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The Best Supermarket Parmesan
For a cheese with all the nutty, savory flavor and crumbly, crystalline texture of the original, do the cows really have to eat Italian grass?
Boar’s Head Parmigiano-Reggiano
What You Need To Know
There’s a heated debate raging in the cheese world. On one side, Parmigiano-Reggiano, the so-called king of cheese. Complex, with fruity, nutty, savory notes; a dry, crumbly texture; and a crystalline crunch, this cheese has been made in precisely the same way in northern Italy for the past 800 years. Its adversary? Imitators like Parmesan, Parmezan, Regginito—takes on the classic m...
Everything We Tested
This “robust” Parