Why Sodium Citrate is the Secret to the Silkiest Cheese Sauce and Additional Tips
Why Sodium Citrate is the Secret to the Silkiest Cheese Sauce and Additional Tips
Hot cheese is a sensual affair. Just consider the delight of watching soft, stretchy strands emerge from between the halves of a grilled cheese sandwich.

To best appreciate sodium citrate’s function in a Cheese Sauce, we must first recognize the molecular structure of cheese and what happens to that structure as it melts.

“The fat globules in normal cheese are just embedded in a protein network,” says Pat Polowsky, the food scientist and dairy devotee behind the Cheese Science Toolkit. The all-too-familiar oiliness when heating cheese is due to fat leaking out of the weakened protein structure. To avoid this, “We have to use some chemical trickery to keep the fat in the cheese.”

Additional Cheese Sauce Tips:

  • I have found that the sauce comes together more favorably in a ceramic saucepan than in stainless steel. Bonus: The ceramic is also much easier to clean.


  • Some resources recommend using an immersion blender to coax your Cheese Sauce into smoothness. You’re welcome to do this, but I’ve found that patience and even heat distribution make it very possible to create the sauce with a simple balloon whisk.


  • Remember that the sauce will thicken as it cools. If it seems too runny for your liking right off the stove, just let it stand for a couple of minutes, stir again, and enjoy.


  • Resist the urge to use pre-shredded cheese, which will contain anti-caking agents that may interfere with melting. Always just grate your own cheese; it tastes better anyway!


  • Be sure that your Cheese Sauce has fully come together before introducing your add-ins.


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