When it comes to buying Parmesan cheese, there are a few key factors to consider before making your purchase. Whether you’re a cheese connoisseur or simply someone who enjoys the occasional sprinkling of this delightful Italian cheese on their pasta or salad, it’s important to know what to look for to ensure you’re getting the best quality and flavor. Let’s dive into the details.

1. Type of Parmesan Cheese

There are two main types of Parmesan cheese: Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano. While both are delicious and have similar characteristics, there are some differences worth noting.

Parmigiano-Reggiano:

  • Made from raw cow’s milk
  • Aged for at least 24 months
  • Has a more intense flavor and grainy texture
  • Slightly higher in price due to its production process and strict regulations

Grana Padano:

  • Made from partially skimmed cow’s milk
  • Aged for at least 9 months
  • Has a milder flavor and smoother texture compared to Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Usually more affordable than Parmigiano-Reggiano

2. Age of the Cheese

The age of Parmesan cheese plays a significant role in its taste and texture. Generally, the older the cheese, the more complex and intense its flavor becomes.

If you prefer a stronger taste, look for cheeses that have been aged for longer periods, such as 24 months or more. However, if you prefer a milder flavor, opt for younger cheeses aged for around 9 to 12 months.

3. Authenticity and Origin

Parmesan cheese is protected by various designations of origin in Italy. The most renowned and authentic type is Parmigiano-Reggiano, which is produced exclusively in certain regions of Italy using traditional methods. Look for the official markings on the rind of the cheese to ensure its authenticity.

4. Packaging

When buying Parmesan cheese, pay attention to the packaging. It’s best to choose cheese that comes in vacuum-sealed or tightly wrapped packages to preserve its freshness and prevent exposure to moisture. Avoid cheese with damaged or loose packaging, as it may have lost some of its quality.

5. Aroma and Texture

A good Parmesan cheese should have a pleasant aroma that is both nutty and slightly fruity. When selecting your cheese, take a moment to inhale its scent.

Additionally, the texture should be firm and crumbly, with small crystalline bits throughout. Avoid cheeses that appear overly dry or have a rubbery texture.

6. Price

Parmesan cheese can range in price depending on factors such as age, quality, and brand reputation. While it’s tempting to choose the cheapest option available, keep in mind that high-quality Parmesan cheese often comes with a higher price tag due to its production process and superior flavor profile.

In Conclusion

When buying Parmesan cheese, consider the type of cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano), the age of the cheese, its authenticity and origin, the quality of packaging, the aroma and texture, and the price. By taking these factors into account, you’ll be able to choose a Parmesan cheese that suits your taste preferences and ensures a delightful culinary experience.