cheese that’s good to fry

The experiment: finding which cheeses are good if you fry them. I used my big giant skillet because I like it best of all the pans in the world. The cheeses tested so far are:

i. red leicester
ii. mature cheddar
iii. stilton & shropshire blue
iv. cheshire
v. camembert
vi. jarlsberg
vii. edam
viii. parmesan

(haloumi got a bye bcz duh: also you have to fry haloumi in a griddle to get the nice stripeyness)

intended method: cut into thinnish slices (a quarter of an inch approx), place on hot surface of skillet, watch melt. see what happens: DOES CHEESE FRY IN ITS OWN OILS?

initial conclusions: at different speeds, all cheeses (except one) liquefy when put on quite high heat, then cook on a kind of omelette principle (temps were adjusted by eye somewhat, to ensure no burning: ie turned down after the initial melting, then back up again for a nice flash effect)… yes, cheese fries in its own oils: you see the shape disappearing, melting into the liquid of itself, then bubbles rising through the lovely white-yellow gunk, then a clear separation of frying oil and denser cheesy matter, the latter frying in the former

when the heat is turned off the results are malleable and semi-liquid still, though the base has browned: as they cool, they tend (with one exception, the same one) to go brittle and crunchy


variables: the early attempts were tested in salads, on the grounds that they were quite like bacon bits (i took them out of the pan with wooden tongs and snipped them into little pieces with kitchen scissors)

secondary discovery: i’m not that keen on caesar salad – my staple salad is:
fresh-leaf spinach + avocado + toasted pinenuts (+ olive oil&balsamic&demerara vinaigrette)


i. red leicester – with retrospect I think a good start, but actually i already knew this toasted well for toasted cheese, so no surprises. Whatever causes its slight rubberiness I think renders down well into oil to fry itself with
ii. mature cheddar – a bit of a disaster, since it is already strong tastewise. Concentrated it is pretty close to uneatable
iii. stilton & shropshire blue – melts and fries nicely, really DOES taste like crispy bacon
iv. cheshire – hmmm, don’t use cheeses that you can’t stop eating before the experiment starts. The lump that actually reached frying point rendered down too small to pass judgment.
v. camembert – the big surprise perhaps. Already semi-liquid, this goes totally runny but retains a definite upper and lower layer, so that the base crisps but the top stays camembert-ish, and the white rind retains its form, as a pleasant cool/bland contrast.
vi. jarlsberg – OK I tried to hurry things along here and attempted vi, vii and viii all in the same skillet, only to discover they have very difft melting points and frying times. Jarlsberg (a quiet cheese I like very much unfried) kind of lost its character – I think in a taste-test I wouldn’t know it from some of the others.
vii. edam – would not melt!! At least, its lower surface did and then formed a protective barrier keeping the upper part liquid but uncooked, giving the least attractive, most gluey consistency
viii. parmesan – somehow retains its granularity and taste even when completely melted and reconsituted!! surely it is the king of cheeses!!

Interim conclusion: frying somewhat reduce the variety of cheese, to be honest. Everything comes out with much the same texture (exception so far: Edam) and a lot of the specific flavour you may like is lost (exception so far: Parmesan). Firmer cheeses seem to produce more run-off oil (i-iv i pretty much had to tip it off into a jar). Normal cookery instinct stops this being “hard science” bcz I can’t stop myself adjusting the temperature the gas-flame is at, according to laws of camarelisation I have apparently internalised.