How to Make Fresh Mozzarella Cheese at Home

Photo: Institute of Culinary Education

The Institute of Culinary Education is one of the largest culinary schools in the world, offering both professional and recreational programs in New York City. Here, Chef Sabrina Sexton, program director of theirSchool of Culinary Arts,gives PEOPLE her insight into making your own fresh mozzarella cheese – it’s so much easier than you can imagine!

One of my favorite things to teach students is to make mozzarella from scratch. This milky, soft, stretched cheese from Campania is definitely a crowd pleaser. And, fortunately, it’s way easier to make than most people think. To start, you just need mozzarella curd, water and salt—that’s it! You can purchase mozzarella curd at your local cheese shop, Italian specialty shop or even order it online. Or, if you want to get really fancy, you can make your own curd—it only takes a few ingredients and there are a lot of online sources that sell complete curd-making kits. The recipe is below if you want to go all out.

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Making mozzarella couldn’t be easier, just follow my recipe. You do need to keep a few things in mind:

  • Water Temperature: Make sure your water is the right temperature—there should be bubbles on the surface but it shouldn’t come to a rolling boil. If it boils by accident, turn off the heat and wait a few minutes before adding it to the cheese.
  • Don’t Over Stretch: While stretching is the most fun part of making mozzarella, don’t go too far with it. Overstretched mozzarella will be rubbery. Just stretch it for 1-2 minutes, until it feels smooth and not grainy.
  • Salt is Your Friend: What’s listed in the recipe below may seem like a lot of salt, but relax—it’s really just there to give the cheese flavor. You’re not actually eating all that salt; it’s flavoring the water you pull the cheese in.
  • Keep it Fresh: Mozzarella is best when it’s fresh, so you should enjoy it the same day you make it! If you can’t finish it all, though, you can store it in the refrigerator for about a week.
  • Protect Your Hands: The mozzarella can be very hot so to protect your hands from the heat, dunk them in the ice bath before stretching and shaping the mozzarella. You can also wear gloves if you prefer.
Institute of Culinary Education

Mozzarella Cheese
Makes about 1½ pounds
1 gallon (16 cups) water
½ cup salt
2 lbs. (about 4 cups) mozzarella curd, cut into small pieces

1. Prepare the water: Place the water and salt in a large saucepan. Heat the water until bubbles begin to appear on the surface, or an instant read thermometer registers 180° F. Turn off the heat.

2. Heat the cheese curd: While the water is heating, place the cubes of cheese in a large bowl. When the water is ready, carefully ladle the hot water over the cheese until the cheese is covered. Let the cheese cubes sit in the water for about 2-3 minutes without stirring them. After this time, gently stir them with a wooden spoon and look at the curd. If the cheese is heated through, the curd will look smooth (like melted mozzarella) and is ready to be stretched. If the cheese curd is not completely heated through it will look grainy and still have some of the cubes. If so, it needs to sit in the hot water for another few minutes until soft. Keep checking!

3. Stretch the curd: Prepare a bowl of ice for an ice bath. Once the curd is ready, drain the majority of the liquid from the cheese into the bowl of ice to create an ice bath. After submerging your hands into the ice bath for a few seconds (or putting on gloves), working quickly, before the cheese cools down too much, stretch the curd with the wooden spoon until the cheese is smooth and elastic. Lift and stretch the curd to develop a stringy texture. Be careful not to overwork the curd: this will make your cheese heavy and too chewy. As the cheese cools it will begin to stiffen and become harder to stretch. The cheese is ready to be shaped before it cools completely.

4. Shape the cheese: Divide the cheese into two or three pieces and wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap, twisting the ends of the plastic wrap to help the cheese form a round or cylindrical shape. Place the cheese in the ice bath for a couple of minutes, if desired, to help hold its shape.

5. Serve the cheese immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

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Mozzarella Curd
*I get most of these cheese-making supplies online from either The Cheesemaker or Leeners.

1 gallon whole milk (preferably not ultra-pasteurized)
2 tsp. citric acid dissolved in ¼ cup non-chlorinated water
¼ tsp. liquid rennet diluted in ¼ cup non-chlorinated water
1 tsp. kosher salt

1. Place the milk in a large saucepan or small stock pot. Heat the milk over low heat, stirring occasionally. When the temperature reaches 55° F, add the citric acid and mix thoroughly. Continue to heat the milk until the temperature reaches 87° to 89° F. Remove from the heat.

2. Gently stir in the diluted rennet with an up-and-down motion. Allow the milk to stand until the curds form, 15 to 20 minutes. Cut the curds.

3. Once the curds form, reheat the milk slowly to 108° F. Turn the heat off and let the curds stand for 20 minutes while the whey is dispelled. The whey should be clear and the curd should be slice-able.

4. Scoop out the curds and gently press to release the excess whey.

Interested in learning more from Chef Sabrina? Click here for more information about career training programs at the Institute of Culinary Education.

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