Why Do Mozzarella Sticks Explode? (Explained!)

Let’s face it, we’ve all bitten into a freshly cooked mozzarella stick and had molten, gooey cheese explode everywhere!

In fact, it can be quite dangerous, as the cheese gets extremely hot.

And as mozzarella sticks are typically deep-fried, they can even explode in the pan.

So, why does this happen, what is the science behind melting cheese?

Why does mozzarella, in particular, have a tendency to explode?

Is there a way of stopping the sticks from doing this? 

Does the size of the mozzarella stick make a difference?

Let’s head for cover and take a look at the facts!

For the best results, mozzarella sticks should always be cooked from frozen at not too high a temperature, otherwise, they can explode. Cooking them for too long can also cause the cheese to leak out. Allow the mozzarella sticks to rest for a minute before biting into them. If cooking them in the microwave, poke a hole in them with a toothpick to avoid them exploding. Once the mozzarella sticks start to crack, they should be removed from the heat source. Because mozzarella is a young cheese and has a high moisture content, it heats up quickly, making it prone to exploding.

What is the Science Behind Melting Cheese?

Before I get specifically into why mozzarella sticks explode, it’s helpful to understand the science behind how the cheese melts. 

It’s a bit complicated, so stick with me!

Essentially, cheese is a combination of protein, fat, and water.

The proteins are called caseins, and when rennet is added to the milk during the cheesemaking process, the casein breaks down and clumps together. 

As they do this, it traps fat and moisture.

When cheese is heated, it breaks down the casein “prison” and allows the fat to escape.

So, that melted, gooey cheese we all love so much is actually down to leaking fat!

The moisture content of cheese also makes a difference. 

So, as regards mozzarella, it has a moisture content of between 45% and 52%, which quickly turns to steam when heated.

The combination of broken protein molecules and hot steam causes the cheese to melt quickly and evenly.

Perfect for a mozzarella stick! 

What Are the Factors That Affect Mozzarella Stick Explosions?

Let’s look at the different factors that, when all added together, could cause a mozzarella stick explosion!

Surprisingly, not all mozzarella has the same melting point and texture. 

Primarily, there is the better quality fresh mozzarella and then the so-called cheaper pizza mozzarella.

Typically, mozzarella sticks are made from the less expensive option, which has a lower moisture content and is more solid.

This ensures that the sticks retain their shape and melt easily.

But, of course, because this type of mozzarella melts quickly, it can explode in a short space of time.

An alternative would be to use fresh mozzarella, but realistically, it wouldn’t give that melty stringiness we are looking for; it is better used in salads.  

The next important factor is the temperature at which you cook the mozzarella sticks.

Put simply, if it’s too hot, there is more likely to be an explosion.

And that applies no matter which method you use, whether it be in oil, an air fryer, a microwave, or in the oven. 

The cheese will heat up too quickly.

In fact, once you see a crack start to appear in your mozzarella sticks, they should be removed from the heat source immediately. 

And above all, always cook them from frozen, otherwise, the center will cook too quickly and explode, before the breadcrumbs get their nice crispiness.

My Thoughts

  • Using a pizza mozzarella rather than the fresh option will ensure your cheese has the right amount of moisture content
  • Don’t cook the mozzarella sticks at too high a temperature
  • Or cook them for too long
  • Always cook the mozzarella sticks from frozen
  • For your own safety, allow the sticks to cool slightly before biting into them

It may take some experimentation to find out how to cook your mozzarella sticks for the best results.

Let me know if you have found a way to stop them from exploding!

And, on a similar subject, please read about whether it’s a good idea to microwave mozzarella.

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