Author Topic: Wal Mart Cheese... why are you burning?  (Read 2268 times)

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Offline tdub154420

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Wal Mart Cheese... why are you burning?
« on: March 31, 2012, 03:55:33 AM »
So I've been buying Great Value Whole Milk Mozzarella from Wal Mart lately in 1 lb blocks.  It's $3.50 which is half the price of any whole milk mozz I can find around me.  It's never been particularly tasty, in fact I find its quite bland, but the first couple of times I used it it seemed to cook alright.  Until tonight. 

Halfway through cooking my pizza it bubbled up almost uncontrollably.  It was like large sudsy bubbles of cheese on top of my pizza.  By the time the pizza was cooked the cheese was pretty burnt in spots, while fairly cooked in others. 

It's very reminiscent of chickenparm's problem here: 

http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,13599.0.html

Have we figured out what caused this yet?  Is it something to do with the sugar content of the cheese?

Also, I need some tips for some good, tasty, cheap cheese.  Whatevers going on here, this cheese just won't cut it anymore. 
- Trevor


scott123

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Re: Wal Mart Cheese... why are you burning?
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2012, 10:46:23 AM »
Trevor, while there are some brands of brick mozzarella that can be problematic, Walmart is not one of them.  Cheese problems such as this are almost never a result of a particular cheese brand but of the way the cheese is treated and thermodynamics.

Are you grating the cheese with the right level of coarseness?  It's absolutely critical that you use this side of the grater- no bigger, no smaller:

http://img4.cookinglight.com/i/Oxmoor/oh-complete-p12e-box-grater-l.jpg?400:400

Are you baking the pizza in 5 minutes or less?  Long bakes can be really hard on cheese and can promote top browning.

Are you using a small enough thickness factor?  For NY style, .075 is as high as you want to go- the less dough there is under the cheese, the more heat the cheese gets from below, the more the cheese will bubble- when cheese bubbles, it browns much slower, because you have moisture from the bottom being driven to the surface.

Lastly, did you read my response to Bill in the thread you posted?

http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,13599.msg135741.html#msg135741

In it, I address sauce consistency/quantity (you really need to standardize the consistency and use the same amount of sauce every time) as well as the potential helpfulness of additional fat.

Btw, you are using the cheese fairly quickly after you purchase it, correct? Within a week?  Older cheese will usually have a higher propensity for curdling, but I wouldn't write off the possibility of excessive browning issues either.

Offline dmcavanagh

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Re: Wal Mart Cheese... why are you burning?
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2012, 11:04:23 AM »
I've noticed that the GV mozzarella will go very soft and mushy much faster then other brands of mozzarella. Could be your cheese was past it's expiration date.

Offline dmcavanagh

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Re: Wal Mart Cheese... why are you burning?
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2012, 11:19:59 AM »
tdub154420

As far as recommendations go, Scott123 always mentions Grande cheese which I recently was able to purchase but haven't tried yet (maybe tonight). I like Sorrento, however I buy mine in 5 lb. blocks from a restaurant supplier. I have a sneaky suspicion that it may be of a higher quality then what you buy in the grocery store in a 1 lb. block. Polly-O is perferred by some however, I've tried it and have not been impressed. Stella makes decent cheese if you can find it, I have to buy it from the deli counter so it gets a bit expensive that way. Good luck, my next project is making my own mozzarella, I'm waiting for word from Amazon that curds are available.

Offline tdub154420

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Re: Wal Mart Cheese... why are you burning?
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2012, 12:58:51 PM »
Trevor, while there are some brands of brick mozzarella that can be problematic, Walmart is not one of them.  Cheese problems such as this are almost never a result of a particular cheese brand but of the way the cheese is treated and thermodynamics.

Are you grating the cheese with the right level of coarseness?  It's absolutely critical that you use this side of the grater- no bigger, no smaller:

http://img4.cookinglight.com/i/Oxmoor/oh-complete-p12e-box-grater-l.jpg?400:400

Are you baking the pizza in 5 minutes or less?  Long bakes can be really hard on cheese and can promote top browning.

Are you using a small enough thickness factor?  For NY style, .075 is as high as you want to go- the less dough there is under the cheese, the more heat the cheese gets from below, the more the cheese will bubble- when cheese bubbles, it browns much slower, because you have moisture from the bottom being driven to the surface.

Lastly, did you read my response to Bill in the thread you posted?

http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,13599.msg135741.html#msg135741

In it, I address sauce consistency/quantity (you really need to standardize the consistency and use the same amount of sauce every time) as well as the potential helpfulness of additional fat.

Btw, you are using the cheese fairly quickly after you purchase it, correct? Within a week?  Older cheese will usually have a higher propensity for curdling, but I wouldn't write off the possibility of excessive browning issues either.

Hey Scott,

Thank you for all the suggestions.  As you mentioned, the Wal Mart cheese isn't usually a problem, in fact I never got to thank you for suggesting it in my other thread.  Since then I have been buying and using it and its been A LOT better than my old cheese.  Considering this particular time, however, here are the things I did that could've effected it.  I froze this 1lb block first and thawed it not in the fridge, but on the countertop.  I definitely did not grate it as shown in the picture.  

