Baked Mac and Cheese

12 Servings
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

Baked Mac and Cheese is the ultimate classic side dish for any meal with three cheeses, perfect for the holidays and for BBQ’s!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese is a classic kid-approved Side Dish, perfect for any dinner.  Goes great with barbecue dishes like BBQ Pulled Chicken! Your family will also love Easy Corn Casserole (Just 5 Ingredients!) and Collard Greens for the perfect Southern style meal. 

People go crazy for a good macaroni and cheese. This baked version will be your favorite because it is comfort food at its finest. The cheese sauce with the sharp cheddar cheese and the freshly shredded cheese in the sauce, plus the use of pre-shredded cheese as a topping means you have the creamiest, best mac and cheese recipe that would make any Southern cook proud. 

Mac and cheese noodles used are traditionally called elbow macaroni due to their shape. The cheesy dish we know today is an adaptation of what is believed to have originally come from Europe. We have taken a good dish and have made it great with our recipe here! 

This recipe goes best with chicken recipes like Super Crispy Fried Chicken or Oven Fried Chicken alongside a good potato side like KFC Potato Wedges. If you’re having a barbecue, this recipe pairs well with BBQ Chicken Wings and Easy Cole SlawEasy Macaroni Salad and Baked Beans for your best summer cookout ever. Then serve an Easy Fruit Salad for dessert for a healthy option.

Honestly, Baked Mac and Cheese could probably go well with whatever dinner you’re having tonight. This recipe can also be adapted so many ways you’ll want to make it every week.

How to Make Baked Macaroni and Cheese

The process is surprisingly easy and everyone can do it at home.

  • Noodles are cooked until almost ready. 
  • Then the dry seasonings are whisked together (for best flavor, make sure to use powdered mustard, not a prepared mustard mix).
  • Milk is added to the bowl for the noodles to fully cook in. 
  • Next, an egg is added in a specific way. This helps to ensure the dish is the right consistency – not too thick and not too runny.
  • Right after that we’ll mix all the cheese together. 
  • Combine everything in the baking dish, 
  • Bake until ready and enjoy

More Easy BBQ Recipes

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you Cover Baked Mac and Cheese with Foil?

No, you don’t cover it with foil as it will steam the insides instead of giving it a baked texture.

Can you skip adding the egg?

Yes, if you would like you can certainly skip the egg, just either cook the milk mixture for an additional 5 minutes or bake the macaroni and cheese for an additional 15-20 minutes.

Can you skip the powdered mustard? Can you substitute regular mustard?

I wouldn’t do either. Skipping the powdered mustard removes a dimension of flavor that you know but may not be able to single out and adding prepared mustard would be too strong of a flavor.

Can you eat this Baked Mac and Cheese without baking it?

If you want to enjoy this without baking, leave the egg out. You still want to at least cover it with the remaining cheddar cheese and broil it under the broiler for a couple of minutes to melt the cheddar. Also be prepared to cook the milk mixture an additional 6-8 minutes to account for the lack of baking.

Can I use pre-shredded cheese?

We highly recommend against it for anything but the topping. Pre-shredded cheese has added ingredients in it which help to prevent the cheese from sticking together. This also creates a less smooth and creamy texture to your macaroni and cheese.

Why do you rinse the pasta?

Rinse the pasta to remove the starchy coating that is in pasta water. You don’t need any help in thickening the cheese mixture. Also let the pasta cool because using hot pasta is like adding a sponge to your mixture. Freshly cooked pasta finished in sauce is generally so delicious because hot pasta likes to soak up any liquids it can.

How Long do you Bake Mac and Cheese?

Baked Macaroni and Cheese is typically baked for 30 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees when using an egg to help set the milk and cheese mixture. If you aren’t using an egg, additional cook time will be needed, from 45 minutes to up to an hour.

Key Ingredients for Baked Mac and Cheese

  • Cheese: For the best taste, find a big block of the cheddar cheese, Monterey jack cheese, and whole mozzarella to shred at home.
  • Milk: The creamier the milk, the better the dish will be. It is important to note that this is not a recipe to substitute for goats milk, almond milk, or anything like that. Use cows milk!
  • Macaroni: The elbow macaroni is the most popular. This one holds the sauce really well.

Alternative Cooking Methods

Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

Variations for Baked Mac and Cheese

The first time you make this mac & cheese you should make it exactly as written in the recipe because that is the best homemade mac and cheese ever. Next time you want mac n cheese you can mix up the flavors and add in some new ingredients! You can even mix up the pasta shapes to keep things fresh. Who said elbow pasta has the market cornered on baked macaroni?

