4 Levels of Mac and Cheese: Amateur to Food Scientist

We challenged chefs of three different levels - an amateur, a home cook and a professional chef - to make their versions of macaroni and cheese. And then we brought in a food scientist to review their work. Which mac & cheese was the best? Check out the professional's recipe here on the ICE blog: https://www.ice.edu/blog/chef-michael-garretts-macaroni-pie-recipe

Released on 2/20/2019

Transcript

00:00
[water boiling]
00:02
[upbeat drums]
00:05
I'm Ada and I'm a level one chef.
00:07
I'm Anthony and I'm a level two chef.
00:09
Great, here we go.
00:10
I'm Michael.
00:11
I'm a level three chef.
00:12
I've been cooking for 27 years.
00:14
I kind of know my way around a kitchen.
00:16
[upbeat drums]
00:17
The last time I made a the mac and cheese recipe
00:20
was about two weeks ago.
00:22
I'd say I make this recipe once, twice a month at least.
00:25
I made this recipe a couple days ago for my kids.
00:28
This recipe was inspired by my grandmother
00:30
that I put together at Red Rooster
00:31
where I was Executive Chef.
00:40
Gonna start with my pasta.
00:41
First thing I'm gonna do is pour a capful of olive oil
00:46
to make sure the macaronis don't stick.
00:48
I'm not gonna add olive oil.
00:49
I'm Italian, I grew up adding a little bit
00:51
of olive oil to the pot.
00:52
But then one time I tried not doing it,
00:54
and I realized it was just a complete waste
00:55
of olive oil to do that.
00:56
My rule is that it should taste like the ocean.
00:59
We actually bring the water up to a rapid boil.
01:01
212 degrees.
01:03
We're gonna add salt.
01:04
For every two gallons I like to add half a cup of salt.
01:07
This is elbow macaroni.
01:08
This is cavatappi.
01:09
We're gonna use gemelli pasta.
01:11
It's the easiest to cook
01:13
and my grandma uses it all the time, so.
01:15
It's my favorite pasta for mac and cheese
01:18
because it's got so many ridges and squiggles.
01:20
All that surface area is perfect
01:22
for cheese sauce to stick to.
01:24
And really that's all this thing is.
01:25
It's just a cheese sauce delivery vehicle.
01:27
Gemelli pasta allows for the cheese sauce
01:29
to wrap around the pasta.
01:31
And it just gives great texture to your macaroni and cheese.
01:34
Alright, let's add the pasta.
01:37
Once you add it in, you want to give it a quick stir.
01:39
Now comes the moment of truth.
01:41
We're gonna taste test one of them and see if they're ready.
01:43
Hm, that's perfect. Yeah.
01:44
Very nice and al dente.
01:45
This will hold up in the baking process
01:47
when we go to bake the mac and cheese.
01:49
Now while the macaroni is still hot,
01:51
I like to season it with pepper and seasoned salt.
01:54
Then I add my butter.
01:56
Before we bake the mac and cheese,
01:57
I like to toast up a little bit of Panko
01:59
just to add kind of a nice crispy texture on top.
02:02
My topping is actually a graham cracker
02:03
and pepper streusel.
02:04
It has a little bit of bacon
02:05
to give it a smokey quality to it.
02:07
We're gonna add in a little graham cracker.
02:09
I'm using a combination of white sugar and brown sugar.
02:11
The brown sugar has a little more molasses in it
02:13
and it lends for a little more caramelization.
02:15
Little salt for seasoning, black pepper,
02:17
little bit of vanilla.
02:18
We're gonna add a little bit of malted butter.
02:19
Mix it up till you get a nice crumb
02:21
and then it's ready to go on top of the mac and cheese.
02:23
Alright, let's make the sauce.
02:24
I'm first gonna start with about a fourth stick of butter
02:28
to kind of simmer in the pan just a little bit.
02:30
I'm gonna add a cup of milk.
02:31
We're gonna start with half and half,
02:32
just over medium heat.
02:34
The technique for making the bouillie,
02:36
we're gonna add a little bit of cold milk.
02:37
And then we're gonna whisk in flour.
02:39
The bouillie won't separate and allows for the mac
02:42
and cheese to be a little more creamier.
02:43
We're gonna whisk in white pepper,
02:44
a little bit of nutmeg, roasted garlic, mustard powder.
02:47
The four flavors that we added in
02:48
lends for a sweet spicy element to the mac and cheese.
02:52
We turn the bouillie off.
02:53
And then basically we're gonna melt the cheese
02:55
with the residual heat.
02:58
Then I'm gonna add my different cheeses.
03:00
cheddar cheese, american cheese, and muenster cheese.
03:04
Smells amazing.
