I made a recipe last week from a renowned chef and it called for shredded cheese. In the instructions, it was very specific about grating the cheese on a cheese grater and not using shredded cheese from a bag. Someone asked me why I did that, and I didn’t really know. So I started doing some research and this is what I came up with.
What is the difference in shredded cheese and block cheese?
The main difference is the ingredients.
There are 2 added ingredients in shredded cheese that are not in block cheese.
#1 Cellulose Powder.
Cellulose is a product that comes from cotton and wood pulp….wood pulp… really?
It has become popular in recent years because it has no calorie content and is used in some foods to thicken like ice cream. Companies also add it to diet foods to reduce the volume of food that is packaged. Cellulose adds volume to foods, which gives the appearance of there being more food in a package than there actually is.
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The main reason it is in cheese is to prevent it from sticking together. Cellulose is an anti-caking agent. Cellulose has the ability to absorb moisture and coat ingredients in a fine powder making it the ingredient of choice for anti-caking applications. Shredded and grated cheeses, spice mixes, and powdered drink mixes are just a few of the many food items that take advantage of cellulose as an anti-caking agent.
So why do companies love Cellulose (AKA wood pulp) in food products?
- It stabilizes food
- Decreases fat
- Adds fake fiber
- It’s cheap
#2 Potato Starch
This is the other additive that is found in shredded cheese that is not in block cheese. Potato starch is a starch that is extracted from potatoes. The potatoes are crushed and then the starch grains are released from the destroyed cells. The starch is then washed out and dried to powder. Source
Potato starch is used in wallpaper adhesive and in the process of making paper bags. It is used in shredded cheese to prevent caking and reduce sweating. Wall paper, paper bags, cheese that my family eats…Good deal.
If you are watching your carb intake you may want to shy away from some of these products that are infused with potato starch, seeing that is has 10 grams of carbs per table spoon.
Why we buy shredded cheese?
- Convenience: It is a touch easier to buy a bag of shredded cheese and just pull it out and use what you need than it is to shred a block of cheese and use it. I get it because I do it too. But it is worth a little bit more trouble to avoid the extra additives and fillers that go into the processing of shredded cheese.
- Advantages over block cheese:
- No extra utensil to wash. (You have a dishwasher, correct?)
- No extra time taken to grate it. (About 90 seconds: I know how valuable those 90 seconds are, but I believe you can spare 90 seconds out of your day to keep your 3 year old from eating wood chips.)
- No sticking together. (Grate it when you need it instead of all at the same time to keep it from sticking as much when stored.)
Hope this sheds some light on why its better to buy block cheese over bagged cheese.