Ooey Gooey Pepper Jack Poppers

Fried cheese? Count me in!

This one is pretty straight forward we’re going to fry some cheese! You don’t need much to do that either it’s really simple science and using your head. If you fry cheese by itself it just melts, spreads out in the oil, then starts to burn. To keep it ooey gooey but crispy on the outside we need to make a batter.

The standard batter is flour, eggs, then breadcrumbs. And the goal here is to make a crispy shell on the outside that will still be rigid enough to contain our ooey gooey cheese on the inside once introduced to hot cooking oil.

I like to think of the standard batter as being completed from beginning-to-end in the reverse order from its desired result. What I mean by that is it’s the breadcrumbs that will give us that rigid crispy outer shell… But breadcrumbs won’t stick to the cheese. They WILL however stick to eggs. (ding)

Eggs unfortunately won’t stick to the cheese either. They’ll separate from the cheese and run off as you attempt to coat the breadcrumbs. And that simply won’t do, as even a single hole in the batter and our cheese will escape once it hits oil. Eggs WILL however stick to flour.

And flour, well, sticks to pretty much anything that’s raw or moist. It is for this reason that some cooks will soak what they intend to fry in buttermilk first before a batter it made. And although buttermilk has additional benefits especially when used to pre-soak tender meats, soaking anything in buttermilk creates a surface for flour to stick to.

So in truth you most certainly could soak your cheese balls in buttermilk first. Then dredge in flour, toss in whisked eggs, and finally coat in breadcrumbs before frying.

Now that the science of making a batter is out of the way let’s talk about “using your head” so-to-speak, as I mentioned earlier. Grated cheese has more surface area than smooth cheese, which makes it easier for more of the batter to stick and form up. So yes, you definitely should use grated cheese as you’ll have much more successful results.

The other thing is to freshly grate this cheese yourself from its block form. As I’ve said many times before, pre-shredded bag cheese is coated in cellulose powder in order to prevent the cheese from sticking together in the bag. That’s why it looks so perfect. In other words, shredded bag cheese is designed NOT to stick together! Which of course won’t work here.

Okay so we’ve covered our batter and the cheese, now let’s talk about the oil. I like to use Canola oil as it is inexpensive and has a smoke point of at least 400 degrees. If you want to go higher you can use Avocado oil, but be prepared to pay significantly more.

You won’t need a large pot to fry poppers or fritters, a medium to small sized pot will do. One that will hold 6 Cups is about the right size. You should fill that sized pot with 2 Cups of oil to make a 2″ pool of oil to cook with.

I start my temperature out at medium then raise it incrementally to medium-high to achieve optimal frying temperature for cheese. You don’t want to be below 350 degrees, but above 375 is running a risk of burning your breadcrumbs. To test this I use the back of my hand to feel if there is a fair amount of heat resonating from the oil in the pan (without touching it of course). Then, taking a small pinch of flour just drop a little into the oil. If it sizzles you’re ready to fry.

If your temperature is below 350 degrees you’ll know it because your poppers or fritters will sink to the bottom. And as any good test for weather or not something you’re frying is done; if it’s crispy golden brown and it floats, it’s done. This can be applied to anything that does not contain raw meats or ingredients that will make you sick unless cooked to a specific temperature. But cheese, tater tots, fries, etc. You’re fine.

Ingredients: (Makes 6 Poppers)

  • 4 ounces of block Pepper Jack Cheese (1 cup grated)
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups oil (canola oil has a 400 degree F. smoke point).

Nutrition Facts: (Per 2 Poppers)

  • Calories: 370
  • Total Fat: 28.7g
  • Cholesterol: 153.3mg
  • Sodium: 318.3mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 17.5g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0.7g
  • Sugar: 0.7g
  • Protein: 15.3g
  • Vitamin D: 0%
  • Calcium: 21.3%
  • Iron: 5.3%
  • Potassium: 46mg
  • Vitamin A: 14.7%
  • Vitamin C: 0%

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl whisk two large eggs and transfer to a 1 gallon Ziploc bag.
  2. Grate 4 ounces of block Pepper Jack Cheese (1 cup once grated).
  3. You already have your whisked eggs in one Ziploc bag, you’re just missing your flour and bread crumbs. So ready two more 1 gallon Ziploc bags, one with 1 cup of all purpose flour in it and the other with 1 cup of bread crumbs.
  4. Form grated cheese into six spheres.
  5. Transfer cheese balls to Ziploc bags in order: Flour, then egg, then bread crumbs. I like the Ziploc bags because they bring back the idea of “shake and bake” and it’s so easy to coat without making a HUGE mess that you have to clean later. Just throw the bags away when you’re done.
  6. In a medium sized pot that holds 6 Cups, add 2 Cups of cooking oil to create a 2″ deep pool of oil and bring it up to medium-high heat.
  7. Test your oil after about five minutes with a small pinch of flour. If it sizzles you’re good to go! Remember we’re frying cheese here, not chicken so there’s no need to worry about temperature for health safety reasons.
  8. Fry until crispy golden brown. If some cheese pops out that’s okay just don’t lose too much.
  9. Remove from oil once crispy golden brown and serve. Depending on the number of guests, adjust ingredient amounts accordingly. This recipe serves three people at two poppers each. If you want to serve six, you’ll need to use the whole 8oz block of Pepper Jack cheese.

This appetizer is definitely best served when dipped in heated marinara sauce with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese, or a nice cool ranch dressing!

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