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My Macaroni and Cheese Always Comes Out Grainy-What to do?

I've attempted to make a cheese sauce 4 times...the first 3 I didn't realize what I was doing and did not cook the roux at all...so it was grainy.
Today I used butter and flour (though I think it was a 1:1.5 ratio), let it simmer for 5 minutes until slightly pasty, added milk, and let that mixture simmer for about 8 minutes until it was a medium yellow (not quite golden, as the butter+flour mixture was.) Then, I turned the heat to low, stirred in an egg, an added the cheese a 1/4 cup at a time. The only cheese I used was mild cheddar.

I've read all the posts I could find here on the subject, and tried to use every suggestion I came across, but it's still grainy. What am I doing wrong?

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  1. Roux should be 1:1 butter: flour but don't even bother. Use evaporated milk rather than whole, and your cheese will melt evenly. No flour needed. Alternatively, again without flour, use regular milk but use some Velveeta as part of the cheese - maybe about 25%. The Velveeta will make the other chees melt smoothly too.

    2 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      I agree 1:1. When I make cheese sauce this way find flour not cooked enough will result in a grainy end result. Find whisk when cook until the roux starts to turn brown - take your time on medium low heat. Not too much or start to have a burned taste as gets to dark brown. I typically use half a cup of flour with a full half cup stick of real butter for about a gallon of milk and at least two pounds of cheese. Whisk on medium low heat until milk gets hot without burning the bottom - this step takes longer to do right than most people want to give it. To prepare cheese sauce usually takes me a couple hours. Makes great fondu (white wine optional great with a mix of cheeses). This makes awesome cheese-sauce-based soups like broccoli (I like chicken in it sometimes). When firms in the fridge is great in omelets the next day.

      For alternative ways to make nice cheese sauce also check out the info at "Favorite Macaroni and Cheese" link: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/878917

      Which includes a link to other links on CHOW and this link: http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/mac-c...

      " Breaking food down into pieces and then reconstructing it into magnificent art is the idea behind the "Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking" book set.

      Nathan Myhrvold, a master French chef, scientist and computer genius, applied scientific research to the technology of cooking, along with fellow food scientists Chris Young and Maxine Bilet.

      Get a look at some of the incredible photography inside the "Modernist Cuisine" five-volume set HERE.

      Despite the elaborate and delicate food creations featured in the books, Myhrvold said there is at least one recipe you can make yourself at home, and that's this Macaroni and Cheese recipe inspired by Harold McGee.

      Mac and Cheese


      1/3 cup water

      about 1/3 cup wheat beer

      2 tsp sodium citrate

      1 tsp salt

      1/4 tsp Iota Carrageenan

      about 3/4 cup aged Gouda cheese, grated

      about 1/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

      about 1 cup of macaroni

      Preparing the Mac and Cheese:

      Whisk together the water, wheat beer, sodium citrate, salt and Iota Carrageenan in a medium-sized sauce pan and bring to a simmer.

      Blend in the Gouda and cheddar cheese with the hot liquid mixture, until the cheese is completely emulsfied. Transfer to a shallow bowl and cool to room temperature. Refridgerate to set, about 30 minutes.

      Return to the stove and boil the macaroni over high heat for about 7 minutes, until it is al dente. Add a pinch of salt. Do not drain. Whisk in the cheese-liquid mixture in with the pasta until the cheese is melted. Serve and enjoy. "

      Nathan's method works for me and is my favorite way to make Mac & Cheese when have access to the ingredients.

      1. re: smaki

        The citrate is key. An easy hack is to use velveeta, which will bring the citrate, as part of the cheese mix.

    2. I like an equal ratio of butter and flour for the roux. May I ask why an egg? Seems like normal macaroni and cheese does not require and egg. Also, cheddar tends to be drier and oilier and thus does not melt as nicely, which can result in the grainy texture. I always like to blend cheddar with a good melting cheese like Monterey Jack or Fontina.

      1 Reply
      1. re: christinegallary

        Monterey Jack sounds good...I'll definitely try that. The recipe called for an egg, and I was also advised by my grandmother to use one...I'm not sure what it does, though.

      2. What is your recipe? The graininess is probably your cheese breaking.
        In general:
        For 8oz Macaroni
        3 C milk
        3 T Flour and Butter
        10 oz Sharp Cheddar (or cheeses of choice)
        Heat milk with seasoning
        Mix in Roux and bring back to a boil
        Simmer for a couple of minuets.
        Turn off heat and stir in Grated Cheese then stir in cooked Macaroni
        Bake in with Buttered Crumbs on top till browned.

        2 Replies
        1. re: chefj

          I found it here: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/20...
          Although I cut it in half, and probably didn't measure as diligently as I should've.

