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The Best Supermarket Burrata
Mozzarella's creamier, more glamorous cousin might just be the wow-factor cheese you need for your next dinner party.
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What You Need To Know
Imagine a tender ball of fresh mozzarella. Now imagine slicing it open to find a luscious, thick cream teeming with plush bits of curd. This offshoot from mozzarella is called burrata, and it's made in much the same way as mozzarella: Milk and rennet are cooked until the curds (solids) separate from the whey (liquid), and then the curds are stretched into a creamy round ball. Burrata has one additional step: Just before the ball is twisted and sealed, it's stuffed with a mixture of mozzarella curd and cream. It's a showstopper of a cheese that is often served simply with bread or cured meats and split dramatically at the table.
Unlike many Italian cheeses such as Parmigiano-Reggiano and mozzarella—both of which can trace their production back to at least the 16th century—burrata is a relatively new invention. Cheesemakers in the Puglia region of southern Italy started making it in the early 20th century as a way to use up the bits of cheese left over from production of fresh mozzarella. They traditionally wrapped the final product in the long green leaves of asphodel (Asphodelus albus), a plant native to the Mediterranean. The leaves helped indicate freshness: Green, bright leaves meant the cheese was fresh, while dry or browning leaves suggested that it was past its prime.
Burrata remained a regional delicacy scarcely found outside of Puglia until about 1950, when cheese factories began to make it on a larger scale for distribution across Italy. Then, in the late 20th century, small, artisanal cheesemakers in the United States started producing burrata; large manufacturers including BelGioioso and Calabro eventually followed suit.
We wondered if we could find a good-quality burrata at the supermarket, so we rounded up four nationally available products, priced from $3.80 to $6.50 for 8 ounces. We sampled each plain at room temperature, as burrata is meant to be served, and in our Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Salad with Pangrattato and Basil.
A Distinct Shell Plus Filling
There were clear physical differences in the burratas. Some had a hefty outer shell that held a soft center of thick, slow-oozing filling, while others seemed ready to burst at the slightest touch, immediately gushing out a wave of loose curds as soon as we sliced into the paper-thin shell. One shell was so delicate and flimsy that it practically dissolved into the filling once the burrata was sliced.
These textural differences can be created in a number of ways: Cheesemakers can adjust the amount of cream used, the amount of mozzarella, and/or the size of the curds added. Tasters favored burratas with a more substantial shell. They also preferred fillings tha...
Everything We Tested
“Oh my god, this is mozzarella from heaven,” said one taster about this “buttery,” “rich” product. This burrata was singled out by tasters as the “creamiest” and “saltiest” of the bunch. It had a distinct shell, with a “balanced” amount of “thick” filling, which helped the cheese hold its own in salad.
Another product with our tasters' ideal ratio of shell to cream, this burrata was “soft without being overly watery” and had a “pillowy” texture and “sweet dairy flavor” tasters enjoyed. The inside was “tender” and “stringy,” with “distinct” pieces that sat pleasantly atop salad.
This burrata was “creamy” and “luscious,” with a “mild,” “milky” flavor. The filling was on the thinner side, and while it produced a satisfying gush when we first sliced into the cheese, it was a little “watery” in salad. A few tasters also thought it was a bit “underseasoned” because of its lower sodium content.
Recommended with reservations
From the outside, this burrata's slick, shiny shell looked substantial, but once we sliced into the cheese it practically melted away, ultimately resembling “ricotta, not burrata.” Its flavor was “mild” and “fresh,” though a bit “bland” for some tasters because of its low sodium. Its filling was “soft” and “stringy” but on the “thinner” side.
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