03:07
You don't have to add these in in any particular order.
03:09
We're gonna go alphabetical.
03:11
So I'm gonna add my havarti.
03:13
Now before we add the next cheese,
03:14
we wanna make sure that the first one is fully incorporated.
03:17
In goes the mascarpone.
03:20
Every last drop.
03:21
So into the bouillie we add the gruyere and cheddar.
03:23
The hardest cheeses first
03:25
which will allow time for them to melt.
03:27
I add a quarter cup of flour.
03:29
Now the sauce is nice and rich.
03:33
The parmigiana regiono and finally the white cheddar.
03:36
And then we're gonna add in our high moisture cheese
03:38
which is gonna help in the baking.
03:39
That's Philadelphia Cream Cheese.
03:41
Philadelphia Cream Cheese is gonna prevent the water
03:44
and the fat from separating in the oven.
03:46
So the more moisture you have in the baking process,
03:49
the more stable your mac and cheese will be.
03:51
Now we're gonna add the cubes of mozzarella.
03:54
I have one more ingredient for my sauce, the egg.
03:57
The egg is what holds everything together.
04:00
It'll look really runny.
04:01
But we're gonna depend on the starches in the pasta
04:03
when we actually cook it
04:04
and that'll help everything tighten up.
04:06
The cheeses don't need
04:07
to be completely melted down at this point.
04:09
They'll melt down in the oven when you go to bake it.
04:11
Alright, now let's put it all together.
04:13
So first I'm gonna put the macaroni into the pan.
04:18
I'm just taking room temperature butter here.
04:19
We're just gonna kind of paint the bottom
04:21
and the sides of the cast iron pan.
04:23
You don't need a whole lot here.
04:24
We're gonna add our pasta.
04:25
We're using a gratin baking dish.
04:27
It will hold all the heat and keep your pasta warm
04:29
even well after you bake it in the oven.
04:31
I love using a cast iron pan for my mac and cheese.
04:34
I don't know, I like that country feel you know?
04:37
Then I take my cheese and I pour it.
04:41
Alright we're just mixing the cheese sauce
04:42
and the pasta together to make sure that every little piece
04:45
of the cavatappi is covered.
04:47
My mouth is watering.
04:48
We're gonna fold in our cheese sauce.
04:49
It's okay that the cheese sauce is a little bit thick.
04:51
Once you put it in the oven, it'll melt
04:53
and kind of fill in all the crevices of the pasta.
04:56
Then I'm going to add my cheese.
04:59
You know, might as well just cover
05:01
the whole thing with cheese.
05:04
Spreading it around into one even layer
05:06
and then we're gonna cover it with that toasted Panko.
05:08
And now for the crumb topping.
05:11
So now we're gonna put this in the oven
05:13
at 350 for 10 to 15 minutes.
05:16
And now we're gonna bake it for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
05:19
At 325 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes.
05:23
Alright this looks cheesy.
05:28
This looks good.
05:31
Looks perfect.
05:33
The color is good, the texture is good.
05:36
This, this is just perfect.
05:41
We're gonna add a little bit of scallion on top.
05:44
Get the toasty, crunchy Panko on top.
05:48
I can't wait to see how cheesy it is underneath.
05:54
[sighing and laughing]
05:56
Alright, this looks great.
05:57
Creamy, crunchy, can smell the bacon.
06:00
Now for the moment of truth.
06:01
Let's try it.
06:04
No wonder my kids love this.
06:05
This is good mac and cheese.
06:06
That's perfect.
06:08
As you just saw, macaroni and cheese
06:10
can be very simple or more complex.
06:12
Let's take a look and see what makes
06:14
each one of these recipes different.
06:16
Let's start with the cheese
06:17
which is the most important part of mac and cheese.
06:22
Ada used cheddar, american and muenster.
06:24
American cheese is high in moisture
06:26
as well as high in fat content
06:28
so it's very smooth and melts nicely.
06:30
You can already see the cheese starting to melt.
06:32
The cheese isn't aged or fermented for a very long time
06:36
and its got some additives that
06:38
maybe you don't necessarily want in your mac and cheese.
06:40
Anthony added parmigiano regiono
06:42
which isn't the best melting cheese but it gives a lot
06:45
of really intense, delicious cheese flavor.
06:47
Everybody needs a little bit more parm in their life.
06:49
He paired it with mascarpone
06:52
which is a cheese that has a really high moisture content
06:54
so it kind of brings the meltability
06:57
of the parmesano regiono along with it.
07:00
Michael added Philadelphia Cream Cheese to his sauce
07:03
which adds a lot of creaminess.
07:05
And then we're gonna add in our high moisture cheese.
07:07
That's Philadelphia Cream Cheese.
