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Part-skim mozzarella vs. whole milk?

I remember when I worked for Sysco the cheese man told me the difference, and what I should use for which dish.

I'm just talking plain ol' Polly-O here -- let's leave the fresh di bufala to another thread. ;-)

One browns, one flows. So which is good in a baked dish like lasagna, and which should I use as a topping, like for chicken parmigiana? (And which is good for standing at the cutting board and eating more than I'm putting in the dish? :-P)

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  1. Chowhound chef ALERT! Never, ever use part skim mozzarella, or any other low fat cheese cooked. They do not ever melt in the commonly accepted interpretation of the word "melt", rather, they turn to hot rubber. Even harder textured full fat moz. like the Precious ball, will do this. Now, because I VALUE my pizza and pasta and gilled panini sand. - I ALWAYS buy fresh mozzarella - or TJ's soft one in the plastic tube (which is only $5#) Some things, like mozzarella, are just to important to mince words.

    There IS a use for low-fat cheese. IF you have a health problem with cholesterol - then they are perfectly acceptable in a cold sandwich or salad. The taste can be OK - but they will NEVER melt.

    3 Replies
    1. re: niki rothman

      I've made thousands of wonderful pizzas with part skim mozz. I now use whole milk and prefer the taste/richness of the extra fat, but the difference isn't all that huge. The consistency of the cheese is the same, but the whole milk tends to release a little more butterfat.

      As far as knocking packaged mozzeralla as a whole... About a million pizzerias across the nation sell about a billion packaged whole milk mozzarella pizzas every year to adoring fans. Me included. Sure, fresh mozz is a wonderful thing, and, for those of that can afford it on a regular basis, it makes a phenomenal pizza. Phenomenal, but different. A pie from a good pizzeria with plain old packaged mozzarella can be phenomenal as well. The two are apples and oranges, if you ask me.

      Pizza from a good pizzeria can easily be one of the best foods on the planet. You get a lot of 'gourmets' that turn their nose up at fast order food like diners or fast food chains. I may not agree with them, but I respect their opinion. But pizzerias... Dissing pizzerias... I'm sorry but that crosses a line :)

      1. re: scott123

        I did not/do not diss packaged whole milk mozzarella. The soft wholemilk TJ's in the tube is not "fresh" but it is wholemilk. At $5 a pound it is a GREAT product and a great bargain. I use it all the time. What good are you doing yourself if you could get the best for the same price as an inferior product but you don't do it? Maybe some of you folks can't get to a trader joe's or don't have access to fresh mozz. in any store near you. OK, if I were in your position, and I was actually a chowhound, I would learn to make mozzarella - I hear it's a relatively easy process. Believe me, I am about as far from elitist as it is possible to get.

        1. re: niki rothman

          When I say 'packaged' mozzarella, I'm not refering to TJs. Technically, TJs is packaged and isn't 'fresh,' but it's not what pizzerias across the nation are using. They're using generic polly-o type 'harder textured' full fat mozz.- which you are dissing in your first post. Maybe 'packaged' might be the wrong term. Let's call it 'rectangular' mozzarella. Your better pizzerias take this 'rectangular' harder textured mozz, and, imo, creating works of art with it. If they can do it, you had better believe you and I can do it as well.

    2. Part-skim melts well enough for me. I even like it in grilled cheese sandwiches - enjoy the "toothiness" of it - and lasagna. I usually get the North Beach stuff from Trader Joe, though Frigo and Precious can be OK too. Polly-O is hard to come by here, and kind of expensive, except for one time when a lot of it showed up in our 99ยข-Only store!

      1. Most pizzerias I know use half skim and half whole, so I guess they even each other out. (By the way, Grande is the one they mostly prefer, although I hear it's not as good as it used to be.)

