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Melting is the temperature range at which a solid becomes a liquid.

Culinary Uses

In the case of Whole Butter for example, solid butter becomes liquid butter between 82.4° – 96.8° F (28° – 36° C). Butter melts over a range of temperatures because different butters have different compositions of water, milk fat and milk solids.

Melting Cheese can be a more powerful flavor than firm cheese alone. The trouble is that Melting Cheese perfectly can be a bit difficult as the definition of "Melted" for cheese is a bit fluid. Some eaters believe that melted means "softened" others think it means cheese that bubbles and flows. 

Even if we assume that both definitions are correct, a perfect Melt can still be problematic. When heated cheese can become oily and separate. Also different people prefer different types of Melts for different applications. For example, Pizza cheese should stretch, melted cheese in Macaroni & Cheese should be creamy and on a cheese burger most folks like their cheese to droop without running ("the Tablecloth Melt").

Young Cheeses tend to resist melting. Aged Cheeses separate quickly into Protein and Fat when heated (making oily puddles). Processed Cheeses include Emulsifiers which help it hold together and remain smooth for applications such as Queso or topping Hamburgers

Generally, there are three broad classes of melting cheese: Smooth/Creamy, Stretchy, and Saucy. Each is right for different uses. Creamy works well with Pasta. Stretchy is good on Pizza and Saucy is good for things like Nachos or Queso.

Some Chefs have taken to making their own processed cheese by adding Sodium Citrate (a synthetic salt which helps make a creamier texture) to stronger flavored natural cheeses so they can achieve a creamy, flavorful melted cheese.  

Melted cheese wasn't always an American staple. The folks at J.L. Kraft & Bros. Co. started selling processed cheese in tins in 1915 when consumers only used cheese for Macaroni & Cheese, Sandwiches and topping Apple Pie. Kraft's consumer outreach, in lectures, published recipes and cook books expanded our range of cheese options.