Who doesn’t love cheese? Well ok, maybe not everyone is devoted to scoffing hunks of creamy brie or crumbly cheddar, but even those who claim not to be lover of cheese, still chow down on some of these delectable delights, in one form or another.
Cheese is everywhere, from pizza to poutine - you can’t hide from its oozy melted goodness. With more cheese than you can poke a proverbial mozzarella stick at on restaurant menus, in supermarket products, and lurking in the fridge door, it is safe to say; we love cheese.
Cheese as we know it though, is a far cry from the product accidentally created by storing milk in the stomachs of cows and sheep (yuck!). These animals have an enzyme know as rennet, which is used as part of their digestive process to break down grass. In cheese making, this enzyme acts to acidify the milk and separate the curds from the whey.
Modern cheese making is thankfully much more sanitary, and although some traditional cheese-makers still use animal-based rennet, most use a synthetic enzyme to do the job of curdling the milk into cheese curds. This is great news for vegetarians!
With so much to love about this simple yet delicious food, it graces our tables in some truly amazing forms. Unfortunately, there is always a ying to the yang, and cheese has been subjected to some truly questionable things. Here you will find the very best, and the worst, things to happen to cheese.
20 Best: Pizza With Mozzarella
Let’s start with everyone’s favourite, the Italian classic; pizza. So simple yet the sight, smell, and taste of a piping hot pie, covered in melted mozzarella is something to behold. From the most basic of pizzas - the margherita - to one laden with more processed pork products than Miss Piggy would be happy about, the appeal is universal.
Traditionally, mozzarella is made from the milk of buffalo, and gets its characteristic stringy melting qualities thanks to the high protein and fat content. Bubbling from the ferocious heat of a wood-fire oven, this sweet and mild cheese is perfect for creating harmony between the acidic tomato sauce, toppings, and crisp base.
In the mood to create your own slice? Try some of these epic Friday night pizza recipes.
19 Best: French Onion Soup
When it comes to food, the French can do no wrong. If it wasn’t for their dedication to fromage, we would not have the range of complex and interesting cheeses to choose from.
To the untrained eye, French onion soup may appear to be all about the onion. But in fact, it is the cheese that is the star of this rich and flavourful dish. Not just any cheese, it must be pungent, nutty Swiss Gruyere cheese, melted to perfection atop a thick slice of baguette. Without this floating island of cheese, it would just be an onion soup. It is the complex cheese flavours that meld perfectly with the sweet cooked onions and savoury stock: perfection.
18 Worst: Cottage Cheese
Augh. There are no other words for this grainy, insipid, bland cheese. Technically it is a cheese, however it possesses none of the qualities we love about this food group. Not only does it look unappealing, the texture leaves a lot to be desired. Wet and chunky all at the same time, it hardly has us running to the fridge to slather it on a cracker.
A long-time favourite of dieters and health food fanatics for its high protein and calcium content, it's been linked to increased weight loss. So, it does serve a purpose. Just not for people that actually enjoy cheese.
17 Best: Cheese Platter
The king of cheese dishes is none other than the humble cheese platter. A simple board bursting with cheese from all corners of the globe. From the French heavy weight, Triple Cream Brie to England’s toe-curling Stilton, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
Creating the ultimate cheese board should not be a thing to fear, keep it simple and eat what you love. Throw away the rule book and forget cheese snobbery, pile up the crackers and invite your besties, because the real reason we love cheese platters so much is the excuse it gives us to drink wine on any night of the week.
16 Best: Baked Brie
The holy grail of melted cheese, a whole wheel of brie. Imagine the moment you take it from the oven, bubbling around the edges and oozing in the centre, ready for scooping up with good French bread.
Slicing the top rind away, tucking it in to some parchment paper and foil before 10 minutes in the oven for silken, tasty cheese dip. The toppings are endless: cranberry and pistachio, walnut and dates, or keep it simple with a drizzle of honey and you are transported to a Parisian bistro. Yum!
15 Worst: String Cheese
The invention of string cheese dates back to the 1970’s, which might explain a lot. A plastic-like substance that pulls apart to make a stringy substance. I realise there are many who have fond memories of these nestled in a school lunchbox, next to that apple that was never going to get eaten.
