War of the Cheeses
It’s time to talk about one of my favorite ingredients in the entire world – cheese. Living in Wisconsin, cheese is a staple that is always kept in the house, and is present in some form or fashion in almost every single dinner we eat. Most often, this is cheddar cheese, but pepper jack, monterey jack, and mozzarella are frequently used as well.
Because of the standard that cheese is held to in my state, I have had plenty of experience working with it. However, my new once per week homemade pizza tradition has led me to approaching the ingredient in a new way.
Before this summer, I would always stock up on pre-shredded cheeses. Since I use it so frequently, I would even keep a few bags frozen to make sure that I was prepared for all meals. My pizza experiments were giving me inspiration though. Everything about them was avoiding processed foods. The dough was homemade, the sauce was homemade, the meats were bought at the butcher store and made up by me, but my cheese was coming straight out of a bag that I bought at the grocery store.
Luckily, my parents were coming up to visit me, and as always, they were going to be stopping at their local cheese factory on the way up. They called to ask me if I wanted anything from the factory, and I decided it was time to start using block cheese instead of pre-shredded.
The night they arrived, I made up a buffalo chicken pizza, using the cheese they had brought for me, and I was blown away by the difference! Shredding my own cheese from a block created a way better pizza topping. The cheese had a perfectly gooey, melty texture.
I started to do some research on what would create this difference. It turns out that pre-shredded cheese packages have additives in them that prevent the cheese from clumping together and becoming sticky. These same additives make the melting point of the cheese change, creating a less desirable outcome. Check out the difference between the two pizzas pictured below.
After this comparison, I was mostly convinced and planned on buying block cheese instead of pre-shredded in the future. However, before I completely made up my mind and went on a stock up shopping trip, I did what I usually do when making a decision – I made a pro and con list.
Pros of Block Cheese
-It melts easier, and creates a better consistency when it is melted. (This was the big winner for me)
-It is easier to store in bulk since blocks can stack and take up less space per ounce.
-While it is sealed, it lasts longer without needing to be frozen.
-In most cases it is a couple of cents cheaper per ounce. Not much, but hey, everything adds up over time.
-Even when it isn’t melted, the texture of the cheese is unaltered versus the semi hard texture that pre-shredded cheese ends up getting.
-Overall, there are less additives put into a block than a pre-shredded bag.
Cons of Block Cheese
-You can only shred what you need at the time. If you shred extra, it ends up clumping together since it doesn’t have the anti-clumping additives.
-It takes time and work to shred it yourself and clean the mess up.
-Some cheeses, like cheddar, become slightly greasy without the additives stopping the grease.
After making a pro and con list, it was easy to see what the pizzas alone told me. There were definitely more pros to using block cheese than there were cons. While I may still occasionally have to buy pre-shredded cheese in a pinch, block cheese has won the war of the cheeses and will be my stock up item from this point forward.