Here are the things that puzzle me though.  I did actually add a lot of sauce, in fact half of the pizza was soupy.  Although I cooked it for 10 minutes on a screen on a stone, it was the same amount of time and style that I used to cook my the pizza right before it.  This previous pizza was not mine though.  I actually paid my local NY Pizzeria a little extra to not cook one of their pies and to just slap it onto my screen and let me take it home.  Having observed them cook their pies, they cook their's on a screen thats set on a revolving stone within a 600 degree oven for 9.5 minutes.  So I put the stone on my bottom rack, cooked on a screen, and once the bottom was finished let the pie sit on the top rack until the cheese had light browning.  For their pizza it worked great, almost duplicated their cooking process, I was quite happy.  But for my pizza, well, you know what happened.  So I'm not sure if it was the screen or the cooking time since their pizza worked out so well.  It definitely could have been the fact that I did not properly thaw this cheese, also, I have never observed grating like the one you showed in the picture...can you elaborate on this style?  

Also dmcavanagh, how do you suggest I go about getting Sorrento cheese?
- Trevor

Offline dmcavanagh

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Re: Wal Mart Cheese... why are you burning?
« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2012, 01:30:04 PM »
dtub

I notice that you're in Denver, I think they call Sorrento some other name out your way, and I forget what it is. I'll try to find out if I can, I'll get back to you.

Offline dmcavanagh

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Re: Wal Mart Cheese... why are you burning?
« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2012, 01:35:57 PM »
President or Precious may be the brand name in your geographic area.

scott123

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Re: Wal Mart Cheese... why are you burning?
« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2012, 02:05:05 PM »
Trevor, Dave brings up some good points.  When I talk about Walmart cheese not being problematic, it's within the context of supermarket cheeses.  When you get into commercial cheeses (such as Grande), they melt far better, so that's why your take home skin was so successful.

When you get into supermarket cheese, I don't see the differences being that dramatic, especially since supermarket brick mozz can vary so much seasonally.  Sorrento is consistently better than Walmart, so if you can find that, it might be worth a shot, but, honestly, I'm not sure I'd pay double for it.  I would probably pay double for Grande (once in a while) because that's a night and day difference, but Sorrento and Walmart are pretty close.

The consistency and quantity of the sauce greatly define how the cheese cooks.  A little more water in the sauce, a little less, more sauce overall, less, and you're looking an entirely different pizza.  The differences are surprisingly dramatic. It took me years to dial in my sauce consistency and quantity and I still haven't completely nailed it. Sauce contains water and water takes a lot of energy to boil.  The more sauce you have, the longer it takes to boil, the less heat makes it to the bottom of the cheese, the less bubbling. The sauce needs to be wet enough to boil and encourage bubbling, but you shouldn't have too much of it.

Everyone, these days, lives pretty close to a Walmart, and, from my experience, I've never seen their mozz go on sale, so, from my perspective, I don't think there's an advantage to freezing it. I would just buy it when you need it and use it within 2 weeks.

The grater in the photo is your typical garden variety box grater.  It usually has a fine hard cheese side, a fine soft cheese side, a coarse soft cheese side and a slicing side.  You should be using the coarse soft cheese side (as shown). You might find one or two NY pizzerias slicing rather than grating, but it's only a very small number - maybe 1 in 1000.

Offline tdub154420

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Re: Wal Mart Cheese... why are you burning?
« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2012, 12:59:38 AM »
Trevor, Dave brings up some good points.  When I talk about Walmart cheese not being problematic, it's within the context of supermarket cheeses.  When you get into commercial cheeses (such as Grande), they melt far better, so that's why your take home skin was so successful.

When you get into supermarket cheese, I don't see the differences being that dramatic, especially since supermarket brick mozz can vary so much seasonally.  Sorrento is consistently better than Walmart, so if you can find that, it might be worth a shot, but, honestly, I'm not sure I'd pay double for it.  I would probably pay double for Grande (once in a while) because that's a night and day difference, but Sorrento and Walmart are pretty close.

The consistency and quantity of the sauce greatly define how the cheese cooks.  A little more water in the sauce, a little less, more sauce overall, less, and you're looking an entirely different pizza.  The differences are surprisingly dramatic. It took me years to dial in my sauce consistency and quantity and I still haven't completely nailed it. Sauce contains water and water takes a lot of energy to boil.  The more sauce you have, the longer it takes to boil, the less heat makes it to the bottom of the cheese, the less bubbling. The sauce needs to be wet enough to boil and encourage bubbling, but you shouldn't have too much of it.

Everyone, these days, lives pretty close to a Walmart, and, from my experience, I've never seen their mozz go on sale, so, from my perspective, I don't think there's an advantage to freezing it. I would just buy it when you need it and use it within 2 weeks.

The grater in the photo is your typical garden variety box grater.  It usually has a fine hard cheese side, a fine soft cheese side, a coarse soft cheese side and a slicing side.  You should be using the coarse soft cheese side (as shown). You might find one or two NY pizzerias slicing rather than grating, but it's only a very small number - maybe 1 in 1000.

