The highlight of any pizza is the oozing, molten cheese on the top! That’s right, cheese is liquid gold on top of any pizza. And the king of pizza cheese is the undefeated mozzarella!
It is not difficult to understand why Italians choose mozzarella as their go-to cheese for pizzas. Once under heat, this chewy cheese melts into a perfect golden layer that is stringy and stretchy. A pizza topped with mozzarella has a better bite to it, which makes it amazing.
So how do you choose and use the best mozzarella for homemade pizza? We believe the following tips can help.
Table of Contents
1. Understanding Mozzarella
We know mozzarella as a soft and chewy cheese with a great flavor. Its trademark creamy texture and soft, stretchy consistency make it possibly the most popular cheese on earth.
Mozzarella originated near Naples in Italy. Since it was made with raw milk and people didn’t have refrigerators, the cheese never left southern Italy.
The cheese rose to global popularity after it was brought to America by Italian immigrants. Americans made a variety of mozzarella that had a longer shelf-life and could easily be transferred from one place to another.
Have you ever wondered what makes mozzarella the best cheese for pizzas? Pizzas are famous due to the way the cheese on top melts and blankets the entire dough surface.
Mozzarella gives the best coverage to pizza, due to its meltability and its thick consistency after melting. It gives every pizza slice the right cheesy stretch to tantalize and captivate the taste buds.
2. Know Which Type to Use
When using the best mozzarella cheese for pizza, it can be difficult to choose. There is a variety of mozzarella cheese available these days. You get fresh, low-moisture, full-fat, skim, half-skim, shredded, bocconcini, ciliegine, and many more. Even string cheese is made of mozzarella!
With so many options in the market, how do you choose the right mozzarella for pizza? Let’s take a look at the two main varieties.
Fresh mozzarella is very different from the regular variety we find at convenience stores. It is semi-soft and way less salty than regular mozzarella. Fresh mozzarella has a fresh, milky, mild, and sweet flavor.
The kind you see at the store is sold in whey or brine, which keeps it preserved and in shape. The liquid also prevents it from drying out. With a high moisture content, it has a silky and soft consistency.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Southern Italy, the home of mozzarella is where pizza was first invented. Back then, pizza was made in high-heat outdoor pizza ovens with firewood.
Since the fire burned hot, fresh mozzarella worked very well as the cheese blanket over pizza. The high heat dried out the water released from the fresh mozzarella.
These pizzas were also made for immediate consumption so that the water released from the fresh mozzarella wouldn’t make the pizza soggy.
Low Moisture Mozzarella
The American variety of pizza is popular all over the country and it shows in the stats. Ninety-four percent of Americans eat pizza at least once a month. The popularity of pizza stems not just from the delicious taste but also from how convenient it is.
Americans wanted to make pizza more convenient. When you call for a pizza to be delivered to your doorstep, you don’t expect one with a soggy base. This problem was taken care of when low moisture mozzarella was created.
Low moisture mozzarella is made exactly like the Italian variety, with some major tweaks. Some food-grade chemicals are used to lower the moisture of the cheese.
The drying process uses different acids, including vinegar. This reduces the moisture content to 45-52 percent, making the mozzarella saltier and denser.
Low-moisture mozzarella for pizza releases less water and melts better. You get a stringier and thicker layer of cheese on your pizza, giving it better coverage.
Buffalo Mozzarella vs Regular Mozzarella
Mozzarella cheese for pizza comes in a few varieties. For instance, mozzarella can be made from both cow’s milk as well as buffalo’s milk. But what’s the real difference? And which one is better? Let’s find out!
3. Is Buffalo Mozzarella Better Than Regular Mozzarella?
Regular mozzarella cheese is commonly made of cow’s milk. So whether you are using full-fat or skim mozzarella, it is probably made of regular pasteurized milk.
But authentic Italian mozzarella was not made of cow’s milk. In Southern Italy, mozzarella was made of water buffalo’s milk. What makes buffalo mozzarella different from regular mozzarella?
