Cheese Curds Are Better Than Mozzarella Sticks

Chain restaurants are finally starting to add cheese curds to the menu.

Being from the Midwest, I have some strong feelings about cheese. I can't picture life without it. Salty, fatty, and tangy—basically, a perfect food. It comes in a million varieties, and can function as almost anything, from a topping to a main ingredient. But Midwesterners take things to the next logical level: we deep-fry it.

Not all forms of fried cheese are equal, however—and in the battle of deep-fried cheese goodness, cheese curds beat mozzarella sticks, hands down. Yet the latter is still the default fried cheese option on most restaurant menus. Why? Isn't it curds' turn to take the national spotlight?

Why fried cheese curds are superior to mozzarella sticks

Mozzarella sticks have one big problem: a lack of variety. By definition, they must contain one particular variety of cheese, a rather mild one at that, and it's almost always served up in the same damn breadcrumb coating. Marinara is always on the side for dipping, because mozzarella and marinara are natural partners. And as soon as that order of mozzarella sticks hits your table, you've got to eat them immediately, because those suckers have about three minutes before their gooey, stretchy centers turn into straight-up pencil erasers.

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Cheese curds, meanwhile, are the youngest form of cheese, and their smaller, lumpier format lends itself well to a variety of coatings, including tempura batter, panko, or other types of breadcrumbs. As such, they pair well with many different dipping sauces. The base cheese itself can vary, too—it's usually cheddar or colby—which automatically makes it more interesting than a mozzarella stick. That, and there's more equilibrium between fried exterior to melty interior making each bite feel more indulgent.

Admittedly, curds do suffer the same chewy fate as mozzarella sticks once they cool off, but they're in a big pile, meaning the ones underneath the top layer stay warmer longer, as opposed to mozzarella sticks, each of which have cool air circulating nearly all the way around them in the basket.

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My love of fried cheese curds hardly places me in the minority. More restaurants are catching on to the fact that the state of Wisconsin shouldn't have all the fun.

Fried cheese curds are popping up on more restaurant menus

Those of us within a stone's throw of a Culver's know that chain restaurants' cheese curds can be a joy; you can even cobble together a Midwest poutine with all Culver's ingredients. A&W and Dairy Queen both feature curds, too. Buffalo Wild Wings features them on the appetizer menu, Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers offers them as a side, and Long John Silver's, deep-fried-fish extraordinaire, just brought back its Wisconsin White Cheddar Cheese Bites for a limited time.

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Restaurant Business reports that cheese curds are also starting to make their appearance on the menus of up-and-coming chain restaurants like Lazy Dog, and they're even expanding beyond restaurants altogether. Tillamook has brought its own cheese curds to select Regal theaters through November 20. (Side note: I tasted these very curds at a Tillamook press event earlier this year, and I can confirm they're very good.)

It always takes chain restaurants years to catch up on things we already know are delicious. Now, instead of a plain basket of six uniform mozzarella sticks, more people will finally have the option to order a heaping pile of crispy, melty cheese curds. The choice is clear, isn't it?

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