Disclaimer: This post is part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program. I thank Sargento for the $25 gift card they sent me for participating in this program, and I’ll remind my readers that all opinions in this post are mine and not influenced in any way by outside factors.
You can take the girl out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas out of the girl.
AKA: I will beat you down and make you beg for mercy if you get between me and a good bowl of queso.
Queso is the Texas staple, and if you ever read this blog, you are well aware of my everlasting love of spicy melted cheese atop a crispy tortilla chip (or, for God’s sake, a plantain). Since practically every post on this site contains mention of cheese in some form, I was delighted to receive the email saying I was chosen to participate in the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program with Sargento. My mission, should I choose to accept it, was to compare Sargento to a generic, processed cheese and report my findings. And report I shall.
I actually really like Sargento. I regularly snack on their 50 calorie cheese sticks, and I buy their shredded cheese to melt atop my fried eggs. That being said, I usually prefer to buy big blocks of local or imported cheeses and grate them myself (yeah, you caught me, I’m a total cheese snob). To break the mold, I decided it was only natural that I use this challenge to make some queso.
Homemade queso is the shizz. Unfortunately, I find most pre-shredded cheese to have the tendency to taste gritty when melted, so I decided to see which pre-shredded cheese behaves the best when used in this dish.
I set out to compare Sargento’s pre-shredded cheese with a generic grocery store brand. I bought two packages of each brand: one a taco cheese blend (with seasonings) and one a Mexican four cheese blend.
I also want to note that the price difference was infinitesimal. The Sargento cost 20 cents more. That’s nothin’.
To make queso, you only need three essential components. The first is one that is only made better when paired with cheese.
Obviously, I mean beer. I typically opt for a Corona or Dos Equis, but this is what we had, so I went with it:
The final component is none other than your favorite salsa. For this occasion, I decided to break open the jar I got from Buc-ee’s (a Texas gas station with a cult following and the best beef jerky in the world).
You can either prepare queso by heating in the microwave or whisking on the stove, but I’ve found that the latter is the far superior method of queso preparation. Microwaving the mixture can cause lumpy or gritty cheese, and the various components just don’t combine as well.
Start by heating the beer over medium heat until it starts to foam.
Then, add the salsa and whisk together. Bring to a very light simmer.
Then, lower the heat to a very little flame, like so:
Next, add handfuls of the cheese (just alternate between bags) and whisk in each batch of cheese until it’s smooth.
Keep adding more cheese and whisking over the low flame until the mixture is thick and creamy.
Pour into a bowl and enjoy with your favorite dippins.
- 1 bag seasoned shredded cheese, like Sargento’s taco seasoning blend
- 1 bag mixed shredded cheese, like Sargento’s 4-cheese Mexican blend
- 1 beer (a lighter variety)
- 1 jar salsa
- Pour the beer into a saucepan over medium heat. Heat until frothy.
- Whisk the salsa into the beer and heat until the mixture barely start to simmer.
- Lower the heat to a very low flame, add a handful of the seasoned cheese blend. Whisk in completely.
- Add a handful of the mixed shredded cheese blend and whisk in completely.
- Continue alternating types of cheese, whisking each handful entirely, until the queso reaches the desired consistency.
- (Optional) if the cheese will not be sitting over a light flame or in a crock pot, whisk in a few splashes of milk to keep it from lumping.
I made two bowls of queso using the above method – one with the Sargento, the other with a generic grocery store brand.
The generic cheese was more finely shredded, and as such I figured it would melt better. I found that they both melted to a similar consistency, and when placed side by side, they looked identical.
The flavor and consistency, on the other hand, could not have been more different.
I had KnightlyBoyfriend’s whole family assist in a blind taste testing, and it was unanimously decided that the Sargento tasted better. It had that beautiful consistency of ganache and those satiny threads of melted cheese hanging from the dipped chips.
We also agreed that, flavor-wise, the Sargento cheese complimented the flavor from the beer and spices from the salsa while maintaining a delicious cheesiness. The depth of flavor was astounding, especially when compared to the generic batch. The cheese flavor in the processed cheese was completely lost when combined with the beer and salsa. In other words, you get the cheese calories without enjoying the cheese itself.
That, my friends, is no bueno.
Additionally, when you compare the two batches of queso, they look the same on the outside. However, when a chip was dipped in the generic queso, you didn’t get any of those cheese threads. It simply dropped off in globs. It was actually a little gross.
The Cardinal Rule of Cheese states that real cheese should be stringy and satiny smooth. The above was globby and gritty and not at all appealing. Two days later, the remains are still sitting in the fridge, and the Sargento is almost gone.
You do the math.
I was a little nervous about participating in this challenge, because I refuse to lie about which tastes better. As I said, I generally bypass all cheese brands and go for blocks (usually from the specialty cheese section of the market, or a cheese store), which I then grate myself. I didn’t expect much of a difference between the Sargento and the generic, but I was pleasantly surprised to report that the Sargento (which the company claims is a natural cheese presided over by cheese artisans) was far superior to its generic counterpart. I highly recommend using the Sargento the next time you want to whip up a quick, no fuss batch of queso.
Sargento, you’ve just been Knighted.