Parmesan Cheese 101

The best way to choose, store, and grate Parmesan cheese.

The best way to choose, store, and grate Parmesan cheese.

Nothing beats the spicy, nutty flavor of authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano. Always buy a wedge with a piece of the rind attached; this way, you can see the signature imprint stamped on the rind and know that you are getting what you're paying for.
Some American-made Parmesan cheeses costs about half as much as Parmigiano-Reggiano, and in test kitchen taste tests, are acceptable substitutes for the real deal. We don't recommend using the boxed powdered stuff under any circumstances; it is made from inferior cheese and usually contains additives.

Keep your Parmesan tightly wrapped in butcher's paper, waxed paper, or plastic wrap and store it in a drawer in the refrigerator. If eating as a table cheese, allow Parmesan to come to room temperature before serving. If you want grated Parmesan, buy a whole piece, grate it yourself, and store it in the freezer or refrigerator, in an airtight container, for about 3 weeks; our taste tests concluded that for cooking applications, there is little difference between freshly grated and pregrated Parmesan that has been handled well (after 3 weeks, the pregrated cheese begins to suffer in flavor and texture). And don't throw away the rinds-they add body and flavor to soups and stews.

A simple vegetable peeler is good for shaving curls of Parmesan into salads and vegetables and even on steaks. For fine grating-which most recipes call for-the small holes of a box grater work well enough, but the test kitchen prefers a rasp-style grater, which produces light, feathery strands of cheese with very little work. Our favorite is the Microplane grater.

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