Mozzarella di bufala is mild and juicy. It has a creamy texture and a slight sourness that gives it that distinctive kick. Buffalo mozzarella is fresh and more watery than the cow’s milk kind. But it has more calcium and protein and has lower cholesterol than cow’s milk.
Can You Use Mozzarella Di Bufala for Making Pizza?
Original Neapolitan pizza is mainly made from mozzarella di bufala. Since it is creamier, softer, and more flavorful, it makes pizza taste even better. The higher fat content increases the meltability of the cheese.
Since most buffalo mozzarella is watery, using it to make pizza will give you soggy results. To make pizza out of buffalo mozzarella, you have to use wood-fueled outdoor pizza ovens that produce more heat.
Some companies are also producing low-moisture buffalo mozzarella, but they are not as common. If you can find some, you can easily use them to make any type of pizza you want.
4. Whole-milk, Part-skim, or Skim Mozzarella?
People are often confused about what kind of mozzarella they should use for their homemade pizza. Those who are concerned about their health and looking for healthy pizza ideas would want to opt for part-skim or skim milk mozzarella. Does the fat content make much of a difference?
Which mozzarella you consider mostly depends on your preference and the effect you are trying to get. Whole-milk mozzarella melts better due to the fat content. Skim mozzarella browns better but dosen’t melt well.
If you are cooking on high heat for longer, use whole-milk mozzarella. This will ensure that the cheese doesn’t get too overdone.
Another problem with skim mozzarella is that it becomes rubbery with heated. The more cheese you layer on, the more rubbery it will become.
Whole milk is the best mozzarella for homemade pizza since it gives better results. If you still want to go for a lower fat option, opt for part-skim mozzarella.
5. Which Mozzarella to Buy: Shredded, Sliced, or Whole?
Shredded mozzarella is convenient and easy to use. Isn’t it magical how shredded mozzarella doesn’t clump together like the ones you shred at home? This is because of the anti-caking agent that producers add to shredded mozzarella.
The anti-caking agents have cellulose, salts, and other additives. These are extra ingredients that don’t add value and can actually ruin the taste of your pizza. These agents are also added to sliced mozzarella.
Shredded mozzarella is often the cheapest variety in the market. Still try to buy block mozzarella and shred it. Remember that the best shredded mozzarella for pizza is one you shred at home.
The best way to shred mozzarella cheese is by using a handheld grater. Since it’s solid and soft, it will shred with little effort. If you are using fresh mozzarella, you can just tear it into bits.
6. How to Choose the Right Brand
What is the best brand of mozzarella for pizza? This can be a bit of a trial and error for first-time home chefs.
When looking for the best mozzarella cheese brand, we have to consider two factors: What is in it and how well does it perform when added to pizzas?
Here are two tips to help you choose the best brand of mozzarella cheese for pizza when browsing through the store.
Check the Label
The ingredient label is a crucial thing to review when choosing the best mozzarella for homemade pizza. Non-shredded, whole milk mozzarella is the best you can use. Look for mozzarella made from organic and grass-fed cow’s milk. If buying organic make sure it is USDA certified.
Try to find a brand of mozzarella that uses as many natural ingredients as possible. The cheese shouldn’t include GMOs, MSG, harmful hormones like rBST and rBGH, and antibiotics.
Even better if you can find one without added sugar, trans fat, gluten, artificial ingredients, unnecessary additives, and animal rennet.
Especially when buying fresh mozzarella, choose one that is made from four basic ingredients: milk, vegetable rennet, citric acid, and salt. Even if it has a shorter shelf life, it will be of much higher quality.
Look and Texture
When buying fresh mozzarella, avoid buying one that is chalky white. Fresh mozzarella is pearly white in color. Since it is fresh, it will have a high moisture content. The texture should be elastic, and when melted it should stretch, not break off like scabs.