07:08
He paired it with mozzarella which adds a stringy,
07:12
stretchy quality to his sauce
07:13
and it really helps to coat the pasta very nicely.
07:16
And then we add a little bit of mozzarella
07:17
for that stringy texture that everybody loves
07:19
in a mac and cheese.
07:20
Now all cheeses melt the same way.
07:23
Cheeses with a higher moisture content melt more readily
07:26
than cheese with a lower moisture content.
07:28
Cheeses with a high moisture content
07:30
also melt at a lower temperature.
07:32
We have the caseins and the calcium start to split apart.
07:37
And they flow really nicely with the available water
07:40
that's in the semi-hard and high moisture cheeses.
07:43
When you have a hard cheese that's been aged for a long time
07:47
and the water is lost,
07:48
the calcium and the caseins seize up and they form clumps.
07:53
You don't really want that in your mac and cheese.
07:56
To counteract that, you can add other high moisture cheeses
07:59
like we saw with Michael when he added
08:02
the Philadelphia Cream Cheese
08:04
or with Anthony when he added the mascarpone cheese.
08:07
So when you're choosing cheese for your mac and cheese,
08:10
it's important to balance the flavor of a hard cheese
08:12
with the moisture of a soft cheese.
08:14
You get really nice meltability and some delicious flavor.
08:21
Another quality that adds creaminess to the mac and cheese
08:24
is adding flour because it thickens your sauce.
08:27
In Ada's sauce, she added her flour
08:30
with all the other ingredients
08:31
so it may have been a little bit unevenly distributed
08:34
and it didn't coat all of the pasta.
08:37
Michael used a bouillie for his sauce.
08:39
It's a combination of milk and flour
08:41
where the milk coats the flour particles
08:43
so they don't clump together.
08:45
What you get is a really smooth, creamy sauce.
08:48
On top of the variety of cheeses,
08:50
Michael also added some very interesting spices to his dish.
08:53
Lends for a sweet, spicy element to the mac and cheese.
08:56
He also added mustard powder
08:57
which has some emulsifying properties
08:59
that keeps the sauce nice and creamy and smooth
09:02
and also adds a really nice layer of spice.
09:07
Ada used an elbow macaroni
09:09
which doesn't have a lot of texture
09:10
but the shape catches the sauce really well.
09:13
Anthony used a cavatappi so you have a lot
09:15
of surface area with that pasta.
09:17
The sauce really coats it very well.
09:19
'Cause it's got so many ridges and squiggles.
09:21
All that surface area is perfect
09:24
for cheese sauce to stick to.
09:25
So with every single bite you get a lot of pasta
09:27
as well as a lot of sauce.
09:29
Michael used gemelli which has a lot of surface area
09:32
and some texture so it really soaks up the cheese sauce.
09:39
Now let's talk about texture and we'll start with Ada.
09:42
She just added more cheese on top.
09:44
You know might as well just cover
09:46
the whole thing with cheese.
09:49
It didn't add any structure
09:50
or texture to the mac and cheese.
09:52
Anthony added toasted Panko to the top of his mac and cheese
09:55
which not only gave it a delicious crunch.
09:57
Just to add kind of a nice crispy texture on top.
10:00
But it also added some visual appeal.
10:02
This looks absolutely perfect.
10:05
Michael took it to another level.
10:06
He added crumbled up graham crackers, black pepper,
10:09
and some smoke bacon
10:11
which give a really nice robust flavor profile to that dish.
10:17
The chefs used three different dishes
10:19
and got three different results.
10:21
Ada used a glass dish
10:22
and typically you want to lower the temperature
10:24
about 25 degrees when you're baking anything in glass
10:28
because once glass is hot it retains heat very well.
10:31
So you don't want to burn your macaroni and cheese.
10:34
It takes a lot of energy to heat up cast iron,
10:36
but once you get it hot it's a nice even heat.
10:39
I don't know I like that country feel, you know?
10:41
And you get a really nice crunchy, crispy macaroni.
10:44
Michael used a ceramic gratin dish to bake his macaroni.
10:48
Which also, just like the cast iron takes a little bit
10:51
of energy to heat up but once it does,
10:53
it retains heat really well.
10:54
And here too you should get a nice crispy,
10:56
crunchy edge to your macaroni.
10:58
The gratin dish is very traditional
11:00
to use for mac and cheese.
11:02
See, I mean it's just.
11:04
Doesn't this look good?
11:05
Mm, this is really good.
11:09
When you're making mac and cheese,
11:10
you're gonna wanna balance the cheeses,
11:12
the texture, the pasta, other spices.
11:15
But at the end of the day,
11:16
everybody's gonna love mac and cheese.
11:19
Nothing else needs to be said but wow.
11:25
It's warm back here.