        1. I'm with Niki on this one. For several years i tried to convince myself that part skim was an alternative that met both a lower cholesteral and still had the melting and staying power of "whole" (and i am speaking about plain old Polly-O). Alas, after three years I gave up and tried a mix of the two and still could not get there. I am now firmly in the "Whole" camp when it comes to mozz. It melts better. It freezes better and it has a smoother flavor

          1. I totally agree with Niki also on this...whole milk mozz is the only way to go...on anything.

            1. Well, thanks guys for all the info! :-)

              Sorry Niki, I'm on the East Coast and don't have access to TJ's, and while I like fresh mozz for salads and just plain eating (with a little balsalmic) I wouldn't bake it with my ravioli -- seems like a waste!

              Here Polly-O is readily available -- I always bought part-skim Polly-O because that's what Mom always bought, but I don't think she ever had a reason other than maybe that's what her mom bought (and prob because it was on sale). . .so next time I will try whole milk and see if we can tell the difference! :-)

              16 Replies
              1. re: Covert Ops

                Hi Covert Ops!
                I've been reading in the NY Times recently that TJ's is now in a few locations in the greater NYC area! TJ's is SOooo wonderful, if I were you I would contact them and tell them your area demands they open a store for you all asap. Their HQ (thought I'd use a psy-ops term)is in Moravia, CA - near LA.

                1. re: niki rothman

                  Niki: I'm in Daytona Beach, Fla. Talk about a wasteland -- there isn't even a Whole Foods within comfortable driving distance!

                  1. re: Covert Ops

                    You should definitely check out the Latino bodegas. Their cheeses are often wonderful. Speak to people there about the kinds of cheeses you want - the purposes you will be using the cheeses for, and what kind of cheese you use now and what's the problem with it. Like you want a cheese that is mild, creamy and melts really well. Queso fresca and crema are 2 mild cheeses you should just buy for the heck of it and play around with - but they're not substitutes for mozzarella.

                    Monterey jack from a Latino store is going to be much closer to a decent mozz. than part skim mozzarella is. I often substitute a good jack cheese for mozzarella in a pinch. I would much prefer using it for melting than part skim mozz. If you have any Greek, Russian, Eastern European shops there is my all time favorite white, semi-soft cheese that will melt - kashkaval. It has much more character than mozz.

                    Another idea is go online to google.com and search "fresh mozzarella" or just "mozzarella" and see what comes up. Honestly, if I were you, isolated geographically, and money was not a big problem, I would buy my good cheeses online. Often the online prices for delivered foods are not high at all. Even check amazon.com. I read in the NY Times that they have a big grocery operation by mail and their prices delivered are the same as ordinary retail because their overhead is so low and they are trying to grow this lesser known side of their operation.

                    1. re: niki rothman

                      *wipes tears of laughter from her eyes*

                      Bodegas? Eastern European shops? I take it you've never been to Daytona Beach. :-) Our main immigrant group is from Pittsburgh. (And of course, Charlotte.)

                      That's an interesting idea about Amazon. I saw that but thought it was only non-perishable bulk stuff, almost like a Sam's Club. And the last time I tried to ship something perishable (bagels) it was very dear. But I will nose around! :-)

                    2. re: Covert Ops

                      I thought there were like a million Cuban expats massed in Fla. waiting for Castro to kick so they can go start a counter-revolution, no?
                      And howzabout all the Jews in Florida - kashkaval is beloved of Sephardic Jews.
                      But, if nothing else turns up for you, try a good monterey jack from the supermarket, and see if it doesn't perform better hot than part skim mozzarella.

                      1. re: niki rothman

                        That's all in Miami, dear -- a good four hours from where I live. In Daytona all we have are bikers and tourists (and NASCAR fans). Makes the chow-digging all the more challenging, but I have yet to find a good cheesemonger.

                    3. re: niki rothman

                      I know there's one on Long Island, and another just opened in Manhatten somewhere. My gf's mom who lives in Brooklyn, treks to LI to get her TJ's fix on.

                      1. re: davinagr

                        I understand there are now at least 2 in NYC.

