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The saucepan is your best friend when it comes to liquefying cheese into tangy sauces and hearty dips. A microwave or crock pot may seem tempting to make melted-cheese recipes because they offer low-temperature settings. Yet these appliances don't provide the best access for watching and stirring the cheese as it reaches just the right consistency. Along with the best melting cheese for the dish, proper tools and techniques will result in liquefied cheese that isn't separated, stringy or scorched.

Remove the cheese that you'll be melting from the refrigerator to bring it to room temperature before you begin cooking. Cold cheese discourages efficient liquidation.

Shred the cheese with your cheese grater. Smaller pieces melt more quickly than large chunks or slices do.

Set the burner to low, and add any non-cheese ingredients called for in the recipe. Many liquid cheese recipes, such as for fondue and pasta sauce, start by placing butter in the pan first, often with an equal amount of flour. Follow this with any other non-cheese ingredients that may be in the recipe.

Add the shredded cheese to the pan, keeping the heat on low. Low heat is less likely to remove the moisture content from the cheese.

Whisk the cheese at a steady rate. Whisking encourages the breakdown of cheese pieces, as well as the incorporation of the cheese into the other ingredients.

Remove the pan from the heat, and serve the cheese sauce or dip immediately.

Tip

Among the cheeses that liquefy easily are cheddar, Monterey Jack, Gruyère, Gouda and blue cheese.

If cheese is the only ingredient in your sauce or dip, use a non-stick pan or cooking spray to prevent scorching.

After making a buffet-style dip that will be sitting for a long time, place the cheesy concoction in a heat-proof serving dish on a hot plate or over an alcohol burner. Alternatively, keep dip for a crowd in a slow cooker.

Warning

Reduced-fat cheese is a tempting option for making healthier versions of classics like fettuccine Alfredo or nachos. Keep in mind, however, that the lower the fat content, the more unevenly the cheese will melt. Avoid fat-free cheeses whenever possible.

Shredded or grated cheese is often the last ingredient added to a cheesy dip or soup, often just minutes before you remove the pan from the burner. But always examine recipes closely because they may call for adding an egg yolk or fresh herbs to the dish after it comes off the heat.