This week I’ve learned that bringing mozzarella to the office instantly ups your cool factor by 20 points. Suddenly it’s like you’re prom queen at the office, and everyone’s staring at your crown. (In this case, they all wanted my cheese.) Four new friends later, I’m calling this one of the most successful taste tests. My social life is really benefitting.
But when I start thinking of what I’d say about mozzarella, I get a little choked up. Mozzarella—this sublime cheese that hooks you to Neopolitan pizza—is so fundamental to Italian and American culture, it’s unthinkable to imagine what life might be like as a lactose-intolerant eater. Ugh, I feel for y’all, I really do.
A little mozz and a little tomato can go a long way. And that’s why we wanted—nay, we were born!—to find out which of these white cheeses deserved the highest of high honors.
A quick note: I chose two cheeses of the same brand (Lioni) by accident, but this screw-up made for an interesting experiment. The mix of hand-wrapped cheeses and retail cups, however, is purposeful. I wanted to see if the wetness/dryness of mozzarella would swing the votes one way or the other.
A. Lioni’s hand wrapped fresh mozzarella - New Jersey (Central Market, $9.26 for 1 lb.)
B. Central Market’s fresh mozzarella – Texas (Central Market, $5.44 for .545 lb)
C. Galbani’s fresh mozzarella (ovoline) in a retail cup – New York (Sprouts, $3.99 for 8 oz.)
D. Mozzarella Company’s fresh mozzarella – Dallas, TX (Central Market, $7.33 for .455 lb)
E. Lioni’s fresh mozzarella (bocconcini) in a retail cup – New Jersey (Central Market, $5.99 for 8 oz.)
Ingredients: Pasteurized whole milk, starter, cheese cultures, vegetable rennet, and salt.
- “Soft, airy, milk flavor.”
- “Kind of flavorless, but it has a nice texture.”
- “Very slight crumbly texture. Has a sharper taste.”
- “Milky and bland. No salt.”
Ingredients: Milk, cultures, salt, enzymes, rennet, water
- “More gummy tasting. Tastes more like a deli cheese. Not as creamy.”
- “Firm, but not salty enough.”
- “More dense. Seems like it’s made to melt. Little flavor. Pizza cheese.”
- “Tasteless waste of calories.”
- “A little on the firm side. Has a little bit of an herby flavor, but I’m probably crazy.”
- “Wet. Makes me worries what you put it on.”
- “It was like eating nothing.”
- “Slimy and flavorless.”
- “Super milky.”
Ingredients: Pasteurized cow’s milk, cultures, vegetable rennet (rhizomucor miehei), and salt.
- “Solid, waxy sheen. Not as fresh-tasting.”
- “Reminded me of a strong cheese.”
- “Lots of flavor. Nice texture.”
- “Thickest, most sour aftertaste.”
- “The driest of the five.”
- “Watery, with a ricotta-string cheese taste.”
- “Jiggly jello!”
- “Buttery and creamy good.”
- “The best by a long shot. Moist, delicate, and salty with a perfect milky flavor.”
- “Falls apart like mushy tofu.”
6 votes for (A) Lioni’s hand-wrapped mozz
5 vote for (E) Lioni’s retail cup mozz
3 votes for (B) Central Market
1 vote for (C) Galbani
1 vote for (D) Mozz Co
Given the lack of experimental control (my fault), this clearly isn’t the strongest taste test we’ve done. However, all the cheeses were made from cow’s milk, and I still think there are some observations we can make here:
1. Flavor affected votes more than the wetness/dryness factor. About two-thirds of our tasters were very keen on Lioni’s, which was the least offensive brand. It was a very clear winner. It didn’t have a sour after-taste, it was creamy and milky, and it looked like your typical mozzarella. Whether the cheese was hand-wrapped or not didn’t seem to make a big dent in the votes.
2. People like their mozzarella cheese to be fluffy. Texture—or at least our perception of what texture should be—makes a difference. It turns out our tasters weren’t a big fan of MozzCo’s signature mozzarella. This, actually, blows me out of the water. Bradford Pearson has had MozzCo before, and he was shocked at the results, too. He said the cheese tasted creamier the last time he had it. All cheeses were served at room temp, but MozzCo’s mozzarella was by far the thickest one to slice through. I personally liked the hearty texture quite a bit. I’d make my sandwich with it every day, if I my waistline wouldn’t hate me.
MOST SLIMY: Galbani
MOST THICK: MOZZCO
PERFECT FOR A CAPRESE SALAD: Lioni’s retail cup
BEST STANDALONE CHEESE: Lioni’s hand-wrapped
LEAST FLAVORFUL WITH A GOOD TEXTURE, STILL: Central Market