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bechamel breaking

13268 Views 17 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  geoffs2
Hello Chefs!

I am looking for feedback and tips for successful dishes containing béchamel, specifically casseroles. Whether its mac and cheese, scalloped potatoes, etc... lately our béchamel breaks during the process of baking.

We bake pretty low, 250-275. Béchamel looks good going into the oven.

Any help is much appreciated!
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Are you weighing your ingreadents for your sauce or just eyeballing? Being unbalanced with your measurements could be the issue.


Have you changed any of the ingreadents,ie milk fir full fat to 2%? Typt of fat or flour in your roux?

Just some food for thought.
Those are usual suspects...

if you changed cheese and went for a more aged and harder cheese, these tend to break up and release their fat more easily than soft cheeses.

Luc H.
Missed thst one Luc_H. On my second glass on cheap french wine so only running on 7 cylinders as I typt. [emoji]128517[/emoji]
You had the actual right answers since the OP seems to allude that they did not change any ingredients per se.

I added to the conversation in case the cheese was switched.

Enjoy the wine!!

Luc H.
Thank you for the feedback!

roux always by weight, whole milk, and no matter what cheese I use I am experiencing the same issues...
So you are saying it worked before but now it's breaking, correct?

How do you describe <breaking>, clumps and water or clumps and oil or a combo?

Are the noodles fully cooked and cold or partially cooked and cold?

Luc H.
Add some cream cheese to your bechamel. It will make it pretty much bullet proof.
That is a good idea!

Luc H.
The more aged the cheese, the drier it was. The younger cheddars had more moisture and wouldn't break the sauce. Right or wrong scientifically, we switched to a younger cheddar and the sauce stopped breaking. I never really understood why it worked but it made life a lot easier.
As cheese age it loses water (by salting and drying from the surface). As the amount of water decreases from the curds of the cheese, the acidity increases because most acids are not volatile. High acidity curls the milk (proteins tighter) curds firmer. Firm cheese proteins are under more tension than soft high water cheese. When heat is applied the proteins do not unravel as easily as soft moist cheeses in water. Hard cheese require higher temperatures to melt than simmering water.

(the actual science is more complicated and not entirely understood but this is the essence of it)

Luc H.
You did imply that these recipes worked in the past and now they no longer work correct?
Today for example, for our scalloped potatoes: made a thick béchamel (no cheese in the actual sauce at all), layered potatoes with cheddar, parm, and the béchamel. baked at 275 for 30-45 minutes. sauce looked separated like curds and whey. tasted great though!

Thanks again for all the help!
In this example a thick béchamel will work against the introduction of cheese. Is the cheddar aged? if yes then you have 2 firm cheeses (parm and cheddar) working against the béchamel.

do you cook covered or uncovered?

is the casserole boiling when you remove from the oven? long simmering/boiling will break a béchamel also.

Maybe going with a more flowing béchamel will work better in this recipe with some previous introduction of cheddar (maybe half) and only place the parm on top. (just a suggestion)

Luc H.
another thought...

some recipes call for adding butter cubes amongst the potatoes for scallop potatoes.  That loose melting free flowing fat often wrecks havoc on the béchamel.

Luc H.
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