When most people think of pizza the image that comes to mind is deliciously etched in there…a piping hot slice slowly separating from the pan with gooey, stringy cheese.
It’s the stuff of TV pizza commercials! The only problem is, if you don’t know how to achieve this effect deliberately, you can hope to get lucky, or learn the secrets.
In any case, it’s no random factor that makes for gooey cheese. There are in fact, a very known and specific set of conditions that make that stretchy, gooey goodness. Let’s unpack it a bit!
If you go online and do a search for “stretchy pizza cheese” you’ll get a good number of results. Some blogs go into great details (with photos too) about which cheese provides the best “pull” in various recipes, etc.
That’s all fun and helpful stuff, but I’ll cut to the chase in this (relatively short) article so you can save the search. Trust me, I’ve spent hours doing the search myself, and also talking to my wife Deb, who is our resident pizza Guru!
Here is a very short list of some of the (most important) factors that make up a stretchy cheese in the context of a pizza.
It’s awfully tempting to go for the best “on-sale” deal at the local grocery store, and to be sure, I do that sometimes!
There are times though, that you might want to step up your game a notch for a special occasion, and that’s the time to go with a higher-quality cheese.
Don’t go for the bagged, shredded Kraft deal. That just doesn’t have the quality for a good stretch or “pull”.
There’s a reason most mid to high-end restaurants use something much different!
Okay, I Need Names!
Fine, fine, I’ll get right to the names here near the start. I feel like I need to comment on and qualify each item on this list, but I’ll refrain from that. Here we go;
FOURTH best – Cheddar
THIRD best – Monterey Jack
WINNER – Mozzarella
Having said this, it’s important to use the right type of whatever you choose. Any old Mozzarella won’t cut the cheese if you’re looking for stretch.
It’s like saying that the number one vehicle for military use is a truck since a car is not appropriate. Well, that’s very true, but ultimately it depends on the size, quality, and type of truck.
An 18-wheeler is useless in the sands of the Middle East. You see my point right?
Research and experience have taught me that for ultimate stretchy-ness, you’ll probably want to pick up some whole loaf or un-shredded blocks (not bags of shredded cheese) of a higher-quality mozzarella like Grande or Polly-O.
Those are the 2 biggest names, but even then, there are those that have had their issues with one or the other. In the case of a high-quality mozzarella, low moisture content doesn’t mean it won’t stretch.
The bigger issue is whether or not it comes in big blocks (best) or tiny, shredded slivers (worst).
Both of these brands have the best “flow” and highest temperature bake-off qualities before they start to brown. That means you can let them melt and bake nicely without browning or burning.
What’s wrong with browning? Well, nothing really, except that once your cheese turns brown, that means it’s crispy, which means it’s no longer stretchy!
Tips ‘N Tricks
Okay, now you know the type of cheese and the brand(s). That is totally NOT the end of the story.
Now you have to use a technique that will help you achieve the “pull”. Here’s what we’ve got!
First of all, make sure the cheese is NOT already shredded. Then, consider “shredding” the cheese in as large pieces as possible.
The larger the piece, the better the stretch.
In fact, if you want to go all “pro”, then you might think of getting a deli meat slicer with which you can cut the cheese – literally! Some pizza pros lay down “sheets” of cheese, and even overlap them for multiple layers for the ultimate stretch.
Next, we would strongly encourage you not to FREEZE the cheese. It may not seem like it, but the truth is that freezing causes moisture loss which ultimately reduces stretch.
Also, if you have a choice, get the full-fat version of whatever cheese you decide upon. It stretches better than low fat, but other factors are more important.
Finally, when you lay down your sheets or slices of cheese (hopefully you’ve graduated to this method instead of grating it into tiny shards), cover the cheese with a thin layer of sauce, rather than placing the cheese on top of the sauce (and nothing else on the cheese).
Yes, start with sauce next to the dough, but save a bit for the top of the cheese to protect it from charring as easily or quickly. You can even do what countless chefs do all the time, and that is combining various cheese for optimal taste and stretch.
Oh, and one more thing: PLEASE remember that while it will have more taste, old cheese like cheddar will have nearly no stretch at all compared to its much more youthful counterpart!
What Do I Think? (as if you care)
Well, like all of you, I do have my own view on this whole topic! For me, I don’t really care about stretch as much as I care about taste.
I love pungent cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano and other hard cheeses, mixed with medium cheddar. This is NOT a good recipe for stretchy-ness, but hey, to each his own right!
If you have any further ideas or if you disagree with my choices and have a better alternative, please feel free to drop me a comment below and I’d love to post your ideas to stimulate a heated argument… I mean a “discussion” about stretchy cheese!