Cooking Cheese in the Microwave - The Complete Guide
Cheese is perhaps one of the most versatile foods out there. It comes in a wide range of shapes, sizes and types. Some are exclusive to certain areas of the world, while many are available everywhere.
In any case, it is likely that you have found yourself using cheese in your recipes countless times.
That being said, one of the most frequently asked questions about cheese is: can it be microwaved?
While some high-moisture and/or fat cheeses, such as American cheese and mozzarella, can be microwaved and retain their quality, low-moisture and/or fat types of cheese, such as feta and Parmesan, They are easily overcooked and can end up burnt, chewy or gummy.
Luckily, we are here to shed some light on the subject. We have made a list of some of the most popular cheeses and we have seen the real effects that cooking in the microwave can have on them.
Cooking cheese in the microwave: aspects to take into account
You will most likely put the cheese in the microwave to melt it. The solid fat in milk, which is the main ingredient in cheese, will begin to boil when it reaches a temperature of 90°F.
From there, you will see the cheese begin to soften and eventually liquefy. If you keep the microwave running, you’ll notice that drops of melted fat will start to rise to the surface of the cheese.
As the internal temperature of the cheese continues to rise and it heats up, an interesting thing happens: the bonds of the main proteins in the cheese begin to break.
Once this occurs, it’s only a matter of time before the cheese starts to melt into a thick, viscous fluid.
Of course, the melting point of cheese will vary for different types. There are also several factors and physical characteristics that must be taken into account.
Listed below are some of the factors that will affect your microwave experience:
- Moisture Content – The moisture content of your cheese affects how it reacts to being microwaved. Cheeses with high moisture content are cream cheese, brie, and mozzarella. Cheeses with low moisture are crumbly cheeses, such as Parmesan. It goes without saying that the former will react more favorably to the microwave, since their high moisture content will allow them to liquefy relatively easily. However, the same cannot be said for low-moisture cheeses.
- Age - The age of your cheese will also affect how it reacts to the heat of the microwave and how it ultimately melts. For example, fresh mozzarella becomes stringy after prolonged exposure to microwave heat. Instead, aged cheddar melts smooth. This all has to do with the bonding of the calcium atoms in the cheese and how they change over time.
- Fat Content - When you microwave fatty cheeses like Cheshire and Leicester, the first thing you’ll probably notice is how well and quickly they melt and liquefy. As a general rule, high-fat cheeses are great for microwaving, as they melt quite easily.
- Acidity - Cheeses with high acidity tend to become stringy during the melting process in the microwave. The most prominent examples are the Emmentaler and Gruyere cheeses. On the other hand, Italian cottage cheese and some goat cheeses don’t even melt together. Instead, they just retain their shape.
Taking these aspects into account is important. After all, knowing the physical characteristics of different cheeses will help you get a better idea of how they will perform in your microwave.
With that being said, we have to look at the different categories of cheese to help you become even more familiar with them.
How to microwave different types of cheese
By now, you probably know the wide variety of cheeses that exist. Nothing is stopping you from popping them in the microwave and hitting the start button to see the results.
But if you don’t want to risk your cheese, we’ve listed some of the most popular cheeses below and presented what you can expect if you decide to microwave them.
Different types of cheese
Like wine, cheese is one of those foods that inspires a degree of obsession. This is made evident by the seemingly endless list of cheeses that are made all over the world.
Before we get into the actual process of microwaving, it is important that we present an overview of the different types of cheese.
The following table shows the different types of cheese that you can find. We have also provided some examples so that you can better imagine what they look like and how they differ from each other.
Different types of cheese
|type of cheese||physical characteristics||fat content||examples|
|Fresh cheese||no rind||19-24%||Mozzarella, cottage cheese|
|Aged Fresh Cheese||Wrinkled white to gray-blue rinds||19-24%||Ricotta, Mozzarella|
|soft white rind||wrinkled bark||24-26%||Chevre Trunk, Camembert|
|semi-soft cheese||Typically sticky with a thin to thick gray-brown crust layer||26-28%||St Nectaire, Reblochon|
|Hard cheese||Hard cheeses are usually oiled or waxed. They also have a gray, crusty surface.||28-34%||Cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyère|
|Blue cheese||Blue cheeses are known for their rough, gritty texture.||28-34%||Gorgonzola, Roquefort,|
The texture, fat content, and moisture levels of your cheese will all play a role when you decide to microwave it. With that said, the above table and examples are meant to make things easier for you.
Originating from the southern regions of Italy, mozzarella has become one of the most popular cheeses in the world. It is extremely versatile and can be used for a wide variety of recipes.
For example, it’s a staple for everyday snacks like sandwiches, pizza, and salads. You can even enjoy it on its own, or with a drizzle of olive oil, some basil and tomato, and some salt and pepper.
As you probably know, fresh mozzarella is usually white and rolled into balls. Mozzarella balls come in different sizes ranging from 1 to 113 grams, although they can also come by the pound.
Mozzarella can be classified as queso fresco or queso fresco curado, depending on which type you get. Aged mozzarella loses its white color and turns slightly yellow, reminiscent of butter.
This is important, as age and moisture levels will affect how the cheese reacts to the microwave.