There are plenty of you reading this, guilty of pinching a stringer from the fridge whilst you cook dinner for the kids. I get it, you’ve had a busy day, meetings ran long, and someone stole your lunch from the communal fridge at work - but you should want more for yourself. String cheese is made from our beloved mozzarella. Squashed into a plastic tube, turned into a rubbery stick which is completely tasteless. Here we see a classic example of using good cheese, for bad.
14 Best: Cream Cheese Frosting
Carrot and red velvet cakes are classics for one reason: cream cheese frosting. Incredibly thick and indulgent, this creation of the baking world is held in high regard for not only its tangy flavour, but its ability to bring structural integrity to a towering layer cake. Once set, this frosting will hold anything in place, and it is this feature that gives it its special flavour as well.
The firm texture of this frosting comes from the cream cheese, a soft cheese made with cows’ milk and cream, giving it a high fat content. Lactic acid, similar to those used in the manufacture of yoghurt, give cream cheese its characteristic slight sour note which balances the sweetness of baked goods perfectly.
13 Best: Cheese Soufflé
All hail the cheese soufflé. This wobbling tower of barely holding together egg whites and just melted cheese is best left to the experts. We all know that attempting something this dramatic at home is fraught with danger.
Soufflé’s are the crown jewel of any chef. The timing must be perfect to ensure a golden top without over-cooking the filling, risking the dreaded post-oven collapse. Wait staff must be standing at the ready the moment they are done or risk the wrath of the chef left holding a deflated specimen. Not only do they look impressive, the whipping and baking process allows the cheese flavours to be released and trapped within the tiny air bubbles, creating an intensely cheesy flavour and aroma for the lucky diner.
12 Worst: Poutine
Firstly, let me apologise to my Commonwealth cousins. This odd, although comforting dish is something that holds national pride for Canadians. A large serving of potato fries, doused in gravy and dotted with squeaky cheese curds is the classic dish, and as with anything classic, there are now many variations to tickle your fancy.
The combination of fries covered in hot, salty gravy is a schoolyard staple. It all goes wrong with the addition of white cheese curds. Barely belonging to the family of real cheese, these bland blobs create a gut busting combination. This is not a dish to eat whilst wearing your skinny jeans. If you must indulge in this over-the-top combination, don your best stretchy active wear and be prepared for a post-nosh nap.
11 Best: Mac n' Cheese
From fine dining to comfort food, there is nothing cheese can’t do. Who could deny the irresistible allure of starchy pasta smothered in gooey cheese sauce, golden and bubbling straight from the oven. Of course, the sides are highly prized, with crunchy nuggets to be had, you have to be quick lest they disappear. The soft oozy middle is just as delicious, filling and comforting with a tinge of salt to wake up the taste buds.
Whilst it may seem a simple task to create a scratch recipe worthy of going back for seconds, it is no easy feat. The cheese sauce must be just the right consistency, or it will become thick and stodgy, the pasta just under cooked to ensure it holds up to the boiling hot sauce. It is a delicate operation, however, one well worth the effort.
10 Best: Queso Dip
What’s not to love about a spicy bowl of melted cheese with corn chips. A Mexican appetiser fit for any occasion. Nothing brings people together more than fun, tasty food, and this one hits the spot.
What makes this dish so appealing is the use of spices such as chili, cumin and a pinch of cayenne pepper. The hot cheese sauce with its velvety texture, is the perfect way to tone down the heat without losing any flavour. Spice it up, keep it warm and you will have everyone coming back for more. Just keep a careful eye out for the sneaky double-dipper. You know who you are!
9 Worst: Fondue
The seventies gave us great music, political change and some interesting fashion. Sadly, it was not a decade known for its culinary masterpieces. With this hippy generation too busy saving the world and finding themselves, there was little time left for real cooking.
Unlike its Mexican counterpart, whose primary purpose is to be tasty and filling, the Swiss fondue takes perfectly good cheese and wastes it. Properly made fondue should be brimming with expensive hard cheese such as, wonderfully sharp Gruyere and nutty Emmental (Swiss cheese). Once melted down, dinner party guests attack with gusto, slathering skewered pieces of bread, bland vegetables and meat with the sauce. This is a terrible injustice for years of maturation and flavour development. Leave the Gruyere and Emmental for the cheese platter, where they belong.
8 Best: Grilled Cheese
There is nothing better on a cold winters' night than sitting down to binge watch your favourite Netflix shows, with the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. With its roots firmly cemented in childhood dinners, the grilled cheese can be a nostalgic trip down memory lane.
