The 2 Key Ingredients You Need For A Velvety Cheese Dip

Unlike the chewy and pullable consistency of melted cheese in iconic foods like grilled cheese sandwiches or pizza, the distinguishing characteristic of a cheese dip is its velvety smooth and fluid gooeyness. The two ingredients responsible for this luscious texture are lemon juice and baking soda.

A common duo in both cleaning and baking, baking soda and lemon juice react with each other to create a bubbly compound that helps baked goods rise and removes rust from drain pipes. The two ingredients also serve as an emulsifier and binding agent for cheese. The compound that baking soda and lemon juice create is known as sodium citrate, which is also a key ingredient in processed cheeses like Velveeta or American cheese singles. Sodium citrate breaks down the calcium in cheese's rigid network of casein proteins, which relaxes the proteins enough to aid in a more complete and uniform emulsification of its fats and water-soluble components during the melting process. The result: a super-smooth sauce.

While you can buy sodium citrate as a premixed ingredient, baking soda and lemon or lime juice are just as effective and a lot more budget-friendly. Plus, you don't have to worry about ruining the rich creamy savoriness of your cheese dip with a harsh citrus tang because the baking soda effectively neutralizes lemon juice's acidic flavor.

How to add lemon juice and baking soda to cheese dip

To make sodium citrate out of lemon juice and baking soda, combine two and a half teaspoons of baking soda with two teaspoons of lemon juice in water. This should be the first step in the creation of your cheese sauce. You can mix the ingredients in the same saucepan or pot that you'll use to melt your cheese. The chemical reaction between the two ingredients will cause the solution to bubble and foam, so make sure the pot or pan is deep enough to contain it. After a minute or two, the bubbles will abate and you can begin building your cheese sauce.

Add a bit of milk to the sodium citrate solution, bringing the liquids to a simmer. Then, add your chosen cheese or blend of cheeses and stir to combine. The result will be a decadently liquid cheese sauce free of curds or pools of oil. While a whisk or even a wooden spoon is enough to emulsify cheese sauce, a hand immersion blender would expedite the process. Another important tip for the creamiest, smoothest cheese dip is to shred cheese from an all-natural block instead of buying pre-shredded cheese. Pre-shredded cheese has additional chemicals that keep the shreds from sticking together, which can also thwart the melting process. If you want to stir in extra ingredients like chopped jalapeƱos, ground beef, or salsa roja, ensure the cheese has been completely emulsified first.