The Key For Adding Cheese To Soup So That It Melts Just Right

Soup is a great restorative meal and a fabulous way to make ingredients stretch. There are countless types of soup — such as these favorites of ours — to fit every taste, from silky, smooth purees and broths to hearty, chunky stews and chowders. While it is possible to appreciate multitudes, there is something about a rich soup that stirs the soul. Whether that is one with a healthy knob of butter added, a lash of cream stirred in, or a cup of coconut milk blended in, rich soups make for meals that stick to the ribs. One of the best additions to enrich a soup is cheese, but it can be tricky to toss cheese in, so it is best to heed an important rule.

Heat can transform cheese into many glorious things, like a buttery grilled cheese sandwich. But heat can also be a fickle master and cause cheese to transmogrify into something less than savory. Careful control of the heat of a soup is of utmost importance when making it cheesy. A rolling boil will sap cheese of its moisture content far too quickly and prevent it from the slow melting that is needed to marry the cheese and the soup. Turn the heat down to the scantest simmer before adding the cheese, a handful at a time, to the soup while constantly whisking or stirring to evenly incorporate the cheese as it gently melts.

What to use and not to use

The above rule is universal when it comes to cheese soups. Be it a broccoli-cheddar soup or a beer cheese soup, low and slow is the way to go. Also important, though, is the choice of cheese for a soup. Just as there are myriad soups for all tastes, so too are there cheeses that appeal to all stripes. They are not, however, equal in their properties. Some are champion melters with flavors that stand out in soup, while others show up weak in the heat.

An obvious choice for cheese is cheddar. You probably know how well this sharp cheese works with cheddar and beer in the aforementioned soups. It has a robust, poignant flavor, but also what all soups that go well in soup have, which is a high moisture content and a relatively low melting point. These factors help the cheese seamlessly integrate into the soup at temperatures that ensure both the cheese and other ingredients don't get scorched. Other cheeses that work in this category are Jack, Colby, Swiss, and Fontina.

As you might surmise, cheeses with high melting points and low moisture content don't mix with soup well. Crumbly aged Pecorino, savory Halloumi, and even aged Cheddar can separate and become granular in the soup. These are best left as a finishing touch that is shredded on the soup after it comes off the heat.