Halloumi How-to

After a couple of written and oral comments on Doug’s Halloumi post, I’ve decided to provide our (very few) loyal readers with a more detailed description and explanation on how to prepare this wondrous treat.

1. Purchase halloumi cheese

This may seem like the obvious first step (unless you’re a Cypriot shepherd who makes this unpasteurized cheese using his own sheep’s and goats’ milk), but it is unfortunately not a simple one.

The cheese isn’t so obscure to Westerners as to be impossible to find, but it can certainly take some hunting.

I’d sometimes buy it at an Israeli store near my old apartment, but it had a slightly different texture than the version Doug and I have taken to eating most often, purchased at Union Market (see below).  I’ve also found it at Garden of Eden, a gourmet grocery store that has locations in the tristate area.  A Cypriot/Greek cheese, it’s used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, so try looking somewhere that may carry such specialty items.

2. Heat your skillet before putting the cheese in

Put the skillet over medium heat while you cut up your cheese.  You want the skillet to be hot before you put the cheese in as it helps the cheese crisp up and brown nicely.

You do NOT need to put anything on the skillet. No butter, no olive oil.  Nothing. The cheese will brown in its own brine.

I’d recommend using a non-stick skillet so that you don’t have to worry about complications in flipping the cheese.

I don’t have a hard and fast rule as to how hot the skillet should be before putting in the cheese, although you can always flick a few drops of water into the skillet to see if they sizzle up and evaporate.  If they do, your skillet is definitely ready.

3. Cut halloumi cheese into ~1/4″ slices

You’ll want to cut them pieces into slices thick enough to grill.  Halloumi’s melting point is higher than most cheeses’, which allows you to grill it neatly.  If the slices are too thin, though, they may fall apart as you try to flip them.  I’ve found that slices that are about 1/4″ thick (say, the width of a pinky) work well.

Don’t worry if the slices break in half when you cut them (as mine did–you can see the breaks in the images below). If they do break apart, they should do so with a clean cut–so when you grill it, just piece the two halves together neatly.  They should melt together enough that they’ll stick to one another.

Sliced halloumi

~1/4"

4. Put the halloumi slices into the skillet

Once you put the slices into the skillet, lower the heat to medium-low.  This allows the cheese to soften up and get warmer.  After a minute or so, raise the heat back up to medium heat and let them sit a minute or so longer.

As the cheese warms, you’ll see it begin to release liquid (depending on the brand you purchase, you may have a lot of liquid or very little liquid).  It will begin to brown around the edges of the cheese as the cheese grills.  You can monitor how brown the cheese is getting by lifting it up with a spatula every so often, but don’t mess with it too much.

Getting those halloumi slices grilled.

5. Once the first side is brown, flip the halloumi

Flippin' away!

6. Let the second side grill

You don’t need to lower the heat for the second side–leave it on medium heat.  It should brown more quickly than the first side.

Here, you can see the break in my halloumi slice and how the piece stuck together regardless.  You can also see some of the liquid released by the cheese as it grilled.

Beautifully browned.

7. Once the second side browns, remove from skillet and enjoy immediately

Grilled halloumi is meant to be eaten warm.  It becomes gummy and rubbery if left to cool.  It also should not be reheated.  So grill what you plan to eat and eat what you grill.  That shouldn’t be hard, considering how delicious grilled halloumi is–if anything, you’ll want to grill more.

Recommendations 

Halloumi can be eaten with just about anything, I’d say. But I also love just about every type of cheese with just about any meal.  I will say that I’ve had some exceptional, exquisite meals that combine halloumi with foods that compliment its salty deliciousness.

Figs

Halloumi tastes wonderful with fig jam.  I would eat grilled halloumi with fig jam spread on a daily basis if I wouldn’t be liable to clog my arteries in the process.

Eggs

A classic.  Try poaching an egg and placing it atop grilled halloumi.  I had this combination with roasted red peppers and zatar pita at Cafe Mogador.  It was divine.

Salad

Something about Israeli salad, comprised of red peppers, green peppers, yellow peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, and carrots, seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, makes me salivate like no American salad ever has.  Throw in some cubes of grilled halloumi? My soul might just melt in a way halloumi cheese can’t.

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