  • Cheese: Feel free to swap out any of the cheeses with another creamy cheese like pepper jack cheese or gouda. Of course, any processed cheeses like Velveeta or American cheese are popular options as well to create a more creamy filling. Note: Adding a harder cheese like Parmesan as anything other than a topping will result in a grainier mac and cheese filling. 
  • Bacon: If you’re familiar with Dinner, then Dessert’s recipes, you won’t be surprised to see bacon as an option – Bacon Mac and Cheese has more directions on this.
  • Jalapeño Popper Mac and Cheese: Use either fresh (for more of a punch) or pickled jalapeños, bacon, and 8 ounces cream cheese cut into larger cubes and dotted on top
  • Tex Mex Mac and Cheese: Swap the mozzarella for pepper jack. Add in a can of diced chilis (4 ounces) and roasted corn. Also add ½ teaspoon more cayenne powder, 2 teaspoons cumin and 2 teaspoons chili powder.
  • Italian Mac and Cheese: Add in 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried basil and minced garlic (3 cloves) to the butter mixture in the beginning. Swap the sharp cheddar for white cheddar cheese and top with shredded Parmesan cheese in addition to the white cheddar cheese.
  • Boston Market’s Version: This copycat version is made with different noodles and blue cheese for a fun flavor: Boston Market Mac and Cheese (Copycat).

Easy Baked Mac and Cheese scoop on spoon

More Easy Macaroni Recipes

How to serve Baked Mac and Cheese

Serving Baked Mac and Cheese can be a fun way to delight your family and/or your guests. It can be served in a bowl as a side dish to the main course. You can also lightly oil a measuring cup, fill it with the mac and cheese,  flip it upside down on the plate, and serve it in the shape of a dome with room for other foods. 

Additionally, top it off with a sprinkling of crushed corn flaks. We also love a good buttered panko or buttered ritz topping. Melt the butter in your skillet then toast the panko/ritz crackers in the melted butter until slightly toasted.

How to Store Baked Mac and Cheese

  • Serve: You can keep Baked Macaroni and Cheese out at room temperature for up to two hours.
  • Store: Cover Baked Mac and Cheese with cling wrap and keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.
  • Freeze: You can keep Baked Mac and Cheese in the freezer for up to 3 months in a sealed container.

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Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe

Baked Mac and Cheese is the ultimate classic side dish for any meal with three cheeses, perfect for the holidays and for BBQ’s!
Yield 12 Servings
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Author Sabrina Snyder


  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 6 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese
  • 12 ounces sharp cheddar , divided


  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Shred the cheeses, keeping 2 cups of the cheddar off to the side for the topping.*
  • Cook the pasta two minutes shy of the instructions, rinse and let cool. (We don’t want the extra starch of the water making the mac and cheese too thick)
  • Add the butter to a large stockpot and melt on medium-low heat.
  • Add the flour, mustard, cayenne and paprika and whisk together until fully combined, cook for an additional 15 seconds.
  • Add the milk slowly while whisking to keep the mixture well combined.
  • Add in the salt and pepper and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat.
  • Remove 1 cup of the milk  mixture and let cool for a 3-5 minutes in the refrigerator in a larger glass measuring cup or bowl.
  • Add the egg to the cooled milk and whisk it well until fully combined.
  • Turn the heat on the pot back on to medium-low.
  • Slowly pour the egg and milk mixture into the rest of the milk while whisking very well.**
  • Add in the Monterey jack, mozzarella and 1 cup of the sharp cheddar and whisk until combined.
  • Add the cooled macaroni back into the pot and toss with the cheese sauce.
  • Pour into a 9×13 baking dish and top with the remaining 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered.



* I use blocks of cheese for my mac and cheese because shredded cheese is coated in a powder that prevents the cheese from sticking to each other. This also results in cheese that may not melt as fully which can produce a texture that is not as creamy as we’d like.
** Removing the cup of milk, cooling, then adding in the egg allows for us to temper the egg which prevents it from immediately scrambling in the hot milk mixture.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 485kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 91mg | Sodium: 734mg | Potassium: 302mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 990IU | Calcium: 473mg | Iron: 1.2mg
Keyword: Baked Mac and Cheese
Baked Mac and Cheese

Photos used in a previous version of this post.

Baked Mac and Cheese Collage
Baked Mac and Cheese in baking dish
Baked Mac and Cheese in baking dish before baking
Baked Mac and Cheese collage
Cheesy Baked Mac and Cheese collage
Baked Mac and Cheese
Easy Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the cookbook Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients, published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.