Mozzarella is a microwaveable cheese. Since it is a high moisture cheese, it will start to liquefy quickly, depending on the power of your microwave. As a general rule of thumb, the melting point starts at 130°F.
However, keep in mind that the mozzarella will become stringy instead of melting smooth. Think about what the mozzarella looks like on your favorite pizza and you can get an idea of how it will turn out.
That said, mozzarella doesn’t change noticeably in terms of flavor and quality after microwaving.
Parmesan, or Parmigiano-Reggiano, is a hard, grainy cheese. By all accounts, cheese connoisseurs never stop swearing their love for Parmesan.
Therefore, it is not surprising that it is considered one of the best cheeses in the world.
It has a strong and naturally nutty flavor. Its texture makes it perfect as a garnish for various types of pasta, soups, and risotto recipes.
It can also be part of cheese sauces. With the advent of microwave technology, people have found a new use for Parmesan: cheese fries.
After 1 minute in the microwave, a slice of Parmesan cheese can easily become the perfect crunchy appetizer.
Keep in mind, however, that when the Parmesan reaches a temperature of 180° F, then it will start to liquefy. In either case, the cheese does not lose any of its natural flavors.
Cheddar cheese is similar to Parmesan in several ways. For example, it is also considered a type of dry cheese. It also has hints of nutty in its flavor, despite being a bit spicier than its counterpart.
It is also worth noting that it has a remarkably crumbly texture and features a characteristic color that varies from ivory to vibrant yellow or orange.
It goes without saying that cheddar is a very popular type of cheese that is commonly used for all kinds of sandwiches, cheese dips, and appetizers like mac and cheese. However, perhaps its most iconic and popular use is its pairing with the classic hamburger.
Although it is considered a low moisture cheese, you must understand that Cheddar also has subcategories. Specifically, it can be considered mild, sharp, or extra sharp cheddar.
The level of sharpening is synonymous with the aging process of the cheese. After all, the texture of your cheddar will change as it ages.
Understanding this is important, as it will also affect how it reacts to the heat from your microwave. Cheddars labeled as mild and sharp tend to be smoother and creamier than extra-fine cheddars.
Before you consider microwaving cheddar, there are two things you should do. First, you will need to grate the cheese. Second, you’ll need to bring the cheddar to room temperature.
Both of these things are vital if you want to get stellar results in the microwave, as they reduce the time the cheese is exposed to heat.
If done correctly, the cheese should melt in a matter of 30 seconds using the low setting on your microwave. Heating in 15 second intervals allows you to keep a close eye on the progress of your cheese.
However, if you skip grating the cheese or let it warm to room temperature, you’re in for a mess on your hands.
To be more specific, overexposure to heat makes cheddar greasy, rubbery, and just plain unappetizing.
American cheese is a semi-soft, processed cheese that is typically made from a combination of Cheddar and Colby slices.
As the name suggests, this creamy, smooth, rindless cheese product originates from the United States. It is distinguished by its yellow-orange color and its smooth but creamy flavor.
Despite being extremely popular, American cheese is often criticized for its high levels of fat and sodium. However, this works to its advantage, especially when microwaved, as the cheese is able to melt smoothly and easily.
All it takes is 30 seconds to 1 minute on the low setting, and you can transform your American cheese slices into a homemade cheese sauce. Needless to say, it’s an experiment definitely worth trying.
Feta cheese is another popular type of cheese to pay attention to. Feta, a classic Greek cheese, is made from brined goat’s milk. It’s wet, salty and spicy.
Their texture often varies, as some are creamy while other fetas tend to be crumbly.
This cheese can be used for all kinds of recipes. For example, it can be used for macaroni and cheese or as a side to roasted vegetables. It is also often used in Mexican dishes and sprinkled on some fresh flatbread.
That being said, we wouldn’t recommend microwaving the Feta any time soon, at least not on its own. This is mainly due to its chemical composition and its higher acidity.
Unlike other cheeses that melt smoothly and easily under microwave heat, Feta has the unfortunate tendency to retain its shape and char.
Feta cheese has a very high moisture level and a lower fat content than most cheeses.
Although this usually means it has a lower melting point, Feta’s high level of acidity creates stronger calcium and protein bonds that prevent it from easily breaking down and melting.
So instead of melting, the moisture in the cheese is simply removed by exposing it to the heat of your microwave.
Moisture is crucial for anything to melt properly. Without it, the feta will simply burn in your microwave.
It goes without saying that, aside from the obvious danger of starting a fire in your kitchen, no one wants to eat burnt cheese.
How to heat cheese in the microwave
There you have it, everything you need to know about how to cook the most popular cheeses of the moment in the microwave. As succinctly explained in this guide, you must understand the cheeses you work with.
After all, not all cheeses are the same.
Cheese is one of the most incredibly versatile foods out there. The microwave just expands what you can do with them. However, if you want to prevent your cheese from going to waste, you have to know what you’re doing.
If you want to successfully cook your cheese in the microwave, it would be wise to familiarize yourself with its features.
For example, if you want to make a great cheese sauce or dip, then consider sticking with American cheese. On the other hand, if you want to make your own cheese fries, throw in a few slices of Parmesan and hit the start button.
So don’t forget our tips the next time you decide to try it yourself.