It’s also expensive. It’s $20 per pound at my local Whole Foods Market and runs for up to $35 per pound at a nearby specialty shop.
At Costco, you can buy Kirkland brand Parmigiano-Reggiano for a mere $10.99 per pound.
If you love cheese and you love a bargain—and who doesn’t?—should you buy Parmigiano-Reggiano at Costco?
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How to Tell if Parmesan Cheese Is the Real Deal
Before I tasted the cheese for myself, I reached out to Marcello Turini at the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano. The consortium has an important job: ensuring that manufacturers follow exacting standards and a recipe that has changed little in some 900 years.
Because the Consortium represents all producers of Parmigiano-Reggiano, they couldn’t comment about Costco (or any other brand) specifically. However, Turini did give me a few tips for buying authentic cheese. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Look for the name “Parmigiano-Reggiano.” Imitators often call their cheese “Parmesan” or “Parmezan.” As we learned when we tried an assortment of supermarket options, some taste good but none can match the nuanced flavor and delightfully crystalline texture of the real deal.
2. Examine the rind. “The main clue is on the rind,” said Turini. The dotted word “Parmigiano-Reggiano” is stamped into the rind and it’s easy to spot on big wedges or hunks of the cheese.
3. Look for the logo of the Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium. The logo—which features an upright wheel of Parm next to a wedge—is often printed on the packaging and on signs or flyers near the cheese.
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Is Costco Parm Real Parmigiano-Reggiano?
When I examined the hunk of Kirkland Parmigiano-Reggiano that I bought at Costco, I was delighted to see what Turini had mentioned.
- Parmigiano-Reggiano on the packaging? Check.
- Parmigiano-Reggiano stamped on the rind? Check.
- Consortium seal on the packaging? Check.
I also spotted the DOP logo, which signals that a product has been produced according to regulations set forth by the European Union for specific foods.
Another bonus: The label indicates that the cheese had been aged for 24 months, which is at the long end of what Torini said shoppers can usually find in America.
What Does Costco Parmesan Taste Like?
Now it was time to taste the Kirkland Parmigiano-Reggiano. For comparison, I tasted it next to a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano from my local grocery store and a wedge of “Parmesan” I bought when it was the only option at the store where I was shopping.
The Parmesan was so sweet and waxy, it was in a category of its own.
The Kirkland was on par with the other grocery store Parmigiano-Reggiano. The dense, crumbly cheese was flecked with big, crunchy crystals of the protein tyrosine. It was also complex—distinctly sweet, slightly nutty, and pleasantly fruity. A hallmark of Parmigiano-Reggiano is a deep, intense savoriness, and this cheese delivered.
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So, Is Buying Parmesan from Costco Worth It?
Yes! This is a high-quality cheese at a great price.
The only potential downside to buying Kirkland Parmigiano-Reggiano is that the wedges are huge. The smallest piece I could find at my local Costco was more than 1.5 pounds. Because it’s a hard and fairly dry cheese, it will last for several weeks in the refrigerator. For best results, we recommend wrapping it first in parchment paper and then with aluminum foil. A zipperlock baggie is the next-best option.