There are so many different types of Parmesan cheese on the market these days, it can be hard to know which one is the best.
This comprehensive guide will help you choose the right Parmesan cheese for your needs. We’ll discuss what to look for when buying Parmesan, as well as some of the most popular brands on the market.
So whether you’re looking for a brand name Parmesan or an artisanal variety, we’ve got you covered!
Which Parmesan cheese is best?
When it comes to Parmesan cheese, there are a few things you need to look for. The most important thing is the quality and producer of the cheese.
If you have the budget, never settle with the imitation parmesan. Generally, make sure it’s:
- Imported from Italy
- Dotted letter embossed on the rind with name, data, and the seal.
- Rated “Top Grade”
- Labeled “Parmigiano Reggiano” not “Parmesan Cheese”
- Ingredients are just milk, salt, culture, and animal rennet.
- With the official logos and consortium fire-branded (See images below).
Real parmesan cheese is made with unpasteurized raw milk with only basic ingredients. It has a high-fat content and retains most of its natural flavor without getting destroyed under high heat by pasteurization.
Each wheel of parmesan will be inspected by The Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano, a consortium for parmigiano reggiano.
The cheese will be rated and stamped with top/medium/reject grades. The cheese can then be sold with icons and logos. Therefore, look for the brands with the following:
The Brand of Parmigiano Reggiano
Some of the awards-winning Parmigiano Reggiano brands in the last year are Azienda Agricola Grana D’Oro, Latteria Collina, and Caseificio Rosola. But you may not easily find them in the United States here.
Therefore, the brand of real Parmigiano Reggiano you can find are:
- Latteria Soresina
- Il Giardino
- Società Agricola Saliceto
Other popular brands you probably heard of include iGourmet, Kirkland Signature, Frank and Sal, Olio and Olive, and Murray’s.
What age Parmesan is Best? most expensive?
The typically Parmigiano Reggiano ages are 12, 18, 24, and 30 months. And, most of them are ranging at about $18-22 per pound. If you prefer the older one, Emilia Food sells the 48 months Parmesan at about $28 per pound – which is more expensive.
The 12 and 18 will have a slightly milder flavor than the 30-month-old.
You may also find other varieties, such as the Vacche Rosse (Red Cow) or the Bruna Alpina cow slightly more costly. Or the 24 months organic version at about $30 per pound on Amazon.
The price fluctuates between age, brand, variety, and demands. Read why parmesan is so expensive.
An auction of 21-year-old Parmigiano Reggiano Wheel for charity took place in Spain at a minimum bid of approximately $3500 – 4x the price of a regular $900 wheel and easily the most expensive parmesan!
So, which one is the best age? It actually all depends on your taste preference and how you want to use it.
However, most of the award-winning Parmigiano Reggiano falls in between 24-39 months for its peak flavor. So, looking for those within the range would be ideal.
How to Pick?
The first thing when you go shopping for Parmigiano Reggiano, look for the words “Parmigiano Reggiano” on the dotted rind. If it’s not there, it’s likely not the real thing!
Likewise, the logo, fire-brand, and Italy-made sign. If the words “Parmigiano Reggiano” are crossed out, meaning it’s a medium grade.
Also, make sure the cheese is hard and dry with a slightly granular, crumbly texture. You should find the white spots or crystals. The color should be straw yellow to golden, sometimes with a reddish tinge. Avoid any cheeses that are overly glossy, moist, or swell.
The outside of the wheel shouldn’t have surface splits, erosions, and worn edges.
Then sniff the cheese – it should have a nutty fragrance (not ammonia or vomit smell). And finally, taste a sample of it! It should have a sweet and nutty flavor with a slight umami aftertaste.
What about Grated / Shredded Parmesan?
Look for the one made without additives. Many of the commercial brands such as Kraft and Milano’s contain non-dairy ingredients such as cellulose, modified corn starch, potassium sorbate, or natamycin. They might then label it with misleading information as “100% parmesan”, read Insider.
These fillers are used as preservatives, anti-clumping agents, anti-fungal, etc.
I would recommend to buy a real parmesan and grate it fresh yourself. Also, you can use 4C grated Parmesan instead, which is a better alternative with just the basic ingredients. However, it is also much more (4-5 times) pricier than the regular ones.
The best Parmesan cheese is the one that you like the taste of. Try out different brands and varieties to see which one you prefer, and on a comfortable budget. Some people might like a stronger flavor, while others might prefer a more mild flavor. It all comes down to personal preference in the end.
Do you have a favorite brand of Parmesan cheese?
What brand of Parmesan cheese is best for Alfredo? Pasta?
Most of the good brands can do just fine, just make sure you are using the real parmesan – Parmigiano Reggiano.
The Aged Parmesan cheese will have a deeper flavor than young cheese. So for dishes like Alfredo sauce, you’ll want to go for an aged variety for imparting more umami flavor in your pasta, I would specifically suggest 24 months or above for that reason.
Alternatively, you can use the Parmesan rind too.