What is the best cheese for pizza? You can’t make amazing pizza without Mozzarella! The soft, creamy, and stringy texture is unbeatable. But different types of mozzarella has different flavor and consistency. So what is the best mozzarella for pizza?
The best mozzarella for Neapolitan pizza is fresh mozzarella made from cow milk (Fior di latte) or buffalo mozzarella (mozzarella di bufala). While the best cheese for the home oven pizza and American-style pizza is fresh low-moisture mozzarella.
What is mozzarella?
Mozzarella is a traditional soft, white cheese from southern Italy. The cheese has a soft texture and a light milky flavor. Due to its creamy flavor, soft consistency, and meltability, it’s a great pizza cheese! Classic mozzarella is made from buffalo milk, but nowadays it’s more commonly made from cow milk.
Mozzarella is also the staple cheese for Neapolitan pizza and is mentioned in the AVPN’s (The True Neapolitan Pizza Association) international regulations for true Neapolitan pizza. So it’s no understatement to say that mozzarella has an important role in pizza baking.
In addition to fresh buffalo and cow milk mozzarella, there are also several other types of mozzarelle. So the best choice of mozzarella depends on what you’re looking for, and what kind of pizza you want to make.
Fresh mozzarella (Fior di Latte)
Fresh mozzarella, Fior di latte in Italian, is a cow milk-based mozzarella cheese. It’s the most common type of cheese for Neapolitan pizza. Fresh mozzarella usually comes in a bag of liquids to keep it fresh. The cheese has a nice, light, and creamy flavor, that dry pre-shredded cheese can’t match. It melts well and doesn’t burn easily, which makes it great for pizza baked at high temperatures.
The main drawbacks of fresh mozzarella are the short shelf life and that the cheese contains a lot of moisture. Since it’s stored in liquids, you have to drain the cheese before using it. It’s also nearly impossible to shred fresh mozzarella because it’s so soft. But you can easily cut it into larger slices using a knife.
If you bake fresh mozzarella in a hot, wood-fired oven, most of the moisture will evaporate. But if you bake it in a home oven you might be left with moisture that is absorbed into the crust preventing it from going crispy. The reason is that a home oven gets hot enough to evaporate all the moisture in the cheese. You can however improve the baking in your home oven using a pizza stone or pizza steel.
How to use fresh mozzarella
To avoid watery pizza, you should drain and dry the mozzarella before topping your pizza.
I recommend draining the cheese properly and drying it using paper towels before you add it to your pizza to get rid of excess moisture. To get rid of even more liquids, you can cut the cheese and wrap it in a paper towel for at least 30 minutes before you’re going to use the cheese. You can do this ahead of time, but then you should store it in the fridge until you need it.
Click here to read more about how to prepare mozzarella for pizza baking.
Buffalo mozzarella (Mozzarella di Bufala)
Buffalo Mozzarella, or mozzarella di bufala, is a traditional cheese from Campania, Italy. The cheese is higher in fat, creamier, softer, and has more flavor than cow milk mozzarella. Many will also argue that it’s a better-tasting cheese, making it the perfect pizza cheese!
Like fresh cow milk mozzarella, buffalo mozzarella comes in a bag or container with liquids. But the buffalo mozzarella contains even more moisture. As much as twice the amount of water as cow milk mozzarella. So for buffalo mozzarella, it’s even more important to drain and dry the cheese before using it.
Buffalo mozzarella is also more expensive and a less accessible cheese. But if you can get your hands on some, it’s well worth a try!
How to use Buffalo mozzarella for pizza
When using Buffalo mozzarella for your pizza, it’s essential to drain it before topping your pizza to avoid watery pizza.
Click here to read more about how to prepare buffalo mozzarella for pizza baking.
Fresh low-moisture mozzarella
Fresh low-moisture mozzarella is an American invention and is commonly found on American pizza, such as New York-style. It’s usually lower in fat than Italian mozzarella, since it’s made from skimmed cow milk.
Lowe moisture mozzarella is made similarly to Italian mozzarella, but it’s dried using chemicals to lower the moisture. This will give the cheese a longer shelflife. Different acids can be used for this process, including vinegar. And this gives the cheese a different flavor.
Low-moisture mozzarelle don’t taste as fresh as its Italian counterpart. It has a mild, but slightly sharper taste than Italian mozzarella, and is also a bit saltier. The consistency is much firmer and it gets stringier when melting.
One of the benefits of low-moisture mozzarella is that it’s easy to shred due to the firmer consistency of the cheese. Since it’s low in moisture, watery pizza is not a problem either. So it doesn’t need any preparation like fresh mozzarella thas’ stored in liquids to keep it fresh. Low-moisture mozzarella is also cheaper.
You often have to go to the deli counter of your grocery store to get a block of fresh low-moisture mozzarella.
Shredded mozzarella has become very popular due to its convenience. It comes in a bag and requires no preparation before use. Shredded mozzarella is made from the same type of American low-moisture mozzarella, but rather than being sold in fresh blocks or slices, it comes pre-shredded from the factory. It’s also the cheapest type of mozzarella and can be found in every grocery store.
Since it’s the same cheese as low-moisture mozzarella, the flavor profile is similar. Slightly sharper, and not quite at the same level as the traditional mozzarella.
The bags of pre-shredded mozzarella also contains starch and other anti-caking agents to keep the strings from sticking to each other in the bag. This affects the flavor. Pre-shredded mozzarella doesn’t taste as good as the blocks of fresh, low-moisture mozzarella.
These starches also interfere with melting. They will soak up some of the moisture from the cheese when it’s melting, resulting in a drier layer of cheese. The starches can also burn in the oven more easily. Pre-shredded mozzarella is therefore not ideal for high-temperature baking.
The best mozzarella for Neapolitan pizza
The best type of mozzarella cheese for Neapolitan-style pizza is fresh mozzarella. Both cow and buffalo milk mozzarella are great options. The high baking temperature will evaporate most of the water, leaving you with a soft and creamy melted cheese that goes really well with tomato sauce and the slightly charred pizza crust.
The best mozzarella for New York-style pizza
For New York-style pizza, the classic choice is fresh low-moisture mozzarella. Fresh mozzarella is also a great choice, but it requires that you drain and dry it properly.
The best mozzarella for thick crust pizza
The best mozzarella for thick-crust pizza is fresh low-moisture mozzarella. Thick-crust pizza requires a longer baking time at a lower temperature. Fresh Italian mozzarella contains a bit too much moisture, which will prevent the crust from crisping. And when you have a long baking time, the starches in pre-shredded mozzarella are likely to burn.
The best mozzarella for deep-dish pizza
The mozzarella for Chicago-style deep dish pizza is low moisture mozzarella. The reason is that in that the cheese is under the cause, something that will trap moisture. Since you have so much sauce, you don’t want to add additional moisture. To create a barrier between the crust and the sauce, sliced low moisture mozzarella is your bet. Then you can top that with shredded cheese if you like.
What the best mozzarella cheese for your pizza is, depends on what you’re looking for.
For Italian pizza, fresh mozzarella is the best choice. High moisture content and meltability, combined with the mild creamy flavor make fresh mozzarella perfect for pizza made in a wood-fired oven.
For typical American-style pizza low-moisture mozzarella is a good option. These pizzas are usually baked at a lower temperature, which will evaporate less moisture. The longer shelf life, price, and accessibility also make it great for the home chef.
I generally try to avoid the pre-shredded mozzarella because it contains starch, that I don’t like on my pizza. But I know some people love the dry crispy, slightly burnt cheese layer it makes. So it’s really a subjective thing. Choose whatever mozzarella you like on your pizza!
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