You may remember having string cheese as a snack when you were a kid, which you probably ate in the same method as the rest of the world, pulled apart, string by string, until there isn’t any left. This method of eating string cheese is almost universally regarded as the best way, but why does string cheese taste so much different pulled apart than in one big bite?
The reason it tastes better when it is pulled apart is because of surface area of the cheese, and how your body reacts to the strands versus an actual bite.
The Science Behind String Cheese and Taste
There are 5 distinct flavors that your tongue can detect, being sugars, salts, sours, bitters, and umami. These flavor sensors are key to the experience of eating in general but can be triggered differently with ways of eating.
Most of the way that we taste food is through our noses. The smell of something drastically changes the taste in our mind. There is an old experiment that would be done, where a person with a cold would take a bite of peeled potato and then peeled apple, blindfolded.
The person with the cold wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the potato and the apple because the distinct scent of the apple was gone. The nose is key in determining what you taste and what you don’t, which is why they would taste the same.
In the same fashions, string cheese is different peeled than in a great hunk because peeling it allows for the flavor to interact with the air molecules around you. If you open a piece of hot food, steam will rise and you will be able to see it. Opening string cheese works in the same fashion, except you can’t see the “steam” that rises out of it.
This “steam” is the scent of the string cheese. When you open it before eating it, you are oxidizing the cheese before you lay it on your tongue. This makes the cheese saltier than if you were to eat it without peeling.
The other key reason that string cheese tastes different when peeled is the surface area increases with the pieces of string cheese. When you take a bite out of string cheese that is not peeled, you have a tiny, dense hunk of cheese all concentrated in one area of the mouth.
When you peel the cheese, you increase the amount of cheese that your mouth is touching, amplifying the flavor that you get from the cheese.