to put them in the microwave. That said, the table above and the examples are designed to make things that much simpler for you.
Tracing its origins to the regions of southern Italy, mozzarella has become one of the most popular cheeses in the world. It is extremely versatile and can be used for a wide array of recipes.
For instance, it is a staple for everyday snacks like sandwiches, pizzas, and salads. You can even enjoy it on its own, or with a drizzle of olive oil, some basil and tomato, and some salt and pepper.
As you are probably aware, fresh mozzarella is usually white and rolled into balls. The balls of mozzarella come in different sizes ranging from 1-113 grams, though they can also come by the pound.
Mozzarella can be categorized as fresh cheese or aged fresh cheese, depending on the type you get. Aged mozzarella loses its white color and assumes a slightly yellow color, reminiscent of butter.
This is important, as age and moisture levels will affect how cheese reacts to the microwave.
Mozzarella is a microwave-friendly cheese. Because it is a high-moisture cheese, it will start liquefying quickly, depending on the wattage of your microwave. As a general rule, the melting point starts at 130° F.
However, it is worth noting that mozzarella will become stringy instead of melting smoothly. Think of how mozzarella looks on your favorite pizza and you should have an idea of how it will turn out.
That said, there are no noticeable changes that occur with mozzarella in terms of taste and quality after being put through the microwave.
Parmesan, or Parmigiano-Reggiano, is a hard, granular cheese. By all accounts, cheese connoisseurs never fail to swear their love for parmesan.
So, it is hardly surprising to find out that it is widely considered as one of the best kinds of cheese around.
It has a strong and naturally nutty taste. The texture makes it perfect as a garnish for several kinds of pasta, soups, and risotto recipes.
Alternatively, it can also be part of cheese sauces. With the advent of microwave technology, people have found a new use for parmesan: cheese crisps.
After 1 minute in the microwave, a slice of parmesan cheese can easily turn into the perfect crispy snack.
Take note, however, that when parmesan reaches a temperature of 180° F, then it will start to liquefy. Either way, the cheese loses none of its natural flavors.
Cheddar cheese is similar to parmesan in several ways. For instance, it is also considered to be a type of dry cheese. It also has hints of nuttiness in its flavor, despite being a little tangier than its counterpart.
It is also worth noting that it has a noticeably crumbly texture and sports a distinctive color that varies from ivory to vibrant yellow or orange.
Needless to say, cheddar is a popular kind of cheese that is commonly used for all types of sandwiches, cheese sauces, and snacks like mac and cheese. However, perhaps its most iconic and popular usage is its pairing with the classic burger.
Although considered to be a low-moisture cheese, you must understand that Cheddar also has subcategories. Namely, they can be considered mild, sharp, or extra sharp cheddar.
The level of sharpness is synonymous with the cheese’s aging process. After all, the texture of your cheddar will change as it continues to age.
Understanding this is important, as it will also affect the way it reacts to the heat of your microwave. Cheddar cheeses labeled mild and sharp tend to be smoother and creamier than extra-sharp cheddar.
Before you even consider microwaving cheddar, there are two things you need to do. First, you will want to grate the cheese. Second, you will need to bring the cheddar to room temperature.
Both of these things are vital if you want to have stellar results in the microwave, as they lessen the amount of time your cheese is exposed to heat.
If done correctly, your cheese should melt in a matter of 30 seconds using the low setting of your microwave. Heating in 15-second intervals lets you keep a close eye on your cheese’s progress.
However, if you skip shredding the cheese or letting it warm to room temperature, then you will have a mess on your hands.
To be more specific, over-exposure to heat causes cheddar to become greasy, rubbery, and just plain unappetizing.
American cheese is semi-soft and processed cheese typically made from a combination of cheddar and Colby slices.
As its name suggests, this creamy, smooth, and rindless cheese product traces its origins from the United States. It is distinctive because of its yellow-orange color and its mild yet creamy flavor.
Despite being extremely popular, American cheese is often criticized for its high levels of fat and sodium. However, this works to its advantage, especially when put in the microwave, as the cheese is able to melt smoothly and easily.
All it takes is 30 seconds to 1 minute on the low setting, and you can transform your slices of American cheese into a homemade cheese sauce. Needless to say, this is an experiment that is certainly worth trying.
Feta cheese is another popular kind of cheese that we must take a closer look at. A classic Greek cheese, Feta is made from goat’s milk that has been brined. It is moist, salty, and tangy.
Its texture often varies, as some are creamy while other Feta cheeses tend to be crumbly.
This cheese can be used for all manner of recipes. For instance, it can be used for mac and cheese or as a partner for roasted vegetables. It is also commonly used for Mexican dishes and sprinkled atop some fresh flatbread.
That said, we wouldn’t recommend putting Feta in your microwave anytime soon, at least not by itself. This is mostly because of its chemical composition and higher acidity.
Unlike other cheeses that melt smoothly and easily under the heat of the microwave, Feta has the unfortunate tendency to retain its form and become scorched.
Feta cheese has a very high moisture level and lower fat content than most cheeses.
While this usually means having a lower melting point, Feta’s high acidity level creates stronger calcium and protein bonds that prevent it from breaking down and melting easily.
So, instead of melting, the moisture in the cheese is simply eliminated through exposure to the heat of your microwave.
Moisture is crucial in order for anything to melt properly. Without it, the Feta cheese will simply burn in your microwave.
Needless to say, aside from the obvious danger of starting a fire in your kitchen, no one wants to eat burnt cheese.
There you have it, everything you need to know about microwaving the most popular cheeses around. As this guide succinctly explained, you must understand the cheeses you are working with.
After all, not all cheeses are made equal.
Cheese is of the most incredibly versatile foods around. The microwave simply expands what you can do with them. However, if you want to avoid letting your cheese go to waste, then you need to know what you are doing.
If you want to successfully microwave your cheese, then it would be wise to familiarize yourself with their characteristics.
For instance, if you want to make a great cheese sauce or dip, then consider sticking with American cheese. On the other hand, if you want to make your own cheese chips, then pop in some sliced parmesan and hit the start button.
So, be sure to remember our tips next time you decide to give it a go yourself.
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