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Author Topic: Problems with overcooked/"burning" cheese  (Read 737 times)

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Offline lazerlike42

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Problems with overcooked/"burning" cheese
« on: April 30, 2022, 10:30:32 AM »
I grew up in New England where NY style pizza  is so ubiquitous that I thought it was normal everywhere. A few years ago I moved to Wisconsin where quite literally nobody has ever heard of it or even anything close. I spent 10 minutes the other day trying to explain to my students what it is and had a hard time just because they have no frame of reference.

I've been making pizza for many years but since moving have been trying in earnest to really get it right. I've lurked here for years and following a lot of the advice and discussion I've read here I've gotten the pizza to the point that I consider it pretty close to the point that it's nearly satisfying what I've been missing, but one problem I've run into as everything else gets pretty close the cheese is cooking too fast and starting to burn. Example photos are attached. The crust in these is slightly underdone because I had to pull it early to keep the cheese from really burning but the crust can get really nice if I let it go longer.

I've got my gas oven preheated about an hour at 550 with a pizza steel on the bottom and a stone a few inches above that. I'm usually doing two pizzas at once, one on each, and the difference between the two isn't as much as it used to be now that I'm preheating for so long. In this case it's entirely part-skim mozzarella, as that's what I've seen used frequently. I've thought about trying whole milk mozzarella but I don't know if that will make the difference. I'm also starting with the cheese straight out of the fridge to try to give it more breathing room before it starts to overcook.

Even when it doesn't burn, I'm getting mostly a flat sort of white/yellow, but what I'm really shooting for is something closer to the nice golden orange that you see such as in a pizza like this one: https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=34538.msg473840#msg473840

Offline scott r

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Re: Problems with overcooked/"burning" cheese
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2022, 12:22:06 PM »
a few thoughts:

Most New England pizzerias are using white cheddar believe it or not.  Thats the New England "secret" for just about any pizzas cooked in a pan, something with "house of pizza" in the name, all the greek owned pizzerias, bar pizza etc... heck even Papa Gino's which is our closest chain to NY style is using some white cheddar mixed in with their mozzarella.  Santarpio's and Pizzeria regina are using mozzarella however (but they are in the minority).  Also, the newer spots probably most of which have opened since you left are also using mozzarella. 

If you shred the cheese yourself it will burn less than if your using pre shredded cheese. 

The larger/wider the shreds of cheese are the less your cheese will burn.

Many times people blame the cheese for premature browning when really its their dough that is over or under proofed.  Improperly proofed dough takes forever to brown.

Good luck

Offline hammettjr

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Re: Problems with overcooked/"burning" cheese
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2022, 12:59:42 PM »
Yep, my first thought when seeing your pictures is that it looks like pre-shredded cheese. You definitely need to shred (or slice or dice) it yourself. Whole milk would likely help too, but that's second to shredding it yourself.

Making a pie that looks like JD's pie you referenced is doable with all the info and assistance here, but it takes practice and patience.

Matt

Offline lazerlike42

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Re: Problems with overcooked/"burning" cheese
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2022, 01:09:23 PM »
a few thoughts:

Most New England pizzerias are using white cheddar believe it or not.  Thats the New England "secret" for just about any pizzas cooked in a pan, something with "house of pizza" in the name, all the greek owned pizzerias, bar pizza etc... heck even Papa Gino's which is our closest chain to NY style is using some white cheddar mixed in with their mozzarella.  Santarpio's and Pizzeria regina are using mozzarella however (but they are in the minority).  Also, the newer spots probably most of which have opened since you left are also using mozzarella. 

If you shred the cheese yourself it will burn less than if your using pre shredded cheese. 

The larger/wider the shreds of cheese are the less your cheese will burn.

Many times people blame the cheese for premature browning when really its their dough that is over or under proofed.  Improperly proofed dough takes forever to brown.

Good luck

Thanks for the reply. I have tried white cheddar quite a bit based on looking at Papa Gino's recipes from this forum and gotten a pretty close imitation flavor-wise to Papa Gino's and some other various places I used to eat at. I'll likely still use it from time to time, but for the time being I've been working on a more "neutral" or "generic" NY style pizza. The place I would most like to imitate actually and which I started trying to copy many years ago long before moving is Espresso Pizza from Lowell, MA (I think there's one in Fitchburg as well). It's distinctive for a noticeably sweet sauce, but I don't remember any kind of bite of "funk" to it so I'm fairly sure they use if not all mozzarella then mostly mozzarella.   

In any event, I'm actually in a somewhat good situation compared to some people trying to perfect their pizzas as I'm really not pining after some specific flavor from a specific place - I ate pizza at many different places back home all of which were different but good in their own way. I've really just been seeking the general style here and for the most part it's the texture/crust that I've been missing. The region seems to have one kind of pizza: some kind of soft pan pizza reminiscent of Little Caesar's or Pizza Hut, with Little Caesar's being the best pizza I can actually find anywhere. There's not even anything roughly equivalent to the New England "House of Pizza" or Greek style pizza.

I'm getting a crust that isn't quite perfect yet but is most of the way there and it's been very refreshing after a few years, but as I've gotten the crust closer I've been finding the cheese is burning.

Offline lazerlike42

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Re: Problems with overcooked/"burning" cheese
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2022, 01:22:42 PM »
Yep, my first thought when seeing your pictures is that it looks like pre-shredded cheese. You definitely need to shred (or slice or dice) it yourself. Whole milk would likely help too, but that's second to shredding it yourself.

Making a pie that looks like JD's pie you referenced is doable with all the info and assistance here, but it takes practice and patience.

