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Sodium citrate in pizza cheese mixes

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4 replies to this topic

#1 ryansm

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 09:12 AM

Hi all,

While doing some research on pizza making, I came across some ingredient lists for chain pizza shops that include sodium citrate in their cheese mixes. It appears that the citrate is added to the shredded cheese along with the anti-caking agents and preservatives, not as an ingredient in the cheese itself.

Here are some examples:

Papa Gino's:
Mozzarella cheese (pasteurized milk, cultures, salt, enzymes), Aged cheddar cheese (pasteurized milk, cultures, salt, enzymes), romano cheese (sheeps milk, rennet, salt), oregano, natural flavors, salt, sodium citrate, sodium propionate

Papa John's:
Part-skim mozzarella cheese (pasteurized milk, cultures, salt, enzymes), modified food starch, powdered cellulose (added to prevent caking), whey protein concentrate, sodium citrate, sodium propionate (added as a preservative)

I'm familiar with using citrate in making reconstituted or melting cheeses, a la Modernist Cuisine, but I've never seen it used this way. Does anyone have any insight into this? Does the citrate as they're using it contribute to better melting or a different texture? Could it play a different role? Is this something that could actually improve the pizza and be adapted for home use, or is it a way of compensating for the handling/storage of (likely) cheap cheeses that chain pizza stores use?

Anyway, this was new to me and I was curious about it, so I'd appreciate any thoughts or information anyone has!


#2 Paul Bacino

Paul Bacino
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Posted 07 February 2013 - 01:48 PM

The answer may lie within:

Its good to have Morels

#3 ryansm

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 02:03 PM

Paul, good find! Nothing stimulates the appetite like reading a patent about industrial food processing written in legalese!

So after reading that patent filing and some similar ones, it does seem that the sodium citrate helps the fluidity and melting of the cheese, and it seems to enable the cheese to be used on pizza directly out of the freezer without thawing (not too sure about that last part, I'm not interested in it, so I just skimmed it). The patents mostly seem to be about ways to apply the sodium citrate to frozen cheese, and nearly all of them are filed by Leprino, who supplies cheese to both Papa John's and Papa Gino's, the examples I listed above.

Curious to know if anyone has any firsthand experience with this. The concentrations they use in the filings vary wildly, ranging (from what I can tell) from 0.17% to 2%. If not I may do some experimentation when I make pizza this weekend.

#4 IndyRob

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 03:22 PM

For comparison purposes, I believe that MCAH calls for 2.8% of the combined cheese and liquid weight for their cheese sauces.

Although I've just started playing with sodium citrate and cheese for sauces, I find the mere suggestion of getting it anywhere near cheese meant for a pizza distinctly evil.

I freeze grated cheese all the time and don't have any problems with it when thawed. If, as the patent seems to suggest upon a quick skimming, you're topping a pizza with frozen cheese, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG. ;)

#5 ryansm

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 03:44 PM

Haha, well as blasphemous as it may be, I'm gonna play around with evil this weekend. I'm really only interested in the potential textural enhancements/differences. Definitely not looking for anything like a sauce, but maybe just a tad smoother melt and maybe avoid that slab-of-tile effect the cheese can have when cools. I'll probably try with a few different %s of sodium citrate to see the effect of various concentrations.