Cheese Soufflé 101

Soufflés have a reputation of being difficult, but there are only two things you need to be concerned about. Both relate to timing.

First, you need to keep the egg whites as full as air as possible so don’t overmix and as soon as the egg whites have been beaten, you want to quickly get it into the soufflé and into the oven.

Second, it doesn’t look quite as nice if you wait too long to serve it, so timing the prep and cooking time so you can immediately eat your soufflé with your family/guests when done is important before it deflates too much. I like these as a nice lazy Sunday activity, so I only have to worry about myself and I don’t care about deflation. Though, you can also cover up deflation with sauce or cheese or other such toppings, so not really worth sweating over anyway- the only thing you’ve lost is the ability to impress with its looks- it will still taste fine!.

I decided to make soufflés for the first time because it was somewhat fresh on my mind after a Dr. Who episode (Asylum of the Daleks) in which one of the characters made soufflés.  I also had some leftover cheddar from making some beer cheese (upcoming post). I have read in several places that you can make the base of a soufflé a day ahead and refrigerate it, stopping before adding the egg yolks. Just reheat your roux a bit the next day if premade to loosen it before whisking the egg yolks in and continuing on in.

This recipe is enough for 6 servings (usually the rule of thumb is 1 egg per serving). There are plenty of recipes out there that combine more interesting flavor combinations of ingredients, but in my case since I was trying to use up some eggs and cheese leftover from other recipes, so kept it simple. You can definitely reduce this to 2, 3, and 4 egg variations as well.


  • Enough butter to butter the size and bottom of your soufflé container(s), plus 3 tablespoons of butter for the soufflé itself
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or other spicy addition (I used chili powder)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2  cups lightly packed freshly grated cheese, in this case I used extra-sharp aged cheddar (8 ounces). I like freshly grated rather than that from a packaged because it has more flavor and the ones in the bag seem to have additives to them that coat the cheese.
  • 1/4 cup finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus enough (a couple tablespoons at most) to dust the inside of your soufflé container(s)
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 7 egg whites
  • 3/8 teaspoon cream of tartar or lemon juice (optional- I did not use this)