Low moisture mozzarella has a creamy color, with a pearly glow. It has a denser consistency and a more intense flavor. Expect a more elastic texture and a higher sodium content. Once melted it should create an even layer that is thick and stretchy.
If you are buying smoked mozzarella, it will have a brownish outer layer. It has a woody and earthy flavor and might have even lower moisture content.
7. Mozzarella for Pizza Based on Different Ovens
Making pizza at home is difficult. You have to knead the dough for quite a while to get it to the right consistency. Little mishaps can mess up your pizza. However, nothing is more unacceptable than your pizza getting messed up due to the mozzarella.
One part that home chefs don’t know is that you have to match the mozzarella with the oven. If you are not using the right cheese in the right oven, you will get poor results. So here’s how you choose mozzarella based on your oven.
Best Mozzarella for an Outdoor Pizza Oven
The earliest pizzas were made using masonry ovens made out of brick or stone. These pizza ovens are gaining popularity once again as more people are creating outdoor kitchens in their yard caves.
Outdoor pizza ovens are often the best kind to use for making homemade pizza. This is because an oven needs to be super hot when making a pizza. If the oven is heated to the right temperature, it doesn’t take long to make your pizza.
You can either make or have one made out of bricks in your backyard. The other alternative is cheaper and more convenient: buying a portable outdoor pizza oven. You get a variety of fuel options including wood, coal, propane, and even wood pellets.
The best part about these dedicated pizza ovens is that you can use any good-quality mozzarella to make pizza in them. You can use both fresh and low moisture mozzarella in these ovens.
A wood-fueled pizza oven can easily get to 700-900 degrees Fahrenheit, able to cook a fresh pizza within minutes. This evaporates the extra water released from fresh mozzarella quickly, without making the pizza crust soggy.
Best Mozzarella for Regular Home Ovens
Pizza is supposed to be cooked on high heat. The problem with your regular home oven is that its maximum temperature ranges from around 550-600 degrees Fahrenheit. This is why it is better to use low moisture mozzarella for your regular home oven.
If you still want to use fresh mozzarella for your homemade pizza, consider doing the following things.
- Give your fresh mozzarella a good squeeze. Since it is spongy, this will release some of the retained fluids.
- After ringing it out, slice them or tear them apart. Lay them out on unscented paper towels. These can soak up some of the remaining fluids.
- Since you will have to turn your pizza in your home oven midway through the cooking process, add the fresh mozzarella to your pizza at this stage. This will give it enough time to melt without releasing lots of liquid so that your pizza crust doesn’t get soggy.
8. Choosing Mozzarella Based on Pizzas
Which mozzarella you choose to use will also depend on the pizza you are making. Here are a few common pizzas and the type of mozzarella you should use to make them.
The Best Mozzarella for Neapolitan Pizza
Neapolitan pizza originated in Naples, Italy. This simple pizza has a super-thin crust and uses minimal ingredients like raw tomatoes, basil, and olive oil. No other fancy topping is added, saved for mozzarella cheese to shine.
According to Italian quality standards, you should only use Mozzarella di Bufala or Fior di Latte, which is a mild mozzarella made from cow’s milk.
You can use any good quality mozzarella, but try to ensure that it is made from full-fat milk. This will add the creaminess your Neapolitan pizza needs to support the flavors of the other ingredients.
The Best Cheese for New York Style Pizza
New York-style pizza has a slightly thicker crust than its Italian cousin. The crust is about ¼ to ⅛ inch thick but gets thicker around the edges.
Since these are made in general gas ovens, the fire doesn’t burn as hot as it does in wood-fueled masonry ovens. The thick crust will get soggy if fresh mozzarella is used.
This is why Americans came up with low-moisture mozzarella. This denser cheese is dry and packs more flavor. New York-style pizza is blanketed with a heavy layer of shredded dry mozzarella. Once cooked, the mozzarella melts and creates a thick layer that stretches when the slices are pulled apart.
Another reason why low-moisture mozzarella is used is because of delivery time. Most pizzas in the city are enjoyed after being delivered right to your doorstep. Using low-moisture mozzarella ensures that no extra water is released while the pizza is out for delivery.
Best Mozzarella for Chicago Pizza
Chicago is famous for its deep-dish pizza. These are pizzas with a thick crust with even thicker edges that contain a deep layer of other ingredients. You cannot use a high moisture cheese for these pizzas, because when the extra water is released, it will flood the pizza.
So the best mozzarella for Chicago pizza is the low-moisture variety, mostly because the entire pizza has to be loaded with cheese. If the cheese releases too much water, it will mess up the flavor and density of the pizza. The majority of other American pizzas use dry mozzarella.
9. Making Fresh Mozzarella at Home
If you are thinking of using fresh mozzarella for your homemade pizza and don’t trust cheese companies when it comes to making an amazing pizza pie, consider making your own mozzarella at home. You can make homemade mozzarella with a few simple ingredients and steps.
- 4 liters of whole milk (use pasteurized but not homogenized milk)
- 1½ teaspoons of citric acid
- ¼ tablet of vegetable rennet (make sure to dilute it in 30ml potable water)
- 1 tablespoon of kosher salt
- Add milk to a large stainless steel pot. Whisk well to spread out the butterfat. Add the citric acid and mix until fully dissolved.
- Put the pot on the stovetop and heat it at medium-low temperature. Make sure to stir every few minutes to prevent any milk skin.
- Pour in the rennet and stir for 30 seconds until combined. You will notice that the milk will start to curdle into small clumps.
- Reduce the heat and continue heating until the liquid whey that is released until it comes up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove from heat and let it stand for at least 10 minutes.
- Place a thin cheesecloth over a strainer and place it atop a bowl. Strain the curds into the strainer. Wrap the cloth around it and give it a slight squeeze to release retained whey.
- Add your salt to the liquid whey and stir well. Move 1/3 of the whey into a heatproof bowl and set it aside.
- Boil the remaining whey over high heat. Place one portion of the curd into a heatproof bowl and add enough of the hot whey to completely cover it. Wait for 20 seconds or until the curd is sticky and soft. It should easily clump together.
- Do the same with the remaining curds.
- Fold the clumps into three separate masses. Take one of the masses and make it into a C shape.
- Push your fingers into the curd, putting in enough pressure to prevent any large bubbles. keep making it into a C shape, looping it again and again, then shape it into a ball.
- Leave the mozzarella balls at room temperature and let them rest for half an hour. Eat them fresh.
10. Best Substitute Cheese for Mozzarella
Don’t know what to use for your homemade pizza when you don’t have mozzarella? Don’t worry, there are plenty of mozzarella substitutes you can use.
One cheese that works as a great replacement for dry mozzarella on pizza is Provolone. This cheese is quite mild and has a slight sweetness. If you like your pizza to smell cheesier, provolone is the perfect replacement for you. It will create a nice stretchy layer when heated!
Creamy burrata makes a great replacement for fresh mozzarella in pizzas. It is both creamy and stringy, but it will release some liquid.
If you like flavorful cheesiness in pizzas, you can use light Cheddar, young gouda, or scamorza. All three work as great replacements for low moisture mozzarella but will add a sharper flavor.
Finally, if you are looking for vegan options, consider using vegan mozzarella. It can be made of cashew or cassava root. Sometimes it is made from more modified ingredients, so check the label before buying.
The best mozzarella for homemade pizza really depends on your preference. Fresh mozzarella releases more water, so it is only used for Neapolitan pizza or any other type that is usually cooked in high heat.
If you are cooking in an outdoor pizza oven, use fresh mozzarella made from buffalo or cow’s milk. For your usual home oven, use low moisture mozzarella. These are dry and don’t release water that will make your crust soggy.
When choosing a good brand, check the label thoroughly. Try to avoid pre-shredded or sliced mozzarella, since they have unnecessary additives. We hope these tips help you make the most delicious pizza at home.