6 Tips to Choose the Best Parmesan Cheese

grating cheese
Credit: Pexels/Karolina Grabowska

Parmesan cheese is nothing short of a delectable treat you'd wish to sink your teeth into. It is an ingredient of choice for many mouth-watering recipes. It's no wonder -  you'd want to get the most authentic, high-quality, and best cheese out there.

What is Parmesan?

Parmesan is a pale yellow, hard cheese that's made with cow's milk. Its naturally-formed hard rind comes in huge quarter wheels with crunchy crystals. What about the crystals? They form as the Parmesan ages and the insoluble amino acid tyrosine develops into clumps. The ageing cheese goes through a process called proteolysis, which is responsible for its texture and flavour. 

Tips to Choose the Best Parmesan Cheese

1. Look for authenticity (brands)

A few brands consistently produce top-notch cheese. They are exceptionally rated and are award-winning producers. For those looking for authentic parmesan cheese look out for the label "Parmigiano-Reggiano." The specific label of cheese is produced in a specific region of Italy under strict regulations. It’s no wonder, it assures of delivering high-quality Parmesan. 

2. Texture

Parmesan cheese is versatile and has a hard, extremely gritty texture. It looks slightly crumbly, and the tiny granules make it look distinctive. 

3. Taste and smell

If possible, ask for a small sample or taste the cheese before purchasing. High-quality Parmesan should have a rich, nutty aroma and a complex, savoury flavour.

4. Choose the DOP designation

The DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) designation ensures that the product comes from a specific geographic area and is produced using traditional methods. Look for Parmesan with the DOP label.

Plus, you may choose to examine the label for information on the cheese's origin, production methods, and ageing. A high-quality Parmesan will often have clear details about its heritage and traditional production.

5. Have preferences for ageing

Parmesan cheese comes in different ageing categories, such as "aged 18 months," "24 months," or even "36 months." The longer the ageing process, the more complex and intense the flavour. 

6. Prefer blocks and chunks 

Yet another tip is to buy blocks or chunks of parmesan cheese instead of grated because the cheese begins to lose its flavour when it comes in contact with air. The pre-grated versions are processed with non-dairy ingredients (like modified corn starch, cellulose, and so on) and preservatives. Thus, you may prefer to buy Parmesan cheese in larger pieces or whole wheels when possible. 

Ultimately, go for personal taste preferences, which play a significant role in choosing the best Parmesan.