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Aug 9, 2012 06:19 PM

How do you tell good quality cheese vs. bad

I ask this because I picked up some local provolone today (Hautly brand) to copy one of my favorite subway places (Penn station) in trying to make both their philly cheesesteak and pizza sub... everything went GREAT... exceppppttt for the cheese.

Isn't provolone supposed to be somewhat "stringy" and have a texture similar to its cousin mozzerella?

the consistency of this was almost like Velveeta! It had a very runny, almost (forgive me for the comparison) mucus taste and consistency to it.
I couldn't even finish my sandwich.

Kraft's mild cheddar cheese is pretty bland tasting. It hardly tasted like anything--almost like water. i used a slice of it on my sandwich and couldn't believe that a slice of American would have blown this out of the water as far as flavor
Is it just me? Am I cooking the cheeses wrong?

I've never had provolone or good quality cheddar to compare these experiences to, can anyone relate?

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  1. When I read your post, the first thing that sprang to my mind was "he must have bought processed Provolone, or that disgusting Provel crap they put on St. Louis Style Pizza" because the behavior you describe sounds like the way processed cheeses melt. However, since you can't really find Provel outside of St. Louis I didn't think it was that. Then I went to the Hautly website, and lo and behold, they are based in St. Louis! I can't tell from their website if their Provolone is processed or not, but it would not surprise me if it were, and if it is I'm sure it's similar to Provel, which is one of the foulest things on earth as far as I am concerned. It's vaguely sweet, bland and melts in that nasty, plasticky way that cheap American or Velveeta does. Good, non-processed Provolone should melt sort of the way mozzarella melts, although in my experience it's more like a cross between the stringy gooeyness of mozz and a smoother melter like swiss.

    Anyway, as for Kraft, even their sharp Cheddar is pretty bland so I'm not surprised the mild was flavorless. Go for sharp or extra sharp, and try Cabot brand (I love their aged white cheddar, available at a very reasonable price from Costco). However, keep in mind that cheddar is not a great melting cheese - it tends to break and become an oily, grainy mess. It's best eaten cold or used in a cheese sauce where other ingredients (like flour, other cheeses, etc.) can stabilize it a bit.

    13 Replies
    1. re: biondanonima

      Oh, great. Cabot it is!

      I had no idea that Cheddar was not good as a melting cheese.
      I just assumed that American was the poor man's substitute for the real authentic thing (cheddar), boy was I wrong!

      What type of cheese would you recommend for good melting to take the place of either an American or Cheddar?

      1. re: achilles007

        Hm. Gruyere melts nicely and has kind of the same flavor profile as Cheddar. I wouldn't say you CAN'T melt cheddar, but it does tend to separate if you heat it too much. I still love it for grilled cheese sandwiches, but you have to be careful not to overdo the heat. Also, I find that unaged, mass-processed cheddars like Kraft melt better than a niced aged Cabot, but the flavor isn't as good. Sometimes I put up with a bit of grainyness for the flavor, other times I go for the easier melt.

        I also love Emmentaler (a type of Swiss) and Fontina for melting, but the flavors are definitely not cheddar-like. BTW, a good trick for bumping up the flavor of a melted cheese that you find bland is to add a handful of parmesan - the salty kick really livens up other cheese nicely.

        1. re: biondanonima

          I beg to differ. Cheddar and Gruyere taste very different to me.

          To return to the original question, good cheeses have complex, interesting, delicious flavors whereas bad cheeses have simple, uninteresting flavors. Generally, there is a proximate relation between quality and price, so why not educate yourself by buying a few small pieces of expensive cheese and enjoy them? With a friendly person behind the counter, you might even be able to get a free education!

          1. re: Joebob

            oh, thanks for this tip! will do!

            1. re: Joebob

              I agree, Gruyere and Cheddar are different, but I can't think of another good melting cheese that has a closer flavor profile to Cheddar than Gruyere. They both have a sort of sharp bite to my palate, although Cheddar has way more tang where Gruyere is smoother and nuttier. If you have a better suggestion for a smooth-melting cheddar replacement, though, I'd love to know what you suggest.

              1. re: biondanonima

                Try fontal cheese, a type of cheese modeled on Italian fontina, but very different in taste and texture than the traditional version from val d'aosta. The one I mean has a thin burgundy colored rind (not the red wax rind like the Swedish fontina). It's fairly mild and melts beautifully.

        2. re: biondanonima

          Hi. Just went to the store to pick up some cheese and followed your advice. Picked up a cabot cheddar and a Sargento Provolone.

          Man oh man... was that the flavor I was looking for!

          Slapped it down on my shortrib burger patty and it was the best burger I've ate in a while!

          Thank you so much biondanonima!

            1. re: achilles007

              I hate to break it to you, but you went from bad cheese to crappy cheese with those selections. If you're buying vacuum sealed packs of cheese at the supermarket, you have a long ladder to climb to reach really good quality cheese. Try going to a cheese shop or the cheese counter at a reputable market and try some artisanal cheeses.

              1. re: E Eto

                While I agree that Sargento Provolone is nothing to write home about, Cabot's aged cheddar offerings are excellent and offer great bang for the buck as well. Artisanal cheeses are another animal altogether, and IMO are best appreciated straight up, not melted on a burger.

                1. re: E Eto

                  There is a time and place for the cheese counter/"artisanal" cheese. Absolutely. (And frankly, I usually call that "any day ending in -y") But let's not discount the need for larger-production-but-still-high-quality offerings like Cabot . Especially for use on a sub or sandwich.

                  1. re: chevrelove

                    Budget is important and artisanal cheeses can be very expensive. As much as I would like to spend money at the cheese counter, it adds up very quickly. I buy a specialty cheese ocassionally and if it is on sale. In Canada we have a cheese manufacturer called Bergeron which is in between the artisanal and the mass produced, in terms of cost.

            2. my first thought was the taste. uncooked. cheese is not necessarily designed to melt. kraft american is though.