Recipe Review

This Recipe Revealed the Mac and Cheese Mistake We’re All Making (Here’s How to Fix It)

published Dec 3, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn

Atlanta native and James Beard nominee Chef G. Garvin is probably best known for his show Turn Up the Heat with G. Garvin, which enjoyed seven seasons on air. But his impressive career goes far beyond the television. He got his start working in restaurants for some of the finest hotels in the nation — think the Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons — before going on to become the executive chef of famed LA eatery Morton’s The Steakhouse. He’s also a cookbook author and philanthropist. Between all of this and creating one of the most delicious-looking stovetop mac and cheese recipes on the internet, I figured he was a perfect candidate for our celebrity recipe showdown.

Chef G. Garvin uses so many types of cheese in his mac and cheese recipe — sharp cheddar, mild cheddar, smoked cheddar, and Brie — that my inner cheese glutton had to have it. Out of all the recipes I reviewed, my palate wanted those cheeses the most. But how would his recipe as a whole compare to the others? I tried it to find out.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn

How to Make Chef G. Garvin’s No-Bake Macaroni and Cheese

This recipe begins with a classic roux made with equal parts butter and flour. You’ll melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When it’s foamy, add the flour and a pinch of salt and whisk until the flour is cooked. Slowly whisk in whole milk, followed by heavy cream. Bring to a simmer. Reserve some of the mild cheddar for the topping, then whisk in the remaining cheeses. Continue to stir until all the cheese is melted, then remove from the heat. Stir in one tablespoon of butter until incorporated.

Cook the macaroni in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente, then drain. Transfer to a heatproof serving dish, then ladle the cheese sauce over top and sprinkle with the reserved cheese. At this point the recipe says to transfer the dish to the oven to melt the cheese, but I omitted this step to keep an even no-bake playing field. I simply added the mild cheddar on top and everything melted without needing to use the oven.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

My Honest Review of Chef G. Garvin’s Mac and Cheese

The cheese-lover in me wanted this to be the winner so badly. It smelled rich, cheesy, and savory, and the flavor was absolutely delicious. I honestly think it would have won, but something happened during the cooking process that caused my cheese sauce to curdle and turn grainy. I was so sad, because I just added all this awesome cheese and it turned out to be pretty much inedible.

After a little research, I learned there are two primary culprits to grainy cheese sauces: pre-shredded cheese and overheating. I knew the cheese itself wasn’t my culprit — I used high-quality blocks of cheeses without a lot of additives — so I turned my attention to the heat. The recipe has you add all the cheese at once, instead of instructing you to gradually add it in, and it also has you continue to heat the sauce after the cheese has been added (most recipes have you remove the sauce from the heat and then stir in the cheese). I think the combination of the two caused the cheese to melt too quickly, leading the proteins to coagulate and giving the sauce a grainy texture.

I’m willing to take a certain amount of responsibility for the graininess of this mac and cheese. I could have added the cheese too quickly over too high of heat. But I do think some more detailed instructions around slowly adding the cheese over low heat would have helped significantly. I’m not giving up on this recipe, as I do think it would be worth trying again with a few adjustments. But if it comes out grainy a second time, never again!

Credit: Amelia Rampe

If You’re Making Chef G. Garvin’s No-Bake Mac and Cheese, a Few Tips

  1. Start with high-quality cheese. Make sure you’re using high-quality pure cheeses without a lot of additives, and avoid anything pre-shredded.
  2. Add the cheese slowly. This recipe instructs you to combine the cheeses all at once while the mixture is simmering. Next time, I would try turning off the heat and then slowly adding in the cheese, only returning it to low heat to help the cheese melt, if needed.
  3. Use a stockpot. The recipe calls for a medium saucepan, but due to the volume of cheese sauce, you’ll need a much larger pot.
  4. Add breadcrumbs. A crunchy breadcrumb topping would have been a great addition to this recipe.

Rating: 5/10

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn