Great cheese a very important component of great pizza. Finding the right cheese or cheese blend for your basic traditional pizza is a quest that you should take very seriously. Your decision will not only be influenced by your taste, but also the expectations of your customers, the region of the country in which you reside, and your cost/benefit analysis.
Different manufacturers use different processes, and make different blends that all taste, look and ARE different. A good rule of thumb in the world of Pizza Cheese, as with so many other things, is: you get what you pay for! Quality doesn’t come cheap, and the better cheeses will typically cost more and be well worth it. The temperatures in Wood Stone ovens can get pretty intense, and not all cheese performs well under these conditions. Some cheese will “break” in the face of high temperatures, others will brown too fast or even blacken. Try before you buy.
The original pizza cheese is fresh Mozzarella, made from the milk of Italian water buffalo Bubalus bubalis. It is indeed quite delicious, slow to brown or break, and makes for a very special pizza. Most pizzerias will also find it to be entirely cost prohibitive. Fresh cheese made from cow’s milk is most properly called “Fiore de latte”, but we still call it Mozzarella. This is widely available and is a nice substitute for “the real Buffalo stuff” when making traditional pies. Manufacturing large quantities of your own Mozzarella is easier than you think, and can really set your pizza apart! Fresh cheese often benefits from a chance to drain a bit of liquid before going on a pie.
The most widely used Pizza Cheese in North America is Low-Moisture Mozzarella, made from either Whole Milk or Part Skim Milk. It is usually purchased in a pre-shredded, diced or sliced form. Consider trying a large dice to slow the melt, and preserve the stretch.
Other cheeses that are often added to blends include Provolone, Cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, Romano and Gouda. These all have their own effect on the overall taste and texture of the finished pizza. The addition of small amounts of smoked cheese can add a wonderful hint of extra wood-fired flavor, especially when baking in a gas oven.
In the Wood Stone Test Kitchen, we typically use Grande shredded Whole Milk Mozzarella or their shredded 50/50 Low Moisture Part Skim Mozzarella/ Provolone blend.