Become a cheese expert by finding out what cheese melts the best!
Everyone loves cheese, but you really can’t beat gooey, melted cheese—whether it’s oozing on top of a burger, pizza, nachos, or pasta.
Knowing which type of cheese melts the best is also incredibly useful when it comes to fondues.
It comes as a surprise to many people when they learn that some cheese really doesn’t melt well.
Some can lose a lot of its character when it’s melted as the texture and flavor changes.
Today, we’ll highlight the cheese groups that you should invest in for the most magnificent cheesy meltdown!
What Cheese Melts the Best?
Rather than trying to remember a vast list of cheese names that are great for melting, it’s easier to educate yourself on the types of cheese that melt well and try them all out to find your personal favorite.
There are three cheese groups that melt to perfection: those made in the Alps, soft cheese made of cow’s milk, and those with high moisture content.
1. Cheese Made in the Alps
These signature melters include gruyère, emmental, challerhocker, and comté.
Because these cheeses are made in the mountains at a high altitude, it used to be very difficult to transport salt up these regions.
These cheeses, therefore, tend to have a nuttier, sweeter flavor than other types of cheese, and they often contain less salt.
They work really well in recipes that require melted cheese, as well as in a fondue.
2. Soft Cheese Made from Cow’s Milk
Some of our favorite cheeses in this category are brie, camembert, Harbison, and Greensward.
Since these cheeses are naturally soft, you’ll be able to take them to a delicious, gooey melting point very quickly.
All you need to do is put them in the oven as they come; they often come in their own serving containers.
Bake for a couple of minutes and then have fun dipping whatever you can get your hands on, from bread and crackers to veggies and meat.
3. Cheese With High Moisture Content
Cheese that has a lot of moisture in it tends to melt better than cheese that doesn’t.
Cheeses with high moisture include cheddar, mozzarella, and gouda, and they all make great fondue options for those on more of a budget.
When choosing cheddar for melting, avoid buying mature varieties as they can often be more crumbly.
Younger varieties of gouda are also better than their aged counterparts, so look for gouda with red wax coating as they are usually the younger ones.
Smoked gouda is especially great for fondues.
Types of Cheese That Don’t Melt so Well
Now that you have a better idea of what cheese melts well, there are a couple of cheese groups that you should try to avoid, too, or you may be disappointed with the result.
1. Sheep’s Milk Cheese
Cheeses that are made using sheep’s milk, such as feta, Roquefort, and Manchego, all have high butterfat and protein content.
This makes them taste incredibly creamy.
This creaminess doesn’t translate to the world of melty as well as you think it would, though.
Instead, when you turn the temperature up, they tend to sweat as the butterfat is released.
2. Hard Cheese
Hard cheeses, like Parmesan, Pecorino, and Grana Padano, have much higher melting points than other types of cheese.
This is the reason why they are often finely grated into recipes or sprinkled on top of dishes.
What Happens When Cheese Melt?
When you heat up cheese, the solid milk fat content will start to melt at around 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
At this point, the cheese softens, and you may notice beads of fat rising to the surface.
The casein proteins in the cheese won’t break down until the cheese gets hotter, and the glue-like, calcium atoms dissolve.
For high-moisture cheeses, like mozzarella, for example, the casein proteins will start to break down at around 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
When mozzarella reaches 130 degrees, the structure will collapse into a thick, oozy liquid.
Low-moisture cheeses, such as aged Cheddar or Swiss, have a higher melting point of around 150 degrees.
Hard cheeses, such as Parmesan, need to be heated up to a much hotter 180 degrees before their structural integrity collapses.
Melters Vs. Non-Melters
There are a couple of different factors that affect the melting ability of a particular type of cheese, including moisture content, age, and acidity levels.
High-moisture cheeses melt better than their low-moisture counterparts.
The reason for this is that in moist cheese, the casein proteins have lots of water distributed among them, meaning they are less tightly packed together.
Hard cheese has very little water content, and that’s why it doesn’t liquefy as readily.
The age of cheese also affects how it melts.
When the cheese is young, the casein molecules are large and stretchy.
This causes them to form ropes, which is what makes cheese stringy when it’s melted.
When cheese is aged, the protein is compromised by enzymes in the cheese that causes it to break into small pieces.
This will make the cheese melt more smoothly, as casein breaks down and flows without tangling.
Have you ever noticed that some cheeses don‘t melt at all when they’re cooked?
Instead, they retain their shape throughout the cooking process and often get even denser.
This happens with cheeses that are cured with acids, such as paneer, halloumi, ricotta, and many fresh goat’s cheeses.
The acid dissolves the glue-like calcium that usually holds a cheese together.
So, the cheese is held together by the casein bonding together in clumps.
When heated, the protein bonds tighten, which forces out any water and leaves the cheese too dehydrated to liquefy.
Top Tips for Melting Cheese
Now that you’ve found your perfect melting cheese and are looking to get your melt on, follow our top tips below to ensure melting success every time.
1. Bring Your Cheese to Room Temperature
Sudden temperature changes can cause the cheese to be lumpy or have a greasy texture.
This is because the protein in the cheese can coagulate too quickly when changing from cold to hot so suddenly.
Taking your cheese out of the fridge ahead of time gives it more of a head start to its ideal melting point.
2. Grate Your Cheese First
Grating your cheese first means you have a larger surface area of cheese to work with so that the heat can permeate the cheese more quickly and evenly.
If your cheese is left in larger pieces, the outsides will melt quickly and then proceed to overcook as you melt the inner parts.
3. Melt Using a Low Heat
Heating your cheese slowly will prevent the fat from separating itself out.
If you’re adding cheese to a recipe, avoid adding it to your meal while it is very hot.
This could cause the cheese to thicken, leaving you with greasy, lumpy cheese bits.
On the other hand, if you add your cheese at the end after you’ve finished cooking, then it’s more likely to reach its melting point without exceeding it.
4. Add Acidity
Adding a splash of white wine or lemon juice to your fondues and sauces will help to keep your cheese melted and smooth in texture.
The acid in these ingredients will prevent the calcium from cross-linking with the casein, and the water content will help to keep the proteins flowing.
Whether you’ve just bought a new fondue kit or are looking for the perfect cheese for your quesadillas, knowing what cheese melts the best will go a long way in helping you discover different cheese types.
At the same time, you’d be able to make substitutes when needed with far fewer kitchen fails.
You might decide that the best melting cheese for pizza and nachos is one that becomes stringy when melted, so you could choose any number of young, high-moisture cheeses.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a smooth melting cheese, such as for sauces or fondues, then you should consider any one of the alpine cheeses or a more aged, high-moisture cheese.
If you like to melt chocolate, too, then take a lot at our pick for the top five chocolates for putting in your chocolate fountain.