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  1. So it’s around noon on Turkey Day 2020. My neighbors INSISTED that I make this AGAIN for our dinner. They LOVE it!! I tried an “easier” recipe a few months ago, but they were underwhelmed, so…

    I don’t think you answered Arlissa’s question (below) about making ahead and baking the next day, Sabrina. So can it be completely assembled (with the cooked sauce and pasta) the day before and then just popped into the oven?

    Thanks for this great recipe. Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Wow thank you for the kind review Christine! No, I would not add the liquid and store overnight because the pasta will soak it all up. Pasta is notorious for it. You *could* make the pasta, toss with a bit of oil and store in a ziplock bag. Then make the sauce and store separately. Add both to a bowl and toss well (this helps remove some of the oil coating on the pasta) and add to your baking dish. If the sauce is too firm, thin with 1/2 cup of milk on medium heat in a saucepan. Then add to baking dish and bake as directed. You may need an additional 5-10 minutes to account for the chilled ingredients. Happy Thanksgiving!

      1. Happy Day After Thanksgiving, Sabrina! I am amazed that you replied yesterday, of all days. Wow! I didn’t check back until just now. Thank you for that info and the detailed steps. It’s a fairly time-consuming dish, but so very worth all the time and attention.

        I wanted to add for the so many folks who think the amount of milk is *wrong,* the sauce comes out absolutely PERFECT per the recipe. If your heat isn’t high enough (perhaps a solid medium, rather than med-low), you may need to keep it on the heat around 15mins, but if you turn it up to med or a tad higher, it will thicken to a beautiful velvety consistency in about 10mins. (If it takes 15mins+, don’t panic. It will still thicken!) You MUST allow it to thicken before proceeding. And whisk frequently. It absolutely WILL thicken! Keep the faith!

        Thanksgiving 2020 has come and gone. Now for days of glorious leftovers… 🙂

        1. You are so kind! I thought it would be a positive and helpful thing to be here for folks on such an important cooking day. We were home having a quiet night so we watched movies and the kids ate way too much dessert. I kept the comments handy to pop in and answer as they came up. I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe! Happy holidays!

    1. Yes, though you want to let the sauce cool for about 30 minutes before mixing it with the pasta (it should be just warm to the touch) otherwise the pasta will lose it’s texture. Hope this helps. Enjoy!

  2. Made a double batch of this for back-to-back gatherings this weekend, and From other comments I was worried about adding 2x the milk (12 cups), but I stirred a little longer on med heat and am so happy with how it turned out. My guests were raving!

  3. Okay, So I made this last year for our potluck and it was perfect. The best recipe ever and loved by everyone at my work. So of course I wanted to make it again for my daughter’s nursing school potluck. Like last time, I followed the directions but unlike last time it came out not only very running, but once it did thicken it was grainy/chunky. I was wondering if you may know if it was maybe cooked wrong or are some cheeses just poor quality? Though I just love cooking but not by any means a chef I am hoping someone may know what causes this? I really want to make this again for Christmas but scared to death of messing it up again! 🙁 Btw, I never use shredded cheese. Always blocks that I do myself. 😉

    1. That does sound like it might be a cheese issue. Did you use the same brand of cheese blocks you usually do? If not, go back to your original brand and you should be ok. Good luck!

  4. I never ever leave ratings or comments on recipes, but this…THIS IS AMAZING! The absolute best BEST Mac and Cheese ever. Every time I make it people rave about it. I have people request me to specifically make this and bring it to parties, church dinners, etc…I followed everything you put exactly. Added toasted ritz cracker crumbs as a breading. AMAZING!

  5. I used pre shredded cheese instead of the block and it melted perfectly. This is amazing!!

  6. Oh my gosh!!! My daughter made this and it is Dee-licious!! The year-and-a-half grand-baby scarfed it down. And the left-overs are just as delicious!!
    Thanks for sharing.

  7. Can I cut this recipe in half? Does it reheat well? Can portions be frozen? Can’t wait to try but 1 pound of macaroni is a lot for 2 peeps.

    1. Yes, you can cut the recipe in half I would just recommend using a smaller dish. I wouldn’t recommend freezing it as the cheese can get grainy once reheated.

  8. My husband made this for thanksgiving, but used 3.5 cups of milk instead. My family now insists he brings this to all family gatherings. 🙂 It’s soooo good!