        2. I use half-and-half and heavy cream rather than milk (equal amounts of both).

          1. The eggs cooked and you made a souffle-like mac and cheese. Nothing wrong with that*, but the suggestions above will help guide you to a creamy result that you desire.
            Oprah declared Delilah's mac and cheese "the best" several years ago and her recipe is heavy on the eggs. I've had it. It's good!

            1. Try heating your milk or cream first. I've had the graininess as well, but it doesn't seem to affect the taste so I don't mind it. I use Martha Stewart's recipe and it does call for heated milk. If I heat it I don't get the graininess.

              1. Was the sauce grainy before adding the cheese, or only after? If after, the problem was with how the cheese melted, not with the roux or the milk.

                In my experience being off in the proportions of flour, butter and milk affects the thickness and lumpiness of the sauce, but doesn't produce graininess. I am using more evaporated milk, especially for a cheese sauce like this, and that might make it more resistant to graininess. I don't use egg, but then I don't bake my mac-n-cheese either. Egg helps the bake dish setup.

                Some cheeses melt better than others. Cheddar is more prone to graininess, while American (with added emulsifiers) melts nicely.

                1. 1. Do one-to-one butter to flour. Cook these two for a minimum of two minutes.

                  2. After you add the milk, you only have to cook it until it bubbles (boils), then remove it from the heat. Stir continuously while cooking this.

                  3. DO NOT cook the sauce further after adding the egg and cheese. You are scrambling the egg and potentially making the cheese stringy as well. You can leave the egg out, of course, as others have suggested.

                  1. Use just heavy cream and cheeses. Never had a problem with graininess.

                    1. Anyone who is saying roux-based mac n cheese isn't grainy at all is wrong. It's ALWAYS going to have the grains of flour. The only way to avoid that is to make it with just cream or evap.milk, etc... It's a different texture. I like a bechamel-based cheese sauce, but it's not silky. It can't be.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: kassideek

                        I make perfectly smooth Mac and Cheese with a Roux based B├ęchamel
                        Properly made Roux based Sauces are velvety/silky smooth.
                        You can not feel the individual grains of Flour.
                        All Heavy Cream based Macaroni and Cheese is waaaaaaay too rich IMO.

                        1. re: chefj

                          When you're wrong, you're wrong. I made some last night, cooked the roux longer than I ever have before, which scared me, and then simmered it for about 10 min in part of my liquid. Dude. Silky smooth! What the Crap? Have I been simply not cooking roux long enough for YEARS?! mea culpa

                          1. re: kassideek

                            How long did you cook the roux? Did it brown or did you keep the heat low to avoid browning?

                            Also, does anyone have experience with using evaporated skim milk instead of "regular" milk for a stovetop (not baked) m&c? One of my usual baked m&c recipes uses a custard base with evap milk and a couple eggs, and I'm curious if this ingredient swap would work on the stovetop. We're skim milk people, and I can't eat cream without getting ill.

                            1. re: truman

                              I don't know what is CORRECT, but I let the butter melt, foam, then added the flour (1:1) then after it was mixed, I reduced the heat a little so it didn't brown much. Just cooked the flour well, till our was slightly golden and smelled amazing. I tasted the roux itself and it wasn't grainy either. So surprised!

                              The recipe I loosely used contained 1 cup chicken stock and 2 cans evaporated milk. I simmered the roux in the chicken stock and added the evap milk a few min later. It was a pretty thin bechamel, which was a good thing! After I added the cheese, it was plenty thick.
                              No eggs. I've used yolks before, but I don't know why recipes contain whites. Anyone have a good answer? I think it would just make them a cohesive, slice-able concoction, which is never, never what I'm looking for in Mac n cheese.

                              1. re: truman

                                Evaporated whole milk works fine for stovetop. Neither flour nor eggs needed. I have no idea if the skim would work but instinct says no. You could try sodium citrate, which requires no additional dairy at all.

                                1. re: greygarious

                                  Thanks kassideek and greygarious - I'll definitely try this!

                        2. Cook's did a test years ago -- it's quoted in one of the many other threads here on this topic -- and determined that the more processed cheese you use, the smoother the texture. The use of sodium citrate and carrageenan in the MG world is an attempt at that and is -- guess what? -- the same stuff that is in Velveeta, which old-school cooks have known for years. Use 1/3 Velveeta in your mix and don't be ashamed.

                          They also noted that evaporated milk is a good idea.

                          Pure Cheddar is one of the worst ideas ever, because on its own it doesn't melt well and tends to break. The more artisan it is, the more it breaks, no matter how great it tastes. Add no more than 1/3 for flavor.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: acgold7

                            Just to toss in another thought. I asked my husband for cheddar and fontina, but he misunderstood. So...I used pure cheddar and it was incredibly silky! But I will never again used pre shredded cheese. All that extra cellulose has such a gross texture. Just a decent quality supermarket block was fantastic.

                            1. re: kassideek

                              And yet others swear by the shredded for fondue because of the cornstarch present in some brands....