Fall is here, and we all know what that means: heavy, delicious, comforting snack foods for sports-watching. Gathering with friends to watch our modern gladiators compete is best done with a plate of fried goodness that we know we should only eat on such special occasions. Hence wings! Hence Jalapeño Poppers! And today, we’ll talk about the holy grail of fried foods: Fried cheese.
Yes, mozzarella sticks are something you can make at home, and without relying on your grocer’s frozen-foods section. With some careful temperature management, you can easily fry your favorite cheese for you next pigskin fest, and make your taste buds do a celebration dance in the flavor end zone. The path to success will, of course, be temperature control, and we’ll be using the ThermaQ® with its accuracy that is second to none.
Fried cheese recipe: secrets of success
There are two keys to success when frying cheese: breading and frying. Properly breading the cheese prevents it from leaking out all over in your frying oil. And frying your cheese at the correct temperature, gives you time to melt the cheese inside to a perfect gooeyness without burning the breading on the outside.
How to bread cheese
Fried cheese is best made by following the “standard breading procedure,” with a slight twist.
The standard breading procedure (SBP, for short) consists of a three-bowl breading process with flour, egg wash, and breadcrumbs. The item to be breaded is first dipped in flour, then egg wash, then breadcrumbs, in that order. Items to be fried are then allowed to sit for a few minutes to allow the moisture content in the breading to equalize throughout.
The “twist” on the classic procedure for our fried cheese is that the cheese sticks are double-breaded. After dipping in breadcrumbs, the cheese sticks are then dipped back in egg wash and then back into the bread crumbs again. This double-thick coating is necessary to form a coating barrier to prevent your cheese from melting out of your snack and leaking into the hot oil. It makes such a mess and, besides, biting into a hollow cheese stick can be so disappointing! The double-thick breading is also tastier because you get more of that fried, crunchy goodness in every bite.
One great tip for the breading is to employ the wet-hand, dry-hand method. Designate one of your hands for all the dipping in dry ingredients (flour, crumbs) with the other working exclusively in the egg wash. It minimizes clumping on your fingers and makes things much easier.
How to fry cheese
Once your cheese chunks are dredged, dipped, and coated, it’s time to fry them. As with most fried foods, you’ll want to use a neutral-flavored, high heat oil like peanut or corn oil for your frying. If you don’t have a deep fryer, add two inches of oil to a heavy pot. You need to make sure that there is enough room in the pot so that the oil doesn’t boil over when you add the breaded cheese. For cheese sticks, all you really need to do is get the outside breading golden brown and crispy. The internal temperature isn’t critical, because cheese is delightfully safe to eat raw. If you get your oil temperature right, by the time the breading is crisp and brown on the outside, the cheese inside will be melty and gooey.
Fry your cheese sticks at 350°F (177°C). We recommend a leave-in probe thermometer like the ThermaQ with a High Temp Smokehouse Probe for deep frying. It’s accurate to ±0.7°F (±0.4°C), so you can keep a close watch on the temperature of your oil. You can use the optional pot clip to keep it in place on the side of the pan.
As with all deep-frying, fry your cheese in batches, allowing the oil to come back up to near 350°F (177°C) again between batches.
Best cheese for frying
You may have web-searched or email-clicked into this article seeking “mozzarella sticks,” and you might be wondering why I keep referring to “cheese sticks.” Well, the answer is simple: mozzarella is not the tastiest cheese you can buy. Perhaps the best thing about making homemade fried cheese sticks is that you get to choose the cheese you want, but there are a few guiding principles you should adhere to. Pretty much any cheese is fair game except for those that are very soft or very hard. Hard cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano will not melt well and will be far too salty to be palatable, while soft cheeses like brie will melt too much, with their high fat-content innards separating out.
But any semi-hard (read: sliceable) cheese should be great. Fresh Mozzarella, Cheddar, Gruyere, and Gouda are all fantastic. Try cheese curds! Even blue cheeses that have been pressed into balls can be breaded and fried for a pungent, sophisticated appetizer.
Freezing cheese sticks
You may find that you love these cheese sticks so much that you want to make them all the time. If so, you might want to have a breading party! Get the family together and bread several pounds of various cheeses. Then put them in the freezer unfried. Now whenever you want some gooey fried cheese, all you need to do is grab your ThermaQ, heat the oil to 350°F (177°C) and drop some frozen cheese sticks in!
Homemade Mozzarella Sticks Recipe
Based on a recipe from Bon Appetit.
- 1 Lb cheese (mozzarella or other, as described above)
- ¾ C flour
- 3 Eggs
- 3 Tbsp whole milk
- 2 C Panko breadcrumbs
- 1½ tsp garlic powder
- 1½ tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- ~6 C vegetable oil, for frying
(Note: if you don’t have all the dried herbs, that’s ok, make up for it with some of the others.)
- Heat 2” of oil in a deep, heavy pot over medium-high heat.
- Set the Smokehouse Probe of your ThermaQ in the pot clip and suspend the tip in the oil. Set the high-alarm for 350°F (177°C).
- Combine the breadcrumbs with the spices and herbs.
- Whisk together the eggs and the milk.
- Cut the sticks of cheese: various shapes work, but all should be about 1/4-1/2” thick.
- Run each piece of cheese through the breading procedure by dredging it in flour, dipping it in egg, dipping it in breadcrumbs, back to the egg, and back to the breadcrumbs. Set aside to let the coating firm up.
- When your ThermaQ alarm sounds, indicating 350°F (177°C) has been reached, add 4-5 cheese sticks to the oil.
- Agitate the sticks as they swim to prevent sticking.
- When the cheese sticks are golden brown, remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon or a kitchen spider and allow them to drain and cool on a rack set over a cookie sheet or a pan lined with paper towels.
- Salt immediately.
- Serve with spicy marinara sauce, salsa, pesto, or any number of other sauces.
(Pro tip: some cheeses, like Gruyere, go great with fruit. You can serve them with berry jams or applesauce. But you might want to eliminate the herbs and spices from the breading if you try that.)
Fried cheese sticks are a delicious, fun way to elevate your gameday party. Heck, you could have a cheese frying party unto itself! Everyone can bread and fry their own favorite cheeses while they cheer on their favorite team. And with the easy-to-use, hyper-accurate ThermaQ, you can be sure that you’ll get that perfect blend of crunchiness and melty gooeyness for maximum satisfaction.
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