Mozzarella cheese is an excellent addition to dishes like lasagna, pizza and even atop crackers and chips. But for it to be just right, you need to melt the cheese, which can be tricky with mozzarella. So, here’s your short and easy guide to all the aspects of melting this particular cheese.
Does Mozzarella Even Melt?
Yes, it does. But there is no one type of mozzarella. So you need to be crafty with it. The first thing to know about any type of cheese is its moisture content. Cheeses like Brie, cream cheese, and mozzarella have a lot of moisture, making them flow better.
That’s because the proteins in the cheese are packed loosely with a lot of water in between. So, mozzarella is ready to liquefy better than some hard cheeses. In fact, if you put it on top of a slice of pizza, it will turn into a pool compared to Parmigiano that will stay in separate pieces on the same pizza.
This is because the casein molecules in cheese are kept together with the help of calcium atoms. When you heat the cheese up to 90 degrees, the calcium dissolves and the molecules get separated. At about 130 degrees, the casein molecules start coming apart.
Now, in fresh cheese, these casein molecules are stretchy and large. So, they form into little strings, which is usually what mozzarella becomes.
You can help this process by grating the mozzarella before heating it. If you do this with chunks of mozzarella, it might get overcooked on the outside and become lumpy.
What Am I Doing Wrong?
Sometimes, the mozzarella on your pizza won’t melt the way you want it to. As a result, you will have watery pizza, which is definitely not what you want. Since there are different types of mozzarella, you want to get the kind that does not have too much moisture so that it does not start flowing on top of your slice of pizza.
How do you pick the right kind? For that, you need to look at how each one melts. That’s our next part.
What Kind of Mozarella Melts Best?
There are many types of mozzarella cheeses and each of them reacts in its own way when it comes into contact with heat. Here’s how you can categorize them for the purpose of heating the cheese.
- Fresh: In terms of how mozzarella melts, this is the best type because it has low moisture and is more dense and salty than the other varieties. It is also preferred in terms of flavor. Speaking of flavor, some aged cheeses are relatively tangier because of their age and the temperature at which they were stored. That determines the amount of bacteria they can hold and this is done intentionally. But sometimes, even fresh mozzarella doesn’t melt easily if it is stored in brine which might just be what you want. Because if it melts too soon, it’s not the right fit for your pizza needs.
- Processed: When you are heating mozzarella in a microwave, you will notice that it just doesn’t melt. If that’s the case, you are dealing with processed mozzarella. It acts this way despite having low moisture and fat levels. This is because they don’t react the same way to heat as fresh mozzarella. They are created in many different forms and the idea is to prolong their shelf life. So, this type of cheese is a good choice for cooked dishes. If you have a cube or shredded variant of this, you can try it on pizza.
- String: Typically, string cheese has a lot of moisture and is already slightly soft cheese. It has a melting point of 90 degrees and should be sliced thinly so that you can expand its surface area. You will have tougher luck if you want to use mozzarella strings for a creamy sauce because it doesn’t let go of its shape as easily as the other cheeses.
Different Ways of Melting Mozzarella
Now that you know how each type of mozzarella responds to heat, you must know how to handle them based on the heating options at your disposal. Predominantly, there are three easy ways of melting cheese. When you’re dealing with mozzarella, here’s what you can do.
String cheeses are usually a preferred snack item and as you now know, they are really good at maintaining their shape even when you put them through grueling temperatures where they are supposed to melt. So, here’s what you do when you have a microwave.
Cheese gets really stringy when the microwave reaches a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It becomes stretchy because, at this point, the proteins in the cheese will change their alignment. So, here’s what you do.
- Step 1: Cut the mozzarella strings into fine strips that can be placed on soups, crackers or chips.
- Step 2: Add one-fifth of a teaspoon of cornstarch or a little bit of evaporated milk. This will keep the cheese from flowing.
- Step 3: Consider adding white vinegar for the same reason. You need something that is acidic but without a strong flavor and this fits the bill.
- Step 4: Turn the microwave to high and let it work on the cheese for about 30 seconds.
- Step 5: Pull it out and stir it for consistency.
- Step 6: Repeat steps 4 and 5 till the cheese is melted.
This is not the easiest way to melt mozzarella, but sometimes it’s your only choice. It’s also easier to keep the cheese warm if your main dish is still being cooked. Here’s how you do it.
- Step 1: Get a non-stick pan because mozzarella is notorious for its ability to stick to utensils once it melts. You can also use a skillet but it’s not ideal.
- Step 2: Turn on the stove and keep it on low. When you see the cheese starting to melt, add a little bit of evaporated milk and corn starch.
- Step 3: Gently stir the mix with a wooden spoon so that the evaporated milk and corn starch fuse with the cheese and the whole thing has a good consistency.
- Step 4: At this point, if the mix is lumpy, add vinegar or lemon juice for that acidic touch. You know why now.
- Step 5: Get rid of the wooden spoon and get a whisk. Work on the cheese mix in your pan until it is smooth.
- Step 6: Turn the stove off. You’re done.
This one is a bit tricky but not mission impossible.
- Step 1: Check if your oven has broiler settings (it usually does) for its concentrated heat effect. Place it in low to help the mozzarella melt easily.
- Step 2: Get a skillet made of cast iron. Slice your mozzarella finely and place them in the skillet. Add a little olive oil on top.
- Step 3: Keep the pan in there for 5 to 7 minutes.
- Step 4: You will find the cheese melted.
The advantage of melting mozzarella in an oven is that you can add spices, herbs, parmesan or tomatoes to make things interesting.
Can It Be Done in a Pan?
The second method which is done on a stove, shows that you can most definitely do this in a pan. You just need to make sure that the pan is non-stick to avoid scraping the melted cheese later on. That’s not good for your pan either.
You should also grate or shred the cheese so that it melts relatively easily. Also, make sure the heat is low so that you don’t overcook the cheese. Remove the top and stir it once in a while to maintain consistency.
Related: Best Mozzarella Cheese Shredders
Here are a few basics to keep in mind apart from the ones you’ve already picked up along this piece.
- Instead of getting pre-shredded cheese, get a block of mozzarella so that you can add the right amount of cornstarch and get the look you want. Make sure you shred it yourself.
- If you don’t have a cheese grater, you can cut it by hand. It works as long as you keep it thin enough. Your ideal thickness is that of Swiss cheese in a deli. Also, keep the pieces of cheese small so that it melts easily.
- Instead of sprinkling the cheese on bread randomly, try the crosshatch pattern. This will create a strong base and glue the mozzarella well too.
What about Vegan Mozarella?
Vegan mozzarella is made of coconut oil. It does not have nuts, soy or gluten, which is why a lot of people like it. And it’s creamy too, which makes it an excellent addition to lasagna, pizza or crackers. You can even make mozzarella sticks with it.
Just remember that the temperature needs to be 150 degrees instead of the usual 130 degrees.
There are several ways in which you can devour mozzarella cheese. But most, if not all of them, require you to melt it first. It’s not always the easiest, but it’s possible to do this no matter the apparatus. Now you know all that and then some.
Further Reading: Can You Freeze Mozzarella Cheese?