Recent posts about the best mac & cheese caused me to wonder if any members use melting salts to make their own meltable cheese. Two searches didn’t produce a “hit” so I decided to post an introduction.
There’s a huge convenience factor with processed cheese because it melts so nicely, but you’ll get a better flavor from other cheeses. You can easily make perfectly melting cheese and non-separating cheese sauces (for mac & cheese or nachos) by using your favorite cheese, whether it's aged or unaged, and melting salts.
For mac & cheese I've been making homemade American Cheese using sharp cheddar (sometimes smoked) and milk. It melts like Velveeta but tastes waaaaaay better. With melting salts, the cheese sauce for mac & cheese is quick and simple and eliminates the need to mess with roux. I measure 1oz dry elbow macaroni per serving and cook it. For the cheese sauce, I double the weight in milk and any favorite gourmet cheese(s). Two oz each per serving adding 4% melting salt to the milk. I add the cooked macaroni to the cheese sauce and put it on my smoke pit ‘till hot and bubbling.
This article can start you down the melting salts path: https://www.chefsteps.com/activities/melty-cheese-slices. They heat the mixture sous vide but, if you’re careful, you can just use a heavy sauce pan and low heat and it’ll work just as well.
You may be inspired to try their nachos: https://www.chefsteps.com/activities/nacho-cheese.
And here’s their mac & cheese recipe. https://modernistcuisine.com/recipes/silky-smooth-macaroni-and-cheese/. This is the stepping off point. Use it as the foundation for your special version.
Then try Alfredo sauce with sous vide shrimp.
When making a smooth cheese sauce for Mac & Cheese, consider the weight of the cheese to be 100%, then the weight of the liquid should be 93% of the weight of the cheese, and the weight of the sodium citrate should be 4% of that liquid weight (which is approximately the same as 2% of the sum of the liquid weight plus cheese weight). The formula is very forgiving so there's no need to be extremely precise.
This method of making a silky and non-separating cheese sauce is very easy. No need to make a roux or a bechamel sauce which masks the pure flavor of your favorite cheese. Just whisk a teaspoon or two of sodium citrate into your liquid of choice, heat the liquid and blend in your favorite grated cheese with a stick blender, regular blender, or whisk. This results in a smooth, creamy texture that doesn't become grainy, greasy, or separated. You can also add in any flavors you enjoy like Rotel with green chile or Pico de Gallo. You can refrigerate any leftovers and reheat it the next day to enjoy the smoothest cheese sauce ever!
For other types of cheese sauces, you can control the final "thickness" of the cheese sauce depending on your ratio of liquid to cheese. If you weigh your cheese and then measure the liquid (water, milk, beer, wine, stock, etc.) as a percentage of that cheese weight, you will get:
Cheese plus 0% to 35% liquid weight = firm, use for making "American" cheese slices for burgers, etc.
Cheese plus 35% to 85% liquid weight = thick and flowing cheese sauce, good for dips and queso.
Cheese plus 85% to 120% liquid weight = thin cheese sauce, good for fondues, mac & cheese, etc.
Cheese plus 120% liquid weight or more = continues to become a thinner and thinner sauce.
100% weight of cheese 16 oz.
93% wipping cream 14.88 oz.
4% liquid weight = 0.60 oz. Sodium Citrate
I can measure that small amount of Sodium Citrate with a quality scale. I use a handloading scale and convert to gram weight. I think this scale will work: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01HCKQG7G/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1.
If you don't have a scale, here's an easy hack to use: granulated sodium citrate weighs about 4.25 grams per teaspoon (which is equivalent to about 0.15 ounces per teaspoon).
So in the example above, you could use 4 level teaspoons of sodium citrate (= .6 ounces).
Caution: Sodium Citrate is NOT the same as Citric Acid. Use Sodium Citrate for the results above. You can buy it on Amazon.