5 Things Everyone Should Know About Mac & Cheese

updated May 1, 2019
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Baking dish filed with baked mac and cheese, some scooped out to show contrast between toasted panko topping and creamy interior

In my house, every season is mac and cheese season. Stovetop mac and cheese feeds our craving in the spring and summer, tossed with fresh peas or ripe tomatoes. Come fall and winter, baked mac and cheese reigns supreme.

Mac and cheese can be a quick weeknight dinner or a hearty side dish for holidays and get-togethers. So whether you need a single serving or you are baking a big ol’ casserole, here are five things everyone needs to know about mac and cheese.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

1. You don’t have to make a roux for mac and cheese.

Many mac and cheese recipes call for a combination of butter and flour, known as a roux, to thicken the cheese sauce. While this maneuver works particularly well for baked mac and cheese, it just isn’t always required. In our stovetop mac and cheese recipe, a bit of flour is add to the milk mixture to thicken the final dish.

Learn how to make the best stovetop mac and cheese without a roux: How To Make the Best Macaroni and Cheese on the Stove

(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

2. Shredded cheese makes better mac and cheese.

Cubes or blocks of cheese take a long time to melt into mac and cheese. Instead, grate your cheese for a smoother, faster-cooking sauce. Avoid pre-grated cheeses, as they are often coated with a bit of cornstarch to prevent sticking.

A great reason for grating cheese: How To Make Classic Baked Macaroni & Cheese

(Image credit: Brie Passano)

3. You aren’t limited to just cheddar cheese.

Cheddar and Monterey Jack are two of my favorite cheeses for mac and cheese, but you aren’t limited to those two. Gruyère, provolone, or even a bit of Parmesan make excellent mac and cheese cheeses. Try the recipe below for a surprising twist on mac and cheese using feta cheese.

Beautiful and tasty with tart feta cheese: Creamy Corn Mac and Cheese

(Image credit: Christine Han)

4. Yes, you can make mac and cheese in the slow cooker.

While mac and cheese is a notoriously quick-cooker on the stovetop, there are times when you need a hearty side dish or dinner that can feed a crowd and stay warm for a while. Enter: slow-cooker mac and cheese. This mac and cheese is perfect for busy fall Saturdays when you need to run errands but still want a home-cooked meal.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

5. You can bake it in a skillet.

While I loved baked mac and cheese, I don’t always want to dirty a few extra pots, pans, and a casserole dish. Luckily you can make mac and cheese in an oven-safe skillet and then bake the whole thing for a crispy crust.

This recipe serves two, but is easily scaled up: Skillet Mac and Cheese

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Bonus tip: You can even cook it in the microwave!

Need a single serving of mac and cheese? You can make this one from start to finish in the microwave in about 10 minutes.