It’s safe to say there are very few people who dislike cheese! But, for such a well-known and widely used product, often the results are not what we expect when cooking with cheese. Together with this, the endless diversity, both in variety and brand, can be overwhelming. But by keeping few key pointers in mind when cooking with cheese, you will be cooking like a cheese pro in no time.
Cheese comes in all shapes and sizes, which can be daunting even to cheese afficionados. However, most of us never really get to explore all those options, and we usually have only a few go-to favorites. Thus, if you only learn these few valuable tips on cheese storage, prepping, and cooking, your cheese dishes will significantly improve.
Cheese proteins are quite sensitive to temperature changes. So, bring you cheese to room temperature before you melt it. A little planning goes a long way, so remove the cheese from the fridge about 30 minutes before you plan on using it. Doing so will also make the cheese reach its melting point quicker in the pan.
A grilled cheese sandwich should not be a slice of unmelted cheese between two slices of burnt bread. Instead, it should be crispy on the outside and melted on the inside. The trick is to use a cheese that melts well, like American cheese (even though cheese experts might not like it). Don’t grill your cheese on high heat, but instead go low and slow.
The reason why many opt for pre-shredded cheese (similar to pre-grated parmesan), is the convenience factor. But, like pre-grated parmesan, when you use pre-shredded cheese, you end up sacrificing great flavor for saving a few cents. Preservatives like potato starch, powdered cellulose, and natamycin are added to pre-shredded cheese to prevent clumping and molds. So, from now on, dust of your grater and start looking forward to some real cheesy deliciousness!
Although it seems convenient to only one cheese type (please avoid pre-shredded cheese!), it greatly sacrifices on flavor. Try to make your own béchamel sauce, and then add a blend of cheeses to add flavor and really elevate your dish to the next level. Some great options include fontina or Gruyere, that are mild and melt well, together with parmesan or Roquefort, which have a more intense taste.
Genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano is a very expensive cheese, so have you ever wondered why some pre-grated parmesan tubs are relatively cheap? Well, that’s because much of it is not even real parmesan. These pre-grated parmesan tubs usually contain cellulose, a cheap (but safe) filler also known as wood pulp. Also, grated cheese will dry out, and thus lose flavor. So, buy the real deal and just use it more sparingly.
This is somewhat depended on personal preference, since some pizza styles, like thin-crust Neapolitan-style Margherita pizzas, should use high moisture mozzarella (like buffalo milk mozzarella). However, to make a pizza that is crispy with a dry crust, a low-moisture mozzarella is preferable. That way, the cheese will still melt and stretch, without making the pizza soggy.
Certain cheeses just don’t work well on a burger. For example, mozzarella and provolone have a high water content and become too much of a stringy mess, while feta and halloumi don’t melt at all. Thus, use a cheese that melts properly on a burger, like American Kraft singles. Other options include cheddar, Swiss, or blue cheese.
Even though all of us have stored cheese in a loosely wrapped ball of plastic wrap, that’s not the way to do it. Remember that cheese has a carefully balanced moisture content, so ideally you want to replicate its original storage conditions as much as possible. Therefore, it should be covered completely without leaving any part of it exposed, which will cause it to dry out. But plastic wrap is not the best option, since cheese still needs to “breathe”. Cheese paper is the best way to store cheese. If you don't have it, wax paper or aluminum foil could also work.
Cheese should always be served at room temperature. However, the opposite is true for shredding: cheese should be shredded when it's cold, preferably taken straight from the fridge. This is because shredding warm cheese will turn it into big mush, instead of those delicious strips we love. So, before you start shredding away, remember to cool your cheese first!
Few things are as enticing as a delicious pot of melted cheese. However, when that perfect cheese sauce starts to break or split, then you have overheated it. Much like the grilled cheese sandwich, the key is to go low and slow. Cheese proteins coagulate when the mixture gets too hot, making the sauce lumpy and unappetizing. If that starts to happen, just take the mixture off and reduce the heat.