For a cheese to melt it needs a protein structure that stretches in the frying pan or under the grill. Halloumi contains a tightly knit three-dimensional network of milk proteins that hold fast during cooking.
The cheese is made by coagulating milk into lumpy curds, which are scooped out and pressed to remove the remaining liquid. The dry curds come together when they’re heated at up to 90°C in purified whey, then the resulting cheese is sprinkled liberally with salt.
The heating step is the secret to halloumi’s heat resistance, causing protein networks to retract and strengthen. The heat and salt also kill acid-forming bacteria that could weaken the cheese’s structure. Halloumi is therefore less acidic than melting cheeses.
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Asked by: Andy Mackintosh, Dundee
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Dr Emma Davies is a science writer and editor with a PhD in food chemistry from the University of Leeds. She writes about all aspects of chemistry, from food and the environment to toxicology and regulatory science.