  1. First, an hour or so in advance take out your eggs and separate the yolks from the whites. This step is because it is easier to separate the yolk and whites when the eggs are cold, but the egg whites whip up better for step 8 at room temperature. You can return the egg yolks to the fridge, but let the egg whites stand out, covered, on the counter.
    Also, even though I have an egg separator, I never use it. I still always use my hand to separate eggs, letting the whites run through my fingers and wondering how fertilized versions of these form into fluffy chicks (or any other form of life starting from an egg) as the snotty-like whites drip. It’s both messy and gross while simultaneously filling me with wonder.
  2. Butter the bottom and sides of an 8-cup round ovenware dish or two 4-cup round dish, or multiple small 1-2 cup dishes, whatever round container dish you may be using. Make sure that it is round, and that there is at least 1/2 inch from where the souffle will be and the top of the container so it can rise the 2-3 inches in the baking process. Some people actually place them in smaller containers in order to show off the rise more.
    After the buttering, then dust it with the grated Parmesan (turn it on its side and sprinkle the grated cheese through your fingers as you rotate the container). You want this ready because once you get to the get to the egg white step, you want to be able to get it in the oven with as much air as possible.
  3. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F – you will need it to be ready temperature wise before you add in the egg whites. Grate or shred your cheese if you haven’t already. With fine grated cheese I can use my measuring cup, but for shredded cheese I prefer my digital scale (ok, this is the first time I’ve used it, but it was awesome!) since different cheeses may pack differently.
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  4. In a medium saucepan, melt the 3 tablespoons butter over low heat. Then, add the 3 tablespoons of flour and whisk until smooth and a light tan- now you have a roux from your equal parts fat (butter) and flour.
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  5. Meanwhile, microwave the milk for 45 seconds so it is slightly warm but not too hot to the touch. Pour in the milk into the flour and butter, whisking constantly. Bring the sauce to a very gentle boil and cook, whisking frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes until thickened.
    Use the coat the back of the spoon test for this- if you put liquid on the back of the spoon, hold it vertically and draw a line, the liquid should not run because it has enough tension and thickness to not cross that drawn line. This is a béchamel sauce, one of the mother sauces of French cuisine.You’ve got the basic foundation for white sauce for many recipes!
  6. Remove the heat from the pan. Whisk in the nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper, then slowly in steps add the cheese so it is melted- so now you have turned your béchamel sauce into a Mornay sauce (Béchamel with cheese).  Yes, you’ve made roux and now béchamel and mornay on your way to make your soufflé, leveling up your experience in  French cooking a la the videogame Cooking Mama…
    This is the point to taste and make sure it is very well seasoned as you are about to add the eggs which are going to be for texture, not taste. Remember the egg addition will dilute the flavor a bit, so overseason to account for this.
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  7. Make sure this mixture is not very hot, as you don’t want the egg yolks to scramble or temper at all and ruin the texture when you whisk in the egg yolk. After that you may even want to set it aside a little longer until the mixture is lukewarm.
  8. As an extra note, if you want to add more to your soufflé – let’s say bits of bacon or ham, or pre-cooked spinach, broccoli florets, etc, this is where you would do so.
  9. Ok, it’s time for the important egg whites. The oven should have reached the right temperature by now before this final whisk, because this is going to go down quickly! Is it ready? Ok! Next, in a large bowl, whip the room temperature egg whites, slowly at first until they’re quite foamy, and then increase the speed (an electric mixer can really help out your whisking arm) . Whip until thick defined peaks form and then stop (otherwise you will start making it look like a meringue). I know some people use cream of tartar or lemon juice, both acids, to further fluff their whites but I did not use it (just use 1/8 teaspoon for every 2 eggs).
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  10. Hopefully by now your cheese sauce has reached room temperature as well. Put a 1/4 of the egg whites into the cheese sauce and fold the two together once. Turn a quarter turn and repeat, scooping from the bottom and just gently folding the mixtures together from one side to your other hand to preserve as much volume as possible.
    Put in the next quarter of egg whites, and repeat the casual folding and turning, until all the whites are added. You do not need to worry about blending all the whites streaks, remember the key is to add and keep as much air as possible. You are barely mixing the two together, it does not need to look homogenous.
  11. Gently pour the soufflé batter into the buttered mold. Now I forgot this step, but you can use a knife to flatten and swirl the top of your soufflé and then depress all around the edges by the dish so when it does rise, it will have a center plateau like in those professional versions. I was getting hungry and just put it straight into the heated oven after the pour.
    Oh well- it pretty much gets destroyed when you dig in for your serving anyway, so its a brief moment of fluffy looking loveliness- and is also why I don’t know why people make such a big deal about it looks a bit deflated, though I do understand the accomplishment of making something that looks so professional and you have heard for so long is difficult (say, Beef Bourguignon, which sounds both delicious and so classic but is really an insane amount of work for a beef stew). As you can see from this recipe for soufflé though, it is more straightforward as long as you pay attention to the timing.
    As I had mentioned before, toppings can help make it look more attractive, and it should still be fluffy and light inside for actual eating. I actually was a bit charmed how mine sort of reminded me of a hot cross bun, or a volcano, either way it was teasing me by showing me its airy cheesy insides as a tease.
  12. Cook until the soufflé is a golden brown on the top, approximately 22 to 30 minutes. I don’t know if this is true enough, but I’ve heard to not open the oven for the first 20 minutes or the soufflé may fall. If you insert a knife it should come out clean so you know the liquid has cooked through. For smaller bowls, I have put it in a pan and then poured water in the pan so that it goes up halfway up the smaller dish.
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It will deflate as you take it out of the oven, and then continue to further do so over time, so you want to serve this immediately. To serve, you probably want to put your soufflé dish on a platter, with a towel underneath the soufflé dish.

Consider serving your soufflé with some fresh crusty french bread and a bright salad, and a French wine, or try it topped with a tapenade or salsa. I went with a citrusy berry beer that happened to be on sale at the grocery store, Leinelkugel Lemon Berry Shandy, a Weiss style beer with blackberry juice and lemon flavor, and topped my serving of soufflé with more grated Parmesan and chopped green onion.

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