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Difference between stovetop and baked macaroni and cheese? Recipes?

I'm suddenly craving some good and creamy macaroni and cheese but I've never made it homemade and I've just searched for recipes online but there are stovetop versions (which is supposedly easier? I don't know, that's what people say but I don't care about the easiness, as long as it tastes awesome) and baked versions and I don't know what's the difference! Does it affect the flavors, texture, or cheesiness? I just want to know what's best for me! Also, do you have any go-to recipes for macaroni and cheese? Thanks! xoxo

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  1. My preference is definitely for stovetop! It's cheesy, gooey, delicious comfort in a bowl. It is also very hard to mess up.

    The baked versions are more "custard-like," and frequently have a breadcrumb topping, which I find makes the whole thing seem overcooked and dry. But perhaps I just haven't ever been treated to really amazing baked mac & cheese.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ohmyyum

      Me, too. I like the creaminess of stove top. I really like Alton Brown's (similar to Best Recipe which is a little more persnickety, as usual) version. It comes together in no time, too, compared to baked.

      http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/al...

      I will also make a bechamel mac and cheese and just not bake it.

    2. Here's a recent thread in which "stovetop v. baked" was discussed:

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/893113

      1. http://www.recipelink.com/msgbrd/boar... Joy of Cooking's Baked Macaroni and Cheese.

        I have made this for others, saving out a portion for Mr. Sueatmo. It is very good, if my taste test was accurate. I guess I prefer the baked, although I am not a mac and cheese aficionado.

        If you want a fast creamy mac and cheese fix, then I can recommend the Panera mac and cheese, which I have eaten several years ago, and found luscious.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sueatmo

          I prefer a baked version myself, preferably with a mixture of cheeses, but my kids absolutely love the Panera mac and cheese. It's become a staple in my home.

        2. I suggest you avoid recipes that just call for assembling a casserole of cooked macaroni with shredded cheese, then pouring on a milky/creamy mixture (with or without egg) before baking. These can break if your temp is off, yielding grainy clumps of cheese sitting in a soupy mix.

          Better to make a bechamel, then add in the cheese and pasta, and either transfer to a baking dish or serve from the stovetop. Or, if you use evaporated milk (don't dilute) and/or some processed cheese like Velveeta as part of the cheese blend, you do not need flour. All 3 of these ingredients will prevent the cheese from breaking and becoming grainy.

          If you don't want to bake, but like a crunchy top, sprinkle canned fried onions atop each serving, or toast some fresh breadcrumbs in butter in a frying pan. I prefer finishing M&C in the oven since the heat caramelizes the natural dairy sugars, creating that sweet, golden-brown top even if you have no additional topping.

          4 Replies
          1. re: greygarious

            That golden brown topping is something I miss from the stove top one. I wonder if mac and cheese patties, as leftovers would be the best of both worlds. I've never tried it before.

            1. re: greygarious

              True. It is best to make a sauce if you want to bake your mac and cheese.

              1. re: sueatmo

                Maybe we could try a combination of the two--baked w/ bechamel but then served on top of the evaporated milk/melted cheese sauce. Best of both worlds.

              2. re: greygarious

                This is my favorite kind of macaroni and cheese, when done well the baked without a bechamel turns out well or at least it does to me and the rest of my family.

              3. I like my mac 'n cheese fluffy, and creamy so the method I use is to make a cheese sauce via bechamel, cook my pasta al dente, mix together with the cheese sauce, then bake. The pasta swells during baking, and the sauce stays creamy.