                      2. re: niki rothman

                        Monrovia, CA if that helps... I have some info. Supposedly, FL is one of the states that has some weird law that a liquor store can't sell food and a food store can't sell liquor. That's the situation in NY. Apparently the new store in NYC has the same situation and is actually two stores side by side.
                        So Daytona would have to show a whole lotta potential for TJ's to consider opening there.

                        1. re: kiwi

                          Food stores sell wine, and wine coolers, but not hard liquor. We do have Trader Joe-TYPE stores in Florida, but strictly of the mom-and-pop variety. (And none in Daytona that I've found yet.)

                          Ah well. That's the tradeoff for living in one of the last few affordable places in Florida. :-)

                      3. re: Covert Ops

                        I don't know what brands of packaged mozzarella you have where you are, but of the brands at my local supermarkets, Polly-O is by far the worst. Regardless of the fat content, it has a translucent quality like skim milk- it's much less creamy than the other brands. Polly-O doesn't seem to melt as well either. Sorrento is a little bit better but not much. The creamiest/easiest melting/best tasting brand I've found in my area is Biazzo. I don't think Biazzo has that large of a distribution area, though. Other than Biazzo, the private label brands are surprisingly good (Shop Rite, Pathmark, Stop & Shop, A&P, etc.). I'd take private label over Polly-O any day of the week. Mozzarella is a natural product so the quality fluctuates pretty drastically, but the private label at it's worst is still superior to Polly-O at it's best.

                        1. re: scott123

                          Thanks for the info, Scott. I'm actually in Florida, but I think I might try out the SuperTarget brand -- their Archer Farms has been consistently awesome for other things (especially meats) so I might as well give the cheese a whirl.

                          1. re: Covert Ops

                            Definitely, give the SuperTarget a shot. I find looking at the packages extremely helpful. Whole milk mozz. should be pure bright white or slightly off white. And extremely opaque. Translucent mozz. is garbage, imo. Firmness gets a little tricky as mozz. softens/goes bubbley/puffy as it ages. Ideally you want a soft fresh very opaque very white cheese

                          2. re: scott123

                            As a Californian who is unable to get Polly-O, we have Precious, Sorrento, Joseph Farms and other tasteless brands. However, last winter, the 99 Cent Only Store got a shipment of Polly-O in and I bought a ton of 'em and stashed them in my freezer. I was thrilled. FWIW, I think Polly-O is much better than our local rectangular boring hard mozz.

                            1. re: scott123

                              I think most people don't realize that Pollio was bought out by Kraft many years ago, pretty much any other brand is better now. But if you see Aiello/Scala brand ( I see it alot here in NY) that's the branch of the Pollio family that stayed in the business and still makes fresh mozz and ricotta. If you see it, try it! Hard to beat, except for Belgiosio (which is a branch of the Aurrichio family, different story)

                              1. re: coll

                                Kraft, huh? That makes sense, thanks.

                                Biazzo, for me, is pretty much mozzarella nirvana, so I'm not really in the market for another brand, but I'll definitely keep an eye out for the brands you mentioned.

                          3. Fresh mozzarella is as different from packaged mozz. as it is from buffalo mozz. It is supposed to be that way -- even in Italy, although they call it something else.
                            I've found that low-fat Polly-o works the best where melting is concerned b/c it is not as greasy as fresh or whole fat mozzarella. You might want to add extra olive oil if you miss the fat.
                            I make a simple timballe with low-fat Polly-o:

                            Make Ziti and meat sauce, not too wet (add cooked ground beef with basil to pomi sauces discussed previously)
                            Fry up or bake some eggplant with olive oil.
                            Oil and dust the bottom of a round pan with bread crumbs. add ziti, slices of cheese, and fried eggplant. add more ziti, etc. throw in some crumbled hard boiled eggs in one or two layers.
                            bake until firm.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: fara

                              Thank you, fara, that was just the type of answer I was looking for with this post. I personally love fresh mozz, but I know it's different and not what I would use in these circumstances.

                              Wow that recipe sounds awesome! And the DH loves eggplant, so I'll definitely give that one a try! :-) Thanks again!