Photo courtesy of Edlong Corporation.
Feta. Parmesan. Romano. These ethnic cheeses may add flavor adventure and authenticity to global dishes, but at times can be economically and functionally challenging to use at the levels necessary to deliver the greatest impact.
Anne Druschitz

“The use of these cheeses in meat applications provides a unique flavor and richness that transforms an ordinary protein into a global culinary tribute,” said Anne Druschitz, corporate research chef, Edlong Corp., Elk Grove Village, Illinois. “Using cheese and dairy flavors in ground meat matrices – with real identifiable pieces of cheese – helps boost upfront cheese flavor impact and prolong the expected savory cheese aftertaste while keeping nutrition and cost optimization goals in focus.” 

Druschitz provided formulating suggestions for the development of flavorful, eye-appealing comminuted meat products, such as trending gourmet meatballs and sausages. Other applications include comfort foods, such as meatloaf, and convenient frozen foods, such as cordon bleu or similar “stuffed” chicken entrees. Druschitz makes the following suggestions when working with cheese:

  • To save on cost, real cheese ingredients may be reduced anywhere from 15 percent to 50 percent without negatively affecting cheesy flavor impact by adding premium authentic dairy cheese flavors to the meat matrix.
  • Include some commodity cheese in the meat matrix for visual appeal. Crumbly cubes of feta or gooey strands of mozzarella give consumers an enticing preview of the taste experience they are about to enjoy. 
  • Identify the right combination of commodity cheese and cheese flavor for a specific application. This will maximize flavor impact while minimizing loss and improving consistency during and after cooking.
  • Consider using more than one flavor to achieve a desired profile. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box in terms of global and regional cheeses. For example, if challenged with replacing a commodity parmesan cheese that has aged fruity or nutty notes, a Swiss cheese flavor like Gruyere or Emmental may have a more concentrated source of the flavor notes that are missing. Layering flavors is a great way to achieve a unique profile that is aromatic and impactful to taste.
  • Background notes are often critical to a regional flavor profile, especially when working with stronger-flavored protein sources, such as beef or lamb. Milk, heavy cream, butter and even processed cheese flavors may provide a more general dairy character on which to build the overall flavor of the product using characterizing herbs and spices.
  • Don’t forget, by removing commodity cheese, the amount fat and salt is in the formulation is reduced. This may alter texture and mouthfeel. It might be necessary to incorporate dairy modulating flavors that provide mouthfeel to replace some of that richness. Some flavors provide desirable sweet or salty taste without contributing any sugar or sodium to the Nutrition Facts.