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Saganaki is a Greek appetizer which is made by frying or broiling cheese. Like other Greek appetizers or meze as they are known in Greek, saganaki is designed to be consumed in small amounts, as part of a large spread of small dishes. There are a variety of ways to make saganaki, ranging from frying the cheese in a traditional frying pan known as a sagani to broiling the cheese in the oven.
In Greece, saganaki is typically made with traditional Greek cheeses, which tend to be both very aromatic and salty. These intense cheeses are well suited for frying; people outside of Greece can use feta, a traditional Greek cheese, but they can also experiment with cheeses like Parmesan and mozzarella. Other Greek cheeses which are used to make saganaki include: mizithra, kefalotiri, and manouri. Especially soft, runny cheeses are not recommended, as they will fall apart in the cooking process.
When prepared in the traditional way, saganaki is fried in a sagani and served in the same frying pan, to retain the distinctive golden crust. Consumers cut off small chunks of the cheese, and they may sprinkle it with lemon juice or consume it straight. Cooks who do not want to fry their cheese can glaze it with melted butter and then broil it in the oven. In both cases, the inside of the cheese becomes soft and runny, while the outside is crispy, with a crunchy and bubbly outer layer.
Some versions of saganaki involve the use of a simple batter, which is designed to make the cheese even crustier. Cooks may also wrap cheese around other foods, like shrimp, to create a variety of appetizers. In adventurous kitchens, the cheese is soaked in brandy and flambéed, served hot at the table after being extinguished with lemon juice. This type of saganaki is especially popular in North America.
While the thought of fried cheese might not seem particularly healthy, it is important to remember that saganaki is served as part of a much larger spread of foods, including a variety of meze from fried ocotopus rings to stuffed grape leaves. Each diner takes only a small portion, getting a sampling of a variety of foods, and therefore the unhealthy nature of saganaki is mitigated. For cooks who want to hold a meze party at home, it can help to enlist several people to bring appetizers, thereby ensuring a broad spread of items without creating a heavy burden of work for one person.