Mac and Cheese No-No’s: 9 Common Mistakes

Jul 13, 2020 | Cooking Tips, Pasta

Looking for the perfect Mac and Cheese recipe? Avoid these 9 common mistakes to make sure your dish is a hit at your next potluck. From overcooking the pasta to using the wrong type of cheese, these mistakes can ruin your Mac and Cheese and leave it inedible. Don’t be the one to bring the bad Mac and Cheese to the party. Follow these tips to ensure your dish is a delicious success.

Mistake #1 Not Using a Roux

Roux is a crucial component in many classic dishes, including the beloved Mac and Cheese. It’s a simple mixture of equal parts flour and butter that’s cooked together and used to thicken sauces and gravies. Without a roux, your cheese sauce can turn out unstable and may even curdle during cooking.

To make a roux, start by melting butter in a pot. Once melted, whisk in an equal amount of flour and continue cooking and whisking for 4-5 minutes. You can then use the hot roux to thicken cold milk, or whisk cold milk into the hot roux. By using a roux, you’ll create a stable base for your cheese sauce that will result in a creamy and delicious Mac and Cheese.

Mistake #2 Wrong Milk For The Job

When making Mac and Cheese, it’s important to choose the right type of milk. While it may be tempting to use lower-fat milk to save on calories, it’s important to use at least whole milk (3.25% Milk Fat) to ensure the best texture and stability. The higher fat content helps to prevent the Mac and Cheese from becoming greasy or separating during cooking. If you only have 2% milk on hand, consider adding a bit of whipping cream to it in a ratio of 1:3 (1 part whipping cream to 3 parts milk) to increase the fat content. Trust me, your Mac and Cheese will thank you!

Mistake #3 Undercooking Bechamel

If you want to make the perfect Mac and Cheese, it’s important to pay attention to the details, including the Bechamel sauce. Bechamel is made by thickening milk with a roux, a mixture of flour and butter that’s cooked together to various degrees to achieve different flavours and colours. The roux is an essential component of the Bechamel, as it helps to thicken the sauce and give it structure. However, if the roux is not cooked long enough, it can impart a raw, floury taste to the Bechamel. This can ruin the texture and flavour of your Mac and Cheese, leaving you with a dish that’s grainy and unpalatable.

To avoid this common mistake and ensure a smooth and creamy Bechamel sauce for your Mac and Cheese, it’s important to simmer the sauce while gently whisking it for at least 10 minutes before adding in the cheese. This will help to cook out any raw flour flavour and give you a sauce that’s perfect for your Mac and Cheese. Don’t skimp on the cooking time – a little extra effort will pay off in a delicious and satisfying dish that’s sure to be a hit with your friends and family. So next time you’re making Mac and Cheese, be sure to give the Bechamel the time it deserves. Trust us. Your taste buds will thank you!


How to make classic bechamel sauce
Total Time: 20 minutes
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: French
Keyword: Bechamel, Sauce
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Chef Ben Kelly


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 an onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 5 cups Whole Milk
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper as needed


  • Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat.
  • Add the onions and saute until the onions are soft.
  • Add the butter and melt.
  • Add the flour, mix it with the melted butter and onions, and cook, stirring regularly for about three minutes.
  • Add the milk and whisk to fully incorporate the roux.
  • Heat the milk, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot regularly, so the roux doesn't stick.
  • Simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes or until it thickens and no longer tastes like raw flour.
  • Season with salt, pepper (white pepper if you prefer) and nutmeg.
  • Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve.
  • Put a layer of plastic wrap on the surface of the hot bechamel to prevent a film from forming on the surface.
  • Use the bechamel right away, or keep it in the fridge for up to four days.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Mistake #4 Not Flavouring The Bechamel

Flavour is key when it comes to making delicious Mac and Cheese, and the Bechamel sauce is no exception. While a basic Bechamel made of butter, flour, and milk provides the base for the Mac and Cheese sauce, it’s important to add in some extra flavourings to make it truly stand out. Some options to consider include nutmeg, cayenne, salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. These ingredients can help to enhance the taste of the Bechamel and add depth and complexity to the overall cheese sauce. A few drops of lemon juice can also help to brighten the flavour and add some balance.

When adding these flavourings to your Bechamel, it’s best to do so after the roux has been cooked and the milk has been added. This will give the flavours time to infuse into the sauce and develop fully. Be sure to add in enough flavourings to make your Bechamel shine in your Mac and Cheese, but be careful not to overdo it – a little goes a long way when it comes to seasoning. With the right balance of flavours, your Bechamel sauce will take your Mac and Cheese to the next level.

Mistake #5 Making Poor Cheese Choices

When it comes to making the perfect Mac and Cheese, the cheese you choose can make all the difference. To add depth and complexity to the flavour, it’s best to use a minimum of three different types of cheese. Aged cheddar is a great choice for flavour and colour, and adding in a little turmeric or paprika can help to enhance the colour if you’re using white cheddar. Swiss or Monterey Jack cheese can also add texture and flavour to the dish. For an extra layer of flavour, consider using an aged cheese like parmesan or asiago or a bold blue cheese like cambozola or gorgonzola. A smoked cheddar is another excellent option that can add depth and character to the dish.

However, it’s important to avoid using cheeses that won’t contribute to the desired flavour and texture. Processed cheese like American cheese or Velveeta may melt easily, but they don’t have much flavour and can result in a bland, uninspiring dish. Similarly, soft and crumbly cheeses like feta or goat cheese may not melt well and can lead to a grainy or uneven texture. To get the best results, stick with cheese varieties that are known for their melting abilities and bold flavours. Experiment with different combinations to find the perfect blend for your tastes.