Crunchy bread, slathered in butter and stuffed full of cheese melted to oozing perfection, this is comfort food at its best. In recent years we have seen a renewed love affair with this home staple, with fast food restaurants and food vans dedicated to the craft. However, the best ones are made in your pjs while waiting for the next episode to load, check out these hot tips on making the best grilled cheese along with 10 recipes you have to try.
7 Worst: Cheese Spread
With the convenience of sliced cheese abundantly available, one wonders what the point of cheese spread is. Removing the lid, dirtying a knife, the risk of tearing a hole in your soft fresh bread doesn’t seem worth the effort, when you can simply place a slice of cheese.
If it is a flavour argument you might be building in defence of this glowing orange, unnatural jar of ‘food’, save yourself the trouble, as the same sacrilegious offering is also available in sliced form. With mayonnaise and mustards galore in the condiment aisle, there really is no excuse for hiding a jar of this in the back of the fridge.
6 Best: Blue Cheese
Only true cheese lovers can affirm this one. With its pungent smell and spicy flavour, blue cheese is polarising to say the least. It most certainly sits comfortably in the love it or hate it class. Like a heavy red wine, blue cheese is something that must be slowly worked up to, start with a mild Gorgonzola Dolce if you are firmly in the hate it camp.
If it doesn’t make your nose hairs curl, it most likely isn’t ripe enough! With so many wonderful blues to choose from, there is something for everyone. If the smell of wet socks turns you off, try eating it straight from the fridge, drizzled in a bit of honey to acquire the taste. Not only is it an essential component on any respectable cheese platter, it makes some wonderful recipes as well. From a refined Stilton sauce over gnocchi, to blue cheese dressing, this sophisticated cheese transcends culinary boundaries and offers a complex punch to any dish.
5 Worst: Mozzarella Sticks
If string cheese wasn't bad enough, we have found a way to make them worse. Essentially the same product, this time disguised in a thick coating and deep fried to a dark golden brown. Inside lurks a molten stick of mozzarella, just waiting to attach itself firmly to the inside of your lip and cause a burn you will regret for the rest of the week.
The first one, dipped in marina or ranch dressing can be nice, however without a hoard of hungry diners to help you, the remainder will go cold quicker than you can blink, and you are left with a plate of rubbery projectiles that could be used in the office nerf gun.
4 Best: Cheesecake
Cheese and cake. Surely there can be no better combination. As with our love of cream cheese frosting, we can’t get enough of this incredibly rich and indulgent dessert. Purists will proclaim it must be baked, however any cheesecake is amazing.
The balance of the salty crumb with the sweet tangy filling is baking and cheese perfection all rolled into one. The sweet version of cheese and crackers, the possibilities are endless, from a simple fresh fruit topping to these wild cheesecakes everyone should try.
3 Worst: Cheez Whiz
Let’s start with the obvious. There is no actual cheese in this product. A quick scan of a popular brands' ingredient list will prove this to be true. If we glaze over the lack of cheese, the color is the next highly offensive characteristic to jump out and assault the senses.
With ingredients including waste products from making real cheese, this is most certainly scraping the bottom of the barrel. According to statistics, thankfully sales of these products are on the decline with fussy Millennials demanding real cheese!
2 Best: Smoked Cheese
Who remembers the smoking craze that swept through the culinary world in 2016? It was the biggest food trend of the year, revisiting traditional flavours of fire, smoke and charcoal. It produced some interesting dishes, it also took hold of some that should have probably been left alone. Smoked salad anyone?
Smoked cheese though, has been around for years, and for good reason. The smoking process imparts unique flavours and aromas both to hard and soft cheeses. Cold smoking ensures the cheese does not melt during the process and create a huge fondue at the bottom of the smoker. The Dutch love smoked cheese and their version, made with Gouda (pronounced “How-da”), is delicious. Smoked in brick ovens over hickory chips, the brown rind is edible and imparts a strong smoke flavour. Perfect paired with a beer.
1 Worst: Savoury Meat Cheesecake
Bologna cheesecake. Firstly, it appears cheese and cake can in fact be a failing combination. Where to even start with this disaster of monumental proportions. A layered monstrosity containing thick slices of deli meat, held together with our beloved cream cheese and decorated with rosettes of cheez whiz.
Looking at this is like watching an episode of Worst Cooks in America. You know it won’t end well but you can’t look away. There really are no words for the true horror this imparts on anyone who should cross its path.