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Why Goat's Milk Can't Be Made Into Mozzarella

By Cook's Illustrated Published

We get to the bottom of why goat cheese is soft but not stretchy.

Goat cheese gets its distinct flavor from the presence of short- and medium-chain fatty acids found in goat's milk. We are so sensitive to these fatty acids that we can detect many of them at concentrations around 5 parts per million, allowing us to easily distinguish between goat's milk and cow's milk.

Flavor aside, we wanted to dig deeper into how the type of milk influences the texture, color, and richness of a cheese. To that end we procured raw cow's milk from Lawton's Family Farm in Foxboro, Massachusetts, and raw goat's milk from The Herb Hill Micro Dairy in Andover, Massachusetts, and made a mozzarella-style stretched cheese from each.

Experiment

We used an identical recipe for both the goat's milk and cow's milk, based on precise temperatures and pH. We added thermophilic cheese culture to 82-degree milk, which we ripened at 90 degrees until the pH dropped. We added liquid animal rennet, stirred, and let the milk coagulate. We cut the mass into curds, let them ripen in the whey, drained them, cut them, and stretched them in whey at 175 degrees.

Results

For the cow's milk: We noticed that after coagulating, some fat escaped from the milk and rose to the surface of the whey. The final curds easily stretched to over a foot and resulted in a springy, off-white, mild-tasting mozzarella.

For the goat's milk: We didn't notice any fat on the surface of the whey after coagulating. The final curds stretched up to 6 inches, but broke if pulled any further. The mozzarella was soft, pure white, and tasted distinctly of goat milk.

It's a Stretch: Cow's Milk vs. Goat's Milk to Make Cheese

We made mozzarella with cow's and goat's milk and, due to the unique properties of each milk, found big differences in their ability to stretch.

  • Cow's Milk Mozzarella

    Our mozzarella made with cow's milk was able to stretch well over a foot and developed a springy consistency.

  • Goat's Milk Mozzarella

    The mozzarella made with goat's milk was softer than the cow's milk mozzarella and was barely stretchable at all.

Takeaway

Goat's milk differs from cow's milk in a few important ways. Unlike cow's milk fat, the fat in goat's milk doesn't flocculate (or separate from the rest of the milk and rise to the surface). This helps explains why the fat stayed in the curd mass for the goat's milk, but separated in the cow's milk. A compound found in fat is also the culprit for the color difference. Goat's milk fat, unlike cow's milk fat, does not contain carotene (the compound that makes carrots orange) so the milk (and cheese) remains pearly white.

What about the stretching ability of the cheeses? Here things get a bit more complicated. The important milk protein when it comes to cheese making is casein. Goat's milk contains less casein (2.1 to 2.4 percent by weight) than cow's milk (2.6 to 2.7 percent by weight), and that small difference has a big impact on the milk's ability to coagulate into a firm gel. In addition, the goat's milk we used was a mixture from three different breeds: Nubian, Toggenburg, and LaMancha. Research has shown that some goats lack a functional gene for a certain form of casein, alpha-s1-casein, which can affect the curd-forming properties of their milk. Milk from Nubian goats contains higher levels of alpha-s1-casein (and is therefore thought to make better cheese) than milk from Toggenburgs. We suspect that using all Nubian goat's milk would result in a mozzarella that could stretch more similarly to the cow's milk mozzarella. The cow's milk we used came from a herd of mostly Ayrshire cattle with a few Holsteins—both breeds with a long history of milk production for quality cheese making.

Taste Test Goat Cheese

Why do some goat cheeses boast creamy texture and a bright and lemony taste, while others are chalky, gamy, or—worse—utterly flavorless?

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JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.