If you’re a cheese lover, you know that Parmesan cheese is one of the most beloved types of cheese in the world. Known for its sharp, nutty flavor and crumbly texture, it’s used in everything from pasta dishes to salads and even as a topping for popcorn.
But with so many different types of Parmesan cheese out there, how do you know which one is the best? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the top contenders for the title of “best Parmesan cheese in the world.”
What Makes Parmesan Cheese So Special?
Before we dive into our list of top picks for the best Parmesan cheese, let’s first take a moment to appreciate why this type of cheese is so special. For starters, authentic Parmesan cheese (also known as Parmigiano-Reggiano) can only be produced in certain regions of Italy using strict traditional methods. This means that every wheel of Parmesan is made by hand using high-quality milk from cows that have been fed a specific diet.
The aging process is also an important part of what makes Parmesan cheese so unique. After being formed into wheels and salted, each wheel undergoes a lengthy aging process (at least 12 months but often up to 36 months or more). During this time, enzymes break down the proteins and fats in the cheese, resulting in its distinctive flavor and texture.
Top Picks for Best Parmesan Cheese
1. Parmigiano-Reggiano: Let’s start with the obvious choice – authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy.
This type of Parmesan has been produced using traditional methods for centuries and is known for its rich flavor and crumbly texture. It’s also typically aged for at least 24 months (but often longer), giving it a complex flavor profile that’s hard to beat.
2. Grana Padano: Another popular type of Parmesan cheese is Grana Padano, which is also produced in Italy using traditional methods.
While it’s similar in flavor and texture to Parmigiano-Reggiano, it’s typically aged for a shorter period of time (around 12-24 months). This makes it a great choice if you’re looking for a slightly milder flavor.
3. Parmesan from Wisconsin: While it may not be produced in Italy, there are some excellent Parmesan cheeses made right here in the United States.
One standout is the Parmesan cheese made by Wisconsin cheesemakers. These cheeses are often aged for at least 18 months and have a sharp, nutty flavor that rivals their Italian counterparts.
4. Pecorino Romano: Technically not a type of Parmesan cheese, Pecorino Romano is another popular Italian cheese that’s often used as a substitute for Parmesan in recipes. It’s made from sheep’s milk rather than cow’s milk and has a saltier flavor that pairs well with bold flavors like garlic and red pepper flakes.
How to Choose the Best Parmesan Cheese
When it comes to choosing the best Parmesan cheese for your needs, there are a few key factors to consider. First and foremost, look for authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano if possible – these types of cheeses are produced using traditional methods and are often considered the gold standard when it comes to Parmesan.
Next, pay attention to the aging process – while some people prefer younger cheeses with milder flavors, others enjoy the complexity of an older aged cheese. If you’re unsure which you prefer, try sampling different types of Parmesan at your local cheese shop or grocery store until you find one that suits your tastes.
Finally, consider the source of the cheese. While Italian Parmesan cheeses are often considered the best, there are some excellent American-made versions available as well. Look for cheeses made by reputable cheesemakers who use high-quality milk and traditional aging methods to ensure you’re getting the best possible product.
Whether you prefer authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy or a locally-made American version, there’s no denying that Parmesan cheese is one of the most delicious and versatile types of cheese out there. With its rich flavor and crumbly texture, it’s a must-have ingredient in any cheese lover’s kitchen. So go ahead and try out some different varieties – who knows, you may just discover a new favorite!