  9. Hello! I haven’t made this yet but Would like to know if the 6 cups of milk is correct? Seems like alot for 1 lb of pasta. Also, has anyone substituted evaporated milk?
    Thank you

    1. I use condensed milk in my macaroni and cheese recipe and only add milk if I need to make it more liquidity. I only use sharp shredded cheese, it gives the dish more flavor. Turns out great every time.

  10. I’m honestly not sure about this recipe…. I followed it exactly. The sauce was so runny I had to leave some out, and added in extra noodles. I really hope it thickens as I am bringing it to a pot luck dinner with my coworkers. The sauce tasted good though! I think you should revise this recipe a little. Less milk, or more cooking time on the béchamel until it thickens. Nothing in this recipe makes mention of anything thickening. It only says “until combined” so it’s a little confusing.

    1. I agree savanna , I made this recipe yesterday (Tue 23rd July 2019) . The sauce was too thin , when transferring to a baking dish I had to remove some sauce.
      Having said that, I think I left mine in the oven too long as the cheese had turned to a scrambled egg like texture, it was still delicious though!
      My tweeks for next time will be to use less milk or use corn flour (corn starch), to thicken up the sauce , oh and only bake for 30mins.

    2. I made this last night for the first time and I thought the 6 cups was way too much milk. I must have gone back and looked at the recipe 10 times because it just didn’t seem right at all. And there was nothing in the recipe about letting it thicken. My noodles were drowning in the sauce, that was more just a milk liquid. My kids weren’t fans and I had to toss the whole thing. I had great hopes for it because of the added spices, but it was a fail for me.

  11. Hi, I love your recipes. Mac and cheese is my comfort food. I grew up on mac and cheese and the way my mom made it was as follows: She used cheddar cheese, macaroni and tomatoes. I believe tomatoes as it gave it flavor so I and my whole family have been making it like she made it for years. If there was ever any left over we fried it and I absolutely loved it that way. Just saying.

  12. Ok, here I am again! Just wanted to add that I have my husband’s grandmother’s grater from the 1930’s that I plan to use to grate my cheese with. You wouldn’t believe how well it works to this day!!

  13. Ok, I am psyched to make this recipe. I have been making 2 types of mac/cheese for upwards of 40 years. One was my mom’s w/Velveeta (awesome but time consuming). The other from an in-law old woman in Mississippi & I still make it to this day! The quintessential baked macaroni all the people make in the south! It’s awesome but I am ready to try yours. I will write to you when I make it for our Easter family gathering. Wish me luck!!!

  14. This was delicious I used smoked mozzarella instead because it’s what I had on hand and my
    Whole house hold was upset that I didn’t cook enough for leftovers (I did but they finished it). I think the key is shredding your own cheese in baked Mac and Cheese.

    1. Smoked mozzarella sounds amazing! Shredding your own really does make a difference. So glad you all enjoyed it.

  15. I agree that as written, recipe comes out WAY too runny/milky. I cooked my bechamel for at least 10 minutes, but stopped before it thickened properly even though I really knew better because I was unfamiliar with using an egg to thicken and thought it may have been intentional. What a waste of cheese and time. No way 6 cups of milk can thicken properly over med/lo heat in 5 minutes.

  16. This baked Mac and Cheese recipe was delicious!!! It was very similar to my own recipe except I wanted to try something different this year. I found this one and followed it exactly except I sautéed 1/2 cup chopped onion in the butter before adding the flour. My recipe only uses salt, pepper, ground mustard and sharp cheddar and jack cheeses but the addition of the cayenne pepper, paprika and mozzarella cheese really deepened the flavor. Oh my my my, scrumptious! This is now my new way of making baked Mac and cheese!

    1. I haven’t tested it but I’m sure you could. It would be a little thicker but still taste amazing. If you decide to use milk, I used 2% but it doesn’t really matter if it’s whole, low fat, etc.

      1. I made and tasted this MAC and Cheese and only deviated by adding a little garlic powder and a squeeze of mustard and it was awesome!! The flavor and everything Sabrina said as far as amount to use was on point. I did cook everything one at a time (didn’t separate some of the milk mix in order to add the egg) slowly adding the egg after the milk milk was stirred in then added the cheese. The sauce was amazing. Thank you for this recipe as I’ve save it…

    1. I try to make it the same day so keeps the noodles from soaking in all the liquid but I understand having to juggle many dishes, especially during the holidays. You could probably prep it the day before and bake it the next day. Save topping it with cheese until right before baking.

  17. I also followed to a T and it’s way too liquidy. I had to drain a good amount of sauce . Hoping it will thicken after it cools.

