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Are you craving some delicious homemade mac and cheese, but you're not sure what temperature to bake it at? You've come to the right place. We've done the research to provide you with all the information you need to create a perfect pan of mac and cheese.
Mac and cheese should be baked at 350° F. The ingredients in mac and cheese are all fully cooked prior to baking, so a low temperature ensures your dish will not be overdone. Most mac and cheese recipes recommend baking for 28-30 minutes, uncovered, for a gooey cheesy yet golden, crisp-topped result.
There are good reasons to bake mac and cheese at a low temperature, and there are some other tricks you should know too. Like, how do you keep mac and cheese from drying out? Keep reading to find out all the tips and tricks for making and storing mac and cheese.
Why Should Mac and Cheese Be Baked at 350°F?
Before you bake macaroni and cheese, the macaroni needs to be boiled, and the cheese needs to be melted. That means that the ingredients have already had heat applied to them and are technically fully cooked. Baking mac and cheese at a low temperature will prevent you from over-cooking the dish.
Do You Bake Mac and Cheese Uncovered?
Yes, you should bake mac and cheese uncovered. Leaving the dish uncovered while it bakes allows the top to achieve a crispy, crunchy texture which results in pure bliss. You can even turn on the broiler for the last couple of minutes to achieve a perfectly browned, cheesy top layer on your dish.
How do You Keep Mac and Cheese From Drying Out?
To prevent your mac and cheese from drying out in the oven, make sure you cook the macaroni fully before you bake it. Allowing the macaroni to absorb the proper amount of moisture from the boiling water will keep it moist through the baking process. Macaroni that has not been boiled long enough will dry out and become crisp and chewy.
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Should I Use Breadcrumbs on Homemade Mac and Cheese?
Yes, sprinkling a thin layer of Italian breadcrumbs on top of your mac and cheese before you put it in the oven will add flavor and texture to the meal.
You can also add a few thin pads of butter on top of the breadcrumbs to give it an extra crisp texture and help it brown evenly. Breadcrumbs are an excellent addition to mac and cheese that can add a host of complex new flavors, textures, and compliments.
Can I Add Breadcrumbs to Boxed Mac and Cheese?
Boxed macaroni and cheese is a much easier way to cut your craving than whipping up a pan of homemade, but it's not quite as tasty.
Adding a layer of breadcrumbs and butter to your boxed mac and cheese and allowing it to broil in the oven for a few minutes will add loads of flavor. Give this a try next time you need a quick mac and cheese fix for an almost homestyle taste.
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How Long Do You Bake Mac and Cheese?
Mac and cheese is a fairly quick dish to make. Most mac and cheese recipes call for a 30 minute bake time. It's imperative to follow the correct temperature and time recommendations to avoid burning your food. If the top isn't starting to brown after 28 minutes, turn on the broiler for the last couple of minutes to get a beautiful color and a crisp crust.
How do You Know When Baked Mac and Cheese is Done?
Baked mac and cheese is done when the top begins to brown. It's important not to overcook this dish, so keep a close eye on the time, or set a kitchen timer. If you forgot to record the time and don't know when to take it out, keep a close eye on it and pull it when it looks slightly browned on top.
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Can You Freeze Leftover Mac and Cheese?
Mac and cheese is usually made in large batches, meaning many households find themselves with tons of leftovers.
Luckily, macaroni and cheese can find a comfortable home in your freezer, remaining good for up to 18 months. This is a great way to store your mac and cheese long-term or to prepare meals ahead of time for busy nights.
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How Long Will Mac And Cheese Keep in the Fridge?
Mac and cheese will remain good for three to five days in the fridge. Make sure you place any leftovers in airtight containers before you store them. You should also mark the date on it so it's easier to keep track of how long it's been. If you don't think the leftovers will be used within five days, freeze them for a much longer-lasting storage method.
Best Way To Re-Heat Mac and Cheese?
If you froze your mac and cheese, let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Preheat your oven to 350° and while it heats, put your mac and cheese in an oven-safe container.
Place the bakeware and mac and cheese in the oven and let it heat up for 20 minutes. Pull it out of the oven and give it a stir to make sure it is thoroughly warmed and gooey.
Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese?
Cheddar is the top choice for mac and cheese, although it can potentially be made with any type of cheese you want to use. If cheddar isn't your thing, don't be afraid to experiment with a variety of cheeses that you do love, and you can even mix cheeses for a complex flavor. Experiment until you can find something you and your family all love.
Does it Matter What Pasta You Use For Mac and Cheese?
Macaroni is considered a staple for this dish, with both elbow and straight versions being perfectly acceptable. However, you don't have to use macaroni.
Any type of pasta will work equally well, but smaller, shaped noodles are recommended because they help the cheese cling, allowing ample cheese in every bite. Cavatappi is another strong recommendation for mac and cheese due to the ridges formed along with the noodles that grab cheese sauce.
Best Milk for Mac and Cheese?
Whole milk is recommended to increase the creamy texture of the cheese sauce, but it is not a requirement. You can use heavy cream or half-and-half for an even creamier texture in your dish. Milk labeled 2% or lower will result in a thinner, more watery cheese sauce. Ultimately, you can use whatever you have on hand or whatever you prefer.
What Size Pan for Baked Mac and Cheese?
This depends on how much you are making. You need to make sure all the ingredients will fit into your pan properly. A 9x13 baking dish is usually a pretty safe bet, but you could use a deeper casserole dish. Use your best judgment when choosing a pan to bake in.
Now that you know all the tips and tricks to make better mac and cheese, you're ready to start cooking. Don't be afraid to experiment with different ingredients and recipes, and remember to use caution around hot appliances and sharp knives. Now grab your apron, have fun cooking, and enjoy your meal.
For help making homestyle mac and cheese with missing ingredients, read our article "Can You Make Mac And Cheese Without Butter?"
For more information on different versions of mac and cheese and how to improve your recipes, read our article "Should You Put Eggs In Mac And Cheese?"