How do I keep hot mac and cheese from turning to mush?

mac and cheese
Smaller batch sizes, mix to order, serve individual sizes, says Advice Guy. | Photo: Shutterstock.


Dear Advice Guy,

How do I best hot hold mac and cheese? By the end of service, it turns to mush.

– Chef, Foodservice


Consistency is key for any foodservice operation. The experience of the guest at the end of service should be as high quality as it is for a guest at the beginning of service. In hot-holding environments, some foods, such as chili, can provide that consistent experience. Others, such as mac and cheese, as you note, do not keep their quality over time.

One constant theme in this column is to be sure you are addressing the core problem and not a symptom of the problem. While the symptom may be that hot holding macaroni and cheese causes it to lose quality, the real problem may be that, because you are holding too much product for too long unnecessarily, you need a better solution for retherming this menu item.

Here are some suggestions that may work:

  • Cook your pasta al dente.
  • Use smaller batch sizes, reheated and held for shorter times, more frequently.
  • In a staffed environment, hot hold the sauce, while mixing it with cooked pasta to order.
  • In a staffed environment, explore equipment and supplies to retherm individual orders.

Of these ideas, I prefer the last two if feasible for your environment. It minimizes waste as unused portions can be sold for another service or repurposed. But any of these approaches will help.

It sounds like you are overproducing and holding too much product for the volume you are serving. Kudos to you for prioritizing your quality and trying to dial in production to minimize waste and improve the quality and guest experience.

More on hot holding here.