  18. Made this and it was amazing ! Very creamy and perfect. .Didnt have mozzarella so threw in some Parmesan and it was still great. Thanks for a great recipe.Saving this one for sure.?

    1. I made this last night for my family and it was way too spicy! Any ideas for how to tame the spice after cooking?

      1. Oh, no, the cayenne overpowered it for you? I’m so sorry to hear that. I try to play it pretty safe with heat levels but I know people have different tolerances for spice. Reheat it with some cream or whole milk and cheese and stir until its the right consistency. A tiny bit of sugar will also help (work in pinch quantities, you don’t want it to taste sweet, just less heat). My apologies for the trouble.

  19. First time making this recipe and I doubled it! Well most things. I used only 6 cups of milk for the bechamel and subbed 6oz of the sharp cheddar for extra sharp (because I like a saltier Mac). It turned out delicious! I will say, if you aren’t familiar with the consistency of a bechamel (the butter, flour,spices, milk mixture) it should thicken and if it doesnt within the 5 minute time frame turn the heat up a little or cook it longer. I ended up cooking mine for about 15 minutes on medium heat whisking constantly until it was thick and creamy.

    Overall this is a great traditional tasting mac and cheese, I have no doubts it will charm the bbq crowd I am bringing it to! I think next time I will add maple bacon to it! Yum!

  20. I am literally making this right now! One modification im going to try is saving that beautiful pasta water and let it boil down slightly and substitute 1/2 c to 1c of the milf and flour with it. My hope is that it acts just like a thickener too. Thanks for the delicious recipe!

  21. Question: when I use a bechamel I always cook the flour, butter, and milk mixture for at least 15 minutes or until it thickens. Your recipe calls for 5 minutes. At this point, should the mixture be thickened or do we just stay with the 5 minutes and go from there?

  22. I have to make a vegetarian casserole for 20 people for my daughter’s dance team tomorrow night. I think I am going to try this and just double the recipe!

    1. I haven’t tried it yet but I wouldn’t think it would make a difference. I’d love to know how it turns out if you decide to try!

  23. I am looking for a mac & cheese recipe that freezes well with hopefully the same results as baked fresh. Does this recipe qualify?

    1. I wouldn’t recommend it. The pasta will continue soaking up the liquid as it freezes and it’ll become dry. If you’re going to try, you’ll have to increase the liquid in it before freezing. Good luck!

  24. I tried this and ended up with a crazy amount of the sauce. I ended up leaving most out. What did I do wrong? I put the 6 cups of milk and it was just way too much!

    1. Hey Tamara let’s troubleshoot. Did you use the same amount of pasta and the same size pan? I’ve tested it three times with the 6 cups and didn’t have an issue, but if you followed the directions closely and had a problem, maybe we should decrease to 4 cups milk.

      1. I had this same problem – doubled this recipe, so I used 12 cups of milk. Ended up pulling 4 cups of the sauce out before cooking because the noodles were drowning in it. It’s baking now. I hope it turns out ok and I didn’t just waste 2 hours of my time an $30

      1. When you say “cup” do you mean 4oz instead of 8oz? Because your recipe calls for 12oz of cheddar, but refers to them as 3 “cups.” That would mean your 6 cups of milk is actually 24oz instead of 48oz… Could explain this problem… I’m going to try halving everything than says “cups” to see what happens.

  25. This is a really good recipe, especially for those that love cheesy goodness. I added a pinch more mustard and cayenne pepper. The flavor and consistency is perfect, although a little rich but to be expected using three cheeses.

  26. Yum! I need to try this recipe soon! Thank you for providing the extra information for the recipe. I often wonder about covering/not covering, omissions etc with most recipes and you answered them all for me already 🙂 Thank you!

    1. Is this a serious comment? Aside from the headers in each section, there is literally one word that’s in all caps. Even if the whole thing was written in caps, how does that impact the recipes? This genuinely confuses me.

      Sabrina, you can type however you want, I will still make your recipes, because they are DELICIOUS! ( <– see what I did there? :-P)

  27. I’ve tried similar recipes and the cheese always separates and becomes oily and gritty regardless of I take the chz off the heat or not. Any suggestions?

    1. The trick to not having that happen is shredding your own cheese. Packaged shredded cheese has ingredients added which doesn’t really allow it to stick and becomes gritty instead of smooth. Hope this helps!

    2. Been making mac and cheese this way since I first learned to cook at age 8. That’s 66 years ago. This is nothing new.