Mistake #6. Adding The Cheese Too Quickly

When it comes to adding cheese to your Bechamel sauce for Mac and Cheese, timing is everything. If you add the cheese too quickly, it can cause the sauce to split or become unstable during cooking. To avoid this, it’s important to take a few extra steps to ensure that the cheese is fully incorporated into the sauce.

First, be sure to grate any firm or hard cheese before adding it to the sauce. This will make it easier to incorporate and prevent the sauce from becoming clumpy or grainy. Then, add the grated cheddar to the Bechamel a little bit at a time, whisking it in until it’s fully incorporated. Repeat this process with the Swiss cheese, and finish with the parmesan or blue cheese.

This process will help to emulsify the oils in the cheese into the sauce, which can prevent oil separation during cooking and give you a smooth and creamy Mac and Cheese. By following these steps, you can ensure that your cheese is perfectly integrated into the Bechamel, resulting in a delicious and satisfying dish.

Mistake #7 Cold Pasta

When making Mac and Cheese, it’s important to pay attention to the temperature of the pasta and cheese sauce to ensure that the finished dish is creamy and flavorful. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Avoid adding cold pasta to a hot cheese sauce, as this can cause the sauce to solidify and the emulsion of the cheese to weaken. Instead, make sure to keep the pasta hot while preparing the cheese sauce and add it to the sauce while it’s still warm.
  • To achieve perfectly cooked pasta in your Mac and Cheese, slightly undercook the pasta before adding it to the cheese sauce. This will help to prevent the pasta from becoming overcooked and mushy when the dish is finished baking. Just be sure to test the pasta for doneness before adding it to the sauce, as it should still have a slight bite to it.
  • To keep the pasta hot, you can try placing it in a large bowl and covering it with a clean dish towel or foil. Alternatively, you can heat the pasta briefly in the microwave or on the stove before adding it to the cheese sauce.

By following these simple tips, you can help to ensure that the cheese sauce stays smooth and creamy and that the pasta is perfectly cooked in your Mac and Cheese. The result will be a delicious and satisfying dish that’s sure to be a hit with your friends and family.

Mistake 8 Plain Bread Crumbs

The breadcrumb topping on Mac and Cheese serves two main purposes: to add a crunchy texture and to help the dish brown in the oven. However, it’s important to remember that the topping should also be flavorful in order to enhance the overall taste of the dish.

One way to add flavour to the breadcrumb topping is to mix it with grated parmesan and cheddar cheese. This will give the topping a savoury and slightly sharp flavour that complements the creamy cheese sauce. You can also add in other seasonings like onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and fresh parsley to give the topping an extra boost of flavour.

It’s also a good idea to taste the breadcrumb mixture before adding it to the top of the Mac and Cheese to ensure it has enough flavour. If it tastes bland, add a little more of the cheese or other seasonings until you get the desired taste. Remember, the breadcrumb topping may seem like a small detail, but it can make a big difference in the final flavour and texture of your Mac and Cheese. Don’t skip this step – a little effort in seasoning the topping can go a long way in creating a delicious and satisfying dish.

Mistake #9 Over Baking/Temperature Too High

When making Mac and Cheese, it’s important to pay attention to the cooking time and temperature to ensure that the dish is creamy, flavorful, and not overcooked. If you’re using the broiler to set the sauce and brown the top of the Mac and Cheese, it’s essential to make sure that the sauce and pasta are already hot before placing the dish under the broiler. This will help to ensure that the dish is heated through and the breadcrumb topping browns evenly.

If you’re heating up a batch of Mac and Cheese that was made ahead of time or is cold from the fridge, it’s best to bake it in the oven at a lower temperature for a longer period of time. This will help to gently heat the dish without drying it out or causing the cheese sauce to separate. A good starting point is to bake the Mac and Cheese at 350°F for 20-30 minutes or until the sauce is hot and bubbly and the breadcrumb topping is nicely browned. If the top of the dish isn’t browned to your liking, you can finish it off under the broiler for a few minutes. Just be sure to keep a close eye on the dish while it’s under the broiler to prevent burning.

By following these simple tips, you can help to ensure that your Mac and Cheese is cooked to perfection and enjoy a delicious and satisfying meal.


In conclusion, making the perfect Mac and Cheese involves paying attention to a few key details. From choosing the right kind of milk and cheese to cooking the Bechamel sauce and pasta to the right consistency, to seasoning the breadcrumb topping and avoiding overcooking, there are many ways to take your Mac and Cheese from mediocre to amazing.

By following the tips and tricks outlined in this post, you’ll be well on your way to creating a Mac and Cheese that will be the talk of the town. Don’t be afraid to get creative and add your own personal touches to the dish – after all, that’s what makes cooking so much fun!

And as a bonus tip, consider mixing in some extra gooey cheese like Swiss or gorgonzola into the Mac and Cheese before adding the breadcrumb topping. This will give the dish that delicious, stringy cheese look that we all know and love from TV Mac and Cheese.

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to share this post with your friends on social media or via email. And if you enjoyed it, be sure to subscribe to the blog to stay up-to-date on all our latest posts and recipes. Happy cooking!

1 Comment

  1. Hugh Privette

    5 stars

    The Mac and cheese is delicious… extra cheese added to the top comes out rubbery! 😫


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