Here's the thing about string cheese: It is to be strung, then rhythmically whipped into the mouth. It should never be chomped straight from the stick. People who think otherwise are not to be trusted.
String cheese is the ultimate "play food;" it's been providing entertainment straight from the brown bag for ages. The reason it strings? The temperature at which mozzarella is heated -- a fiery 140 degrees -- realigns the milk proteins, which transforms the cheese solid into tearable strands.
All string cheese should string, but there are a few crucial factors that separate the good from the bad. Quality string cheese tears in both thick and thin strands; some should be as fine as hair. String cheese should be stretchy, with enough malleability to lasso a drinking straw or a finger, should one be inclined.
Then there are the "lap hairs" or "runaway wisps." These are the tiny little cheese pieces that detach from the string and fall onto your lap, the table or in between the keys of your computer. They get all dry and crunchy, and they're so thin they're almost translucent. When discovered -- usually a few hours after eating a cheese stick -- they offer a salty punch that one usually experiences in private (you should never be seen eating a wisp off your sweater, but you should definitely save it to stick on your tongue when nobody's watching).
We tested 11 different string cheeses and graded them on these factors. The results were surprising and we strung a lot of cheese. Read all about the scores below, but first, please answer the poll about your personal cheese-stringing method.
WORST: Nice! Mild Cheddar Cheese Stick
WRONG. This cheese stick is an impostor and it makes us mad. If you read its label closely, you'll notice the omission of the word "string" because it is not string cheese, but a cheese stick. You can only pick off a tiny piece off at a time. Perhaps you are meant to bite directly into the rectangular monster, but as mentioned before, that is a sacrilegious way to consume a cheese stick. Don't show your face around here again, stick. Grade: No.
Frigo CheeseHeads Superstring Natural String Cheese
This string cheese is no fun at all. It's kind of wet and it doesn't string -- the pieces just separate. It's runt-of-the-litter string cheese. Grade: D
Trader Joe's Light String Cheese
There's a minimal stringiness in this lightened-up stick. It's piecey and gummy and is more of a strip cheese than a string cheese. Grade: C-
Trader Joe's Organic String Cheese
This cheese is thick, a little clay-like. It definitely strings, but it doesn't offer any of those satisfying itty bitty stringies. Good enough. Grade: C
Trader Joe's String Cheese
Yes, another basic string cheese product from Trader Joe's. This one is appropriately stringable but not particularly hairy. It gets the string cheese job done and it's neat -- you won't need to worry about cleaning up any messy lap hairs. Grade: B-
Organic Valley Stringles Organic String Cheese
This stick is smooth. It's a crooked stringer -- the strands do not string evenly, but thin out as you peel. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it will leave you with a carrot-shaped stick. Grade: B-
Horizon Organic Mozzarella String Cheese
This stick has great stringability -- one small dig with a fingernail gets the cheese stringing. You'll see a few cheese hairs, but more thicker strands. This is a totally acceptable string cheese. Grade: B
Kraft Polly-O String Cheese
Oh what a joy! This cheese strings into very thin, hair-like strands. Tiny threads fall from the cheese, which forces you to be more patient and playful. Grade: B+
Super A String Cheese
Oh, oh this cheese is super stringy with delightful hairs -- and no split ends! In other words, you'll get those fine stringy pieces from start to finish. This is nice. The stick itself is rubbery in a good way. Grade: A-
Nice! Natural String Cheese
Moist, stringy and tender, the more you fiddle with this cheese, the more it strings. It's playful and stretchy -- so you can go a little crazy without breaking a strand. Nice! indeed. Grade: A
BEST: Polly-O Twists, Mozzarella & Cheddar String Cheese
A work of art. Perfect and fun. The stick is effortlessly stringy, and results in curly, rubbery ribbons. It seems important to say that this cheese was the driest of the bunch. What does it all mean? Grade: A+
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