String cheese and cheese sticks are two popular snack options that seem quite similar at first glance.
However, there are some key differences between these two tasty treats.
What is String Cheese?
String cheese is a type of cheese that has the unique ability to peel into strings. It is made by taking mozzarella cheese curds, heating them to 140°F to melt the ingredients together, and then stretching and molding the melted cheese into ropes or sticks.
The stretching aligns the proteins in the cheese, allowing it to pull apart into fine strands when peeled. So real string cheese will always be a form of mozzarella cheese. Other cheeses like cheddar do not have this stringy quality naturally.
String cheese is a snack-sized portion of low moisture mozzarella, usually formed into a stick shape around 6 inches long and 1 inch wide. It makes for a tasty on-the-go snack full of protein and calcium.
Key Takeaway: String cheese is made from mozzarella and gets its stringy texture from a heating and stretching process during production.
What are Cheese Sticks?
Cheese sticks encompass any type of cheese that is shaped into a convenient stick form to be eaten as a snack. This includes string cheese, but also snack sticks made from other cheeses like cheddar, Colby jack, pepper jack, and more.
So while all string cheese can be considered a type of cheese stick, not all cheese sticks have the signature stringy texture. Cheese stick varieties that are not made from mozzarella will simply pull apart into chunks rather than peeling into fine strands.
Cheese sticks are often found in school lunch boxes or eaten as a light snack to tide you over. They make for a tasty treat full of protein, calcium, and other nutrients. Just be mindful of added ingredients, as some cheese stick varieties contain extra preservatives, flavorings, or ingredients.
Key Takeaway: Cheese sticks is a broad term for all snack-sized cheese forms, while string cheese refers specifically to the stringy mozzarella variety.
Both string cheese and cheese sticks can make for fairly healthy snack options, as long as you choose reputable brands without too many additives. Here is a nutrition comparison:
|1 oz Serving
|Cheese Stick (Cheddar)
As you can see, calories, fat, and carbs are generally a little higher in cheese sticks made from non-mozzarella cheeses. But protein content remains similar.
So if you are looking for the most nutritious option, traditional string cheese is typically your best bet. However, other cheese stick varieties can still be worked into a healthy diet in moderation.
Key Takeaway: String cheese tends to be lower in calories and fat compared to other cheese stick varieties. But all can provide protein, calcium, and other nutrients.
String Cheese Brands
There are many brands of string cheese available, from mainstream brands like Sargento and Kraft to smaller niche cheesemakers. Here is an overview of some popular string cheese brands:
- Baker Cheese - Specializes exclusively in string cheese and has been perfecting their signature process for over 30 years. They use fresh local Wisconsin milk to make natural string cheese ropes.
- Frigo Cheese Heads - Offers string cheese made from whole milk mozzarella as well as fun string cheese and meat combinations like cheddar and beef or mozzarella and pepperoni.
- Horizon Organic - Organic string cheese sticks in mozzarella and cheddar flavors. Cute cow-themed packaging perfect for kid's lunches.
- Sargento - Huge variety of string cheese flavors including classic mozzarella, sharp cheddar, smokehouse cheddar, and more. No added hormones or flavors.
- Galbani - Diverse line of string cheese with options like whole milk mozzarella, reduced fat, organic, provolone and even lactose-free.
There are lots of reputable brands making great tasting, all-natural string cheese options to suit different dietary needs and preferences.
How to Eat String Cheese
One of the fun things that sets string cheese apart is that you can peel off strings using your hands before eating it. Here are some pointers for properly enjoying string cheese:
- Wash hands first - Always wash your hands before handling any food to remove dirt and germs
- Start peeling from the top - Gently peel down the longest side to release the finest cheese strings
- Don't rush - Take your time peeling strings off bit by bit to enjoy the texture
- Pair with fruit or crackers - For a balanced snack, enjoy your string cheese with some apple slices, grapes, or whole grain crackers
While it's fine to give kids string cheese as a convenient snack, you also want to teach proper handling and washing hands to build healthy habits.
Some people prefer to simply bite right into string cheese. And while it may not be as fun presentation-wise, it's still tasty and nutritious. Do what feels right for you!
Key Takeaway: Peel string cheese by grabbing the top and gently pulling thin strands downward. Pair with fruit or crackers for a healthy, balanced snack.
Can You Melt String Cheese?
Since string cheese is a form of mozzarella, you can certainly melt it. However, because it is a low moisture variety that has been stretched extensively, string cheese melts a bit differently than fresh mozzarella.
When melted, string cheese will get soft and hot throughout but is unlikely to yield that glorious, oozing strand of cheese you see on pizza commercials. The proteins have already been aligned during production, so the oils tend to separate rather than stretch when heated.
So feel free to toss some string cheese in the oven or microwave to make cheesy pulls, baked dishes, etc. But don't expect dramatic elasticity and pooling from this pre-stretched mozz.
Is string cheese healthier than other cheese sticks?
Yes. String cheese made from part skim mozzarella is generally lower in fat and calories compared to cheese sticks made with regular cheddar or other full-fat cheeses. But all can be healthy snacks when eaten in moderation.
Why does string cheese get stringy?
The unique stringy texture comes from stretching out melted mozzarella cheese to align the proteins. This allows the cheese to pull apart into thin, fine strands rather than crumbling.
Can you freeze string cheese?
Is it safe to eat expired string cheese?
It's generally not recommended to eat expired dairy products. However, if the string cheese still smells and tastes normal, looks fine, and has been stored properly, eating it shortly past its date is unlikely to cause illness. But quality and safety decline over time.
Can kids choke on string cheese?
Like any food, string cheese presents a choking risk for young kids if not chewed properly. To reduce risks, cut string cheese into smaller pieces for toddlers. Teach kids to take small bites and chew thoroughly before swallowing.
While cheese sticks are the best from snackable cheese forms, string cheese has the special distinction of referring to mozzarella varieties that peel apart into edible strings. This stringy texture and fun peel-ability set it apart from other cheeses.
String cheese also tends to be lower in fat and calories compared to cheese sticks made from cheddar or other full-fat cheeses. Both make for a tasty, nutritious snack in moderation, providing protein, calcium and other nutrients.