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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.


Published July 1, 2018.

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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...

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