O ok, I understand the grating now.  I've been doing that actually, since the other sides aren't as easy to grade a block of mozz on anyway. 

And I've always been a fan of the wetter sauce but perhaps mine could use some reduction.  I use 6 in 1's straight out of the can puree and all.  I heat them on the stove top (not long enough to cook or reduce) and I ladle it onto the skin while its slightly steaming.  Should I perhaps let this sauce reduce a little? 

And I think that commercial cheese might just be what I'm looking for.  I've been on a quest lately to perfect my NY cheese-pizza so I've been going topping free. When I have made topping-rich pizzas I haven't cared too much how the cheese tasted/melted as long as it didn't get in the way.  On these cheese-pizzas, however, I've been obsessed.  I'd be willing to keep some Grande around exclusively for cheese only pizzas and bust out other cheeses for topping-heavy pizzas.   Where can I get my hands on this Grande cheese?  I've googled with no helpful results. 
- Trevor

Offline dmcavanagh

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Re: Wal Mart Cheese... why are you burning?
« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2012, 11:19:49 AM »
Grande cheese, to the best of my knowledge, is not sold in grocery stores. I believe they are more a supplier to the industry rather then a consumer product. You can order it through some suppliers, but it is expensive that way. Perhaps you could talk to a local pizzaria about purchasing some from them.


Offline dmcavanagh

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Re: Wal Mart Cheese... why are you burning?
« Reply #10 on: April 01, 2012, 11:22:38 AM »
Here is one source for Grande cheese, albeit rather expensive    http://www.pennmac.com/page/433/cheese-of-the-month-club-gourmet-cheese-sampler

scott123

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Re: Wal Mart Cheese... why are you burning?
« Reply #11 on: April 01, 2012, 02:19:44 PM »
I use 6 in 1's straight out of the can puree and all.  I heat them on the stove top (not long enough to cook or reduce) and I ladle it onto the skin while its slightly steaming.  Should I perhaps let this sauce reduce a little?

Trevor, my crust tends to brown faster than I can get my cheese to bubble, so if I'm working with cold sauce, I might warm it up to room temp, but never further than room temp.  I've never seen a pizzeria using warm or hot sauce. I'm not exactly sure this is the root of your problem, but if the sauce is still steaming, it might actually cook the top layer of the skin- if that were to happen, it would create a layer of cooked skin that could end up insulating the cheese above it.  It's much like par baked pizzas. Cheese never bubbles/melts correctly on a par baked shell, because of the insulating effects of the baked dough.

Long story short, don't heat the sauce.

Re; Grande. I live in the NY area, where literally thousands of pizzas are using grand/grande clones and I have a really hard time buying grande.  I can get it in 7ish lb. loaves from a pizzeria distributor that sells to the public, but my self cleaning freezer wreaks havoc on cheese.  Grande is pretty wonderful stuff, and I highly recommend scouring your area for places to purchase it, but, if it turns out you can't, supermarket cheese, if treated well (low thickness factor, the right amount of sauce, a short bake time) can be pretty sublime/fairly Grande-ish.

Offline Pizzamaster

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Re: Wal Mart Cheese... why are you burning?
« Reply #12 on: April 02, 2012, 05:13:02 AM »
It's Walmart cheese.

Offline chickenparm

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Re: Wal Mart Cheese... why are you burning?
« Reply #13 on: April 06, 2012, 02:14:44 AM »
The walmart cheese that was burning on my pies,was from the bag of GV pre-shredded cheese.Sometimes it made a good pie,sometimes not.

If I buy the GV whole milk 1 lb block and shred it at home,It works much better.I also noticed that often times,cheap cheese will burn faster after 5-6 minutes of baking time.

My pies are done in around 4 minutes and the cheese bubbling.I dont have trouble with it burning cheese anymore,from longer bake times.
-Bill

Offline scott r

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Re: Wal Mart Cheese... why are you burning?
« Reply #14 on: April 06, 2012, 07:59:41 AM »
So,  I recently did a cheese shootout for a pizzeria and everything we tried was burning in the coal oven.    grande was working, but didn't taste that great.   A very inexpensive saputo cheese was working and tasted better than the grande and the pizzeria owner was really excited that the best cheese we could find was 1.80 a pound!   After a month or two a batch of the cheese came in with the exact same characteristics as the poster mentions in this thread.   The cheese was obviously a bad batch or had been screwed up by freezing.  Im not sure which, but it was not too old or too young.     I think sometimes they just screw up the ph or something (which is very critical) and the resulting cheese burns easliy!


Oh, and to the poster who thought the sorrento cheese in 5lb blocks might be different...  You are correct.   I actually was fortunate enough to talk to the head cheese maker at sorrento lactalis and he confirmed that it is indeed a totally different cheese.   Unfortunately for me I prefer the more expensive and sometimes improperly stored grocery store version (which is also more resistant to burning).   Finally.   the precious version that is sold on the west coast is yet a third "version" of this cheese.   

Good luck to all!   


 

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