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I occasionally make Macaroni and Cheese with a béchamel/roux (and tuna, but I still call Macaroni and Cheese). I make the sauce with butter, corn flour and milk and add the cheese later. I use a lot of milk and after I've just cooked and served the dish the sauce has a beautiful creamy/liquid texture.

I cook the sauce in one pot and the pasta in another. When both are cooked I quickly drain the pasta and add both it and the drained canned tuna to the sauce. I then heat it just long enough to raise the temperature of the tuna without changing the flavour by recooking it.

However, when I refrigerate the leftovers and reheat them I just end up with clumps of pasta (and tuna) stuck together with an almost solid sauce. The flavour is still good, it's just the texture that's changed. Is the pasta absorbing extra moisture before it cools? How can I prevent this so I have creamy reheated Macaroni and Cheese?

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    Just add more milk when reheating.
    – Doug
    Feb 16, 2015 at 10:41
  • Honestly, some things just don't reheat well...
    – Catija
    Feb 16, 2015 at 15:19
  • related answer : cooking.stackexchange.com/a/8783/67
    – Joe
    Feb 16, 2015 at 15:35
  • You write "I use a lot of milk" - what is "a lot"? The proportion for a mid-thick bechamel is 1:1:10, so you'd use 1 liter of milk for 100 gram of flour and 100 gram of fat to get a creamy thick sauce.
    – rumtscho
    Feb 16, 2015 at 17:12
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    @rumtscho I don't measure the ingredients, I just go by feel. I heat the butter and flour together until they form a thick paste and then I gradually add the milk to thin it down. As the flour cooks it thickens again, so I add more milk. Once I have it at a good consistency in the pot I add a lot more milk. So basically, I put in what feels like enough and then I double it because I know it will end up very thick on the plate if I don't.
    – CJ Dennis
    Feb 18, 2015 at 11:20

3 Answers 3

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Having made this dish again recently and experimenting with it based on the comments here can report the following:

A good creamy texture in the pot after the initial preparation will become a single hard lump in the fridge. Adding more milk before refrigeration will:

  1. Prevent it from solidifying
  2. Reheat (e.g. in a microwave) to a close enough texture to the original

The amount of milk that needs to be added is about the same quantity as went into the dish originally, i.e. if you used 1 litre in the dish before serving it (assuming only a small quantity removed) add another 1 litre of milk before refrigerating. If you served half of it, only add half a litre of milk, etc. The only downside is that the extra liquid separates slightly in the fridge, leaving watery pools on the surface of the food. This extra moisture can simply be stirred back into the dish before reheating.

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You can't keep it creamy after refrigerating because the fats solidify. So this is all about reheating. It is the perfect use for a low temperature water bath (sous vide), though a pot of hot water could work just as well...as long as you monitor the temperature. Just store the leftovers in a ziplock bag. Heat water to 65C. Place bag in bath 45 min to an hour, perhaps agitating every so often. As Doug mentions above, a little extra milk will help.

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    I'm not so sure it's all about reheating. Noodles are notorious for sucking out the moisture of whatever they are covered it and turning into a mushy mess. I've put noodle salad in the fridge, with what felt like more mayonnaise than noodles, and on the next day, you couldn't see the mayo, they just had a slight oily sheen. If it's a problem of the butter cooling down, then sure, better reheating will help. But maybe it's really a matter of the sauce getting thicker.
    – rumtscho
    Feb 16, 2015 at 17:13
  • @rumtscho for sure...pasta absorbs as you point out, and the texture will probably never be the same as the moment the initial cook was complete. This is about reheating, however, that is what the OP wants to do. I just wanted to point out that products like mac and cheese, whose characteristics can be further compromised by stove top or oven reheating, are perfect candidates for the water bath...mashed potatoes also come to mind...the process is gentle, and because it is in a bag, there is no further moisture loss.
    – moscafj
    Feb 16, 2015 at 17:30
  • @rumtscho So you think it's unavoidable and that the pasta is the culprit for drying out the sauce? Maybe I should add more milk to the leftovers (the pot leftovers, not the served leftovers!) and mix it in before refrigerating?
    – CJ Dennis
    Feb 18, 2015 at 11:24
  • @rumtscho I think it is worthy of an experiment. Try a small amount several ways. I do think the baggie in a water bath should be one of your tests.
    – moscafj
    Feb 18, 2015 at 12:42
  • I'll try adding yet more extra milk again before refrigerating next time I make it and see what happens. If it works it would be the best solution as I can then take it anywhere and reheat it (such as to work) without having to worry about adding extra ingredients.
    – CJ Dennis
    Feb 19, 2015 at 12:16
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I made Mac and cheese for party. it started very creamy. it became pretty solid and hard by the time it was served. What I found out was...the extra I had put into a covered bowl in my refrigerator had stayed creamy or much much more creamier. I heated it in the microwave the next day and it was still creamy and good. So I think if you chill it right away and then reheat it in the microwave for later. (It cools fast) and saves it from absorbing the extra creamy sauce.

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