The Secret to Crumbly Cheddar: Is It a Flaw or a Flavor Win?

  • Cheddar cheese crumbles due to its low moisture content and tight protein structure, particularly in aged or extra-sharp varieties.
  • The “Cheddaring” process, unique to cheddar, involves repeatedly cutting and stacking curds, which reduces moisture and contributes to its crumbly texture.
  • Moisture content plays a crucial role, with hard cheeses like cheddar containing less water than soft cheeses, making them more prone to crumbling.
  • The age of the cheddar significantly affects its crumbliness; mature cheddar, aged longer, is more crumbly compared to mild cheddar.
  • The crumbliness of cheddar is a blend of its moisture level and aging process, with aged cheddar being firmer and more prone to crumbling due to lower moisture content.

Does Less Moisture Equal More Crumble?

It’s important to understand moisture content before exploring why cheddar crumbles. Generally, cheeses with less moisture tend to be crumblier.

This applies to all varieties, as water content plays a significant role in cheese texture. The lower the water percentage, the greater the likelihood of a crumbly texture developing.

This also explains why some cheeses are classed as hard cheeses, whereas others are soft cheeses.

Of all the fermented foods, cheese is by far the most complex and the one that offers the greatest range of flavors and textures – Laura Werlin

There’s certainly more to the story! While moisture content plays a key role, most hard cheeses like cheddar typically range from 36% to 43% water.

In contrast, soft cheeses like brie or mozzarella boast a much higher water content, often exceeding 50%. Regular mozzarella, for example, sits around 60%.

So, water content explains part of the cheddar crumble, but there’s more to consider.

What is the “Cheddaring” Process

Cheese production involves curdling milk, which separates it into solid curds and liquid whey. Cheddar specifically undergoes a process called “cheddaring.”

This involves repeatedly cutting and stacking the curds, which contributes to its unique texture. And it is the curds that will form the “brick” of cheese.

I confess I am a cheese addict – Elisabeth David

The curds are cut into tiny squares and then stacked over and over again for a specific period.

The curds must be kept at an even temperature throughout this process, which mustn’t exceed 100F.

This will ensure that moisture is reduced in the cheddar while keeping the taste and texture even.

A knife is then inserted into the block to check if the curds have a glassy texture.

If so, the curds are ready to be stacked and then pressed with weight.

The process is repeated until a block of cheddar that we are accustomed to seeing is formed.

However, the more often that the cheddar is pressed with weight, the more moisture will be removed.

And as you now know, the less moisture in the cheese, the more crumbly it will be.

How to Separate Curds From Whey

What is the Difference Between Mild and Mature Cheddar?

Now, you may have noticed that some varieties of cheddar appear to be more crumbly than others.

This has to do with how long the cheese is aged.

In effect, the longer a cheese is aged, the more moisture will be removed, and therefore the more crumbly it will be.

So, a mild cheddar is quite immature in terms of aging, so it will have less “bite”, thus producing a milder flavor.

Plus, you’ll generally notice that mild cheddar has far less of a crumble to it.

With that being said, a mature cheddar is aged for much longer.

A mature cheddar can even be aged for up to 12 years.

And you’ll notice that mature cheddar is usually much more crumbly than a mild cheddar.

Furthermore, the crumbliness (or lack) of a mature cheddar will give you an idea of how long it has been aged.

In general, a mild cheddar will have been aged for 2-3 months, whereas a mature cheddar is aged for 16-24 months.

But, don’t forget, some extremely crumbly mature cheddar varieties have been aged for much longer.

My Final Thoughts

So, as you can see, the crumbliness of cheddar cheese (and any cheese for that matter) comes down to how much moisture there is in it.

The less moisture, the more likely a cheese is to crumble.

This is why soft cheeses aren’t crumbly at all, as they have a much higher water content.

Furthermore, the more aged a cheddar cheese is, the crumblier it will be.

This is why you’ll typically notice that a mature cheddar cheese is more likely to crumble than a mild cheddar cheese.

While we are on the subject of the texture of cheese, have you ever wondered why melted Cheddar goes oily?

Have you found that certain textures of cheddar work better for specific dishes or cooking methods?

Let us know in the comments below!


Q: Why does cheddar cheese crumble?
A: Cheddar cheese crumbles due to its low moisture content and tight protein structure, especially in aged or extra-sharp varieties. Aging reduces moisture, making the cheese firmer and more prone to crumbling.

Q: What is the “Cheddaring” process?
A: The “Cheddaring” process is specific to creating cheddar cheese and involves repeatedly cutting the curds and stacking them over and over again. This process reduces moisture while maintaining the cheese’s taste and texture.

Q: What is the difference between mild and mature cheddar?
A: The main difference lies in the aging process. Mild cheddar is aged for 2-3 months, resulting in less crumbliness and a milder flavor. Mature cheddar is aged for 16-24 months or even up to 12 years, making it more crumbly with a stronger flavor.

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