The surprising way Panera makes its mac and cheese

Panera Bread's macaroni and cheese is legendarily creamy, but if you thought that it was made to order by a team of cheese-genius chefs, then you've got another think coming. A viral video revealed the way Panera really makes its mac and cheese (via TikTok), and a lot of people are surprised. 

Panera sells more than 3 million servings of mac and cheese every month (via Today), so while it's nice to think that they'd be making it from scratch in every store, the truth is a lot more realistic. But some fans of the chain are still enraged to discover that their favorite cheesy pasta isn't actually made fresh in-store. 

How does Panera make their mac and cheese?

Like at many chain restaurants, Panera's mac and cheese arrive at their stores pre-made and frozen. Workers then set the bag of mac and cheese in a simmering vat of water for 20 minutes, a process called "re-thermalizing," which basically just means they're thawing it and heating it through so it's ready to serve. 

The chain says they're justified in making their mac and cheese this way. Not only does it enable them to prepare and serve vast quantities of the stuff, but by making the mac and cheese offsite, it also means that Paneras around the country will be serving a consistent product that tastes the same at every location. 

Why does Panera serve frozen mac and cheese?

Another reason the mac and cheese is shipped frozen is because the chain has removed all artificial preservatives from their menu. If the mac and cheese wasn't frozen, it could spoil. 

If you're concerned about that re-thermalized mac and cheese sitting around at the restaurant and going bad, you needn't worry — a Panera manager explained, "We sell a lot of mac and cheese, so we go through it pretty quickly." And any that's leftover at the end of the day is disposed of. 

Sure, it's always a little disheartening to learn that what tastes like the cheesiest, coziest comfort food of all time is actually just made in a factory somewhere and dipped in hot water before serving, but if you've ever actually tasted Panera's mac and cheese you know they're doing something right.