The One Simple Step That Gives Mac And Cheese A Gourmet Upgrade

You truly can't beat mac and cheese when it comes to a comforting and convenient meal. Flavor-wise, though, the grocery staple version can occasionally leave a little to be desired when made conventionally. Luckily, there are many ways to enhance the taste of boxed mac and cheese. One of the best and quickest is using a food torch to create a brown, crispy crust on top of the dish. Along with enhancing the texture, a food torch also imbues the cheese with a more complex flavor than would be possible serving it straight from the stovetop or with baking alone. Keep in mind that both preparations benefit from a bit of added texture and flavor. And if you're looking for a slightly fancier side dish for a gathering of family and friends, torching the top of your mac and cheese also helps ensure that your presentation is on point.

As for how to use a food torch, it's best to hold the device approximately 2 inches away from the mac and cheese. This distance helps you get a nice crust but should prevent you from burning the cheese. The technique you use is also important, so refrain from holding the torch directly over the food for too long. Instead, keep moving the torch back and forth as you char the mac and cheese for the most even browning.

Can you use a hardware torch in place of a food torch?

While there are plenty of versatile culinary torches on the market, some home chefs recommend using a hardware torch instead. This subject was hotly debated (pun intended) on Reddit, and some commenters highlighted the benefits of using a hardware torch for culinary purposes. As explained by one person, "The reason people recommend hardware torches is because they're usually about the same price or much less than a standard brulée torch and can put out much higher BTUs and generally be more effective."

Another commenter highlighted the convenience of hardware torches, stating, "Propane tanks are easily accessible and last for years with regular use." Keep in mind that hardware torches tend to be larger and more cumbersome than compact kitchen torches. Accordingly, a kitchen torch might be best for homes with smaller kitchens, or home chefs who don't plan to torch anything too substantial, such as a thick cut of meat.

What to do if you don't have a food torch

In the event you're without a food torch and find yourself with a box of mac and cheese you want to enhance, turn to your trusty oven. Oven broilers serve the same purpose as food torches without the need for keeping an extra kitchen accessory in your home. Broilers can be found in both gas and electric ovens, and their function varies according to the type of appliance you're using. With gas ovens, they emit high intensity flames, while electric ovens use heated coils situated on the upper interior of the appliance (broilers can also be located under ovens in special drawers).

Some broilers also offer different levels of heat, which can affect the outcome of your mac and cheese. To get the sought-after crispy brown texture on top, use the highest setting possible but monitor the dish to avoid burns. Also, the top rack is usually best when it comes to browning mac and cheese, as placing the dish on the lower rack can somewhat impede the process. With so many great ways to amplify boxed mac and cheese, you'll never struggle through a boring meal again.