On the one hand I can certainly appreciate that practice and patience yield improvement as I've gotten much better over the years, but on the other one of the things that's mildly frustrated me when I've gotten poor results has been that pizzas that look like that are made everyday all over the place by inexperienced high school kids and all sorts of other folks who aren't master crasftmen but just got a job at the local pizza parlor.

Also for example, so much of the minutiae (which I really enjoy and find fascinating) that is discussed on a board like this is not really a consideration for a lot of these places. For instance, I have no real statistics but I suspect that the number of pizza places shredding their own cheese is extremely low and yet their pizzas are looking like what you're saying I need to do special stuff and use a fresh block of cheese to achieve. That's not a challenge to your suggestion, which I'm sure will make a difference, it's just extreme confusion and something I've been wondering for several years Why can the high school senior in Manchester, NH who just got the job a month ago make a pizza that looks like that with shredded cheese that's been in the freezer for 6 months but for me to do it at home takes practiced artistry and special ingredients?
« Last Edit: April 30, 2022, 01:29:10 PM by lazerlike42 »

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Offline lazerlike42

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Re: Problems with overcooked/"burning" cheese
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2022, 02:55:46 PM »
I just made a pizza for lunch and made significant progress. I tried half whole milk and half fresh mozzarella, also I dropped the temp to 500. The whole milk mozzarella did not burn as quickly and was giving an orange color, but the crust was even more underdone. However, the cheese on the fresh mozzarella was melting sufficiently slowly that I put that half back in for several minutes (to a total of around 10) and although it's not the prettiest pizza in the world the crust has a very satisfying bite and the flavor is spot on - far, far closer in flavor than anything I've made in these two years to the point that I'd actually forgotten pizza could taste this way so I wasn't even aiming for it anymore.

I think if I can learn to chop or grate the fresh mozzarella more finely I will have a near perfect pizza for what I'm looking for.

Offline hammettjr

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Re: Problems with overcooked/"burning" cheese
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2022, 03:00:55 PM »
I've never worked at or owned a pizzeria, but I think you're way underestimating what goes into making good pizza. The practice and patience I mentioned are for learning the process that goes into it, and less about the hands on part. (Although working in a pizzeria one can get hands on experience in a day or 2 thats taken me years at one pie a week.)

My 6 year old made a pretty decent pizza recently, with only a little help from me, but he was using ingredients bought from a pizzeria. Therefore the dough was properly fermented and the sauce and cheese were foodservice. While high school kids may produce the pies, they aren't doing or thinking about the science that was originally behind the process.

I always assumed that pizzerias shred their cheese (with a machine, not by hand). Whether they do or not though, I can assure you the cheese they're using isn't the same as the pre-shredded stuff at the grocery store for $1.99.

Matt

Offline hammettjr

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Re: Problems with overcooked/"burning" cheese
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2022, 03:02:24 PM »
Sounds like you're making progress!
 :chef:

Matt

Offline lazerlike42

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Re: Problems with overcooked/"burning" cheese
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2022, 03:19:16 PM »
I've never worked at or owned a pizzeria, but I think you're way underestimating what goes into making good pizza. The practice and patience I mentioned are for learning the process that goes into it, and less about the hands on part. (Although working in a pizzeria one can get hands on experience in a day or 2 thats taken me years at one pie a week.)

My 6 year old made a pretty decent pizza recently, with only a little help from me, but he was using ingredients bought from a pizzeria. Therefore the dough was properly fermented and the sauce and cheese were foodservice. While high school kids may produce the pies, they aren't doing or thinking about the science that was originally behind the process.

I always assumed that pizzerias shred their cheese (with a machine, not by hand). Whether they do or not though, I can assure you the cheese they're using isn't the same as the pre-shredded stuff at the grocery store for $1.99.

You're right about the origin of the recipes being used. Truth be told my general assumption has always been that unless one's talking about a higher end restaurant that the average restaurant is using lower quality ingredients than you'd buy at the store. This is partly because I've seen where a lot of restaurant ingredients come from: giant tubs of sauce, large bags of bulk ingredients or pre-breaded frozen chicken cutlets, etc. For instance, when trying to figure out Chinese food I came across former (or current) restaurant owners saying that at home, they'd use a certain ingredient in a marinade (e.g., honey or dark soy sauce) but in the restaurant they used a cheaper alternative (sugar or regular soy sauce).

Offline lazerlike42

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Re: Problems with overcooked/"burning" cheese
« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2022, 07:11:35 PM »
I tried again today and after 3 pizzas of incremental improvements, I had a relatively bad outcome this time but I'm not quite sure which of several factors was responsible.

The differences:

  • I have been doing around 8 oz of fresh mozzarella on a 16" pizza (around 580g of dough) but this time used 12.
  • 4 oz. of the mozzarella was a few days old and definitely seemed wetter out of the zip lock I had it in, but felt the same when shred. The other 8 was new.
  • I tried using the food processor grate attachment to grate the cheese instead of chopping or using a block grater.
  • I did some toppings this time: 3 mushrooms all in one quarter of the pizza and meatballs. All were cooked ahead of time to try to remove moisture. The mushrooms especially were very dry.
  • I experimented with the temperature and cooked at 475 this time instead of 550 or 500, which I had previously used
  • I topped with a small amount of extra sharp cheddar

The end result was a crust that was soggy in the middle, could bear no weight, and which didn't adhere to the cheese, which slid right off.

One notable thing: the pizza looked normal on the bench during prep, but within a minute after going in the oven and for several minutes after there was a large pool of water/liquid covering much of the center of the pizza.

It's clear to me that for whatever reason there was way too much moisture, but what I'm not sure of exactly is why. My top candidates are that the older cheese was too wet (is it necessary when using fresh mozzarella to only use same-day opened cheese?) or that the meatballs were too moist, though they didn't seem to be, but you all would know better than I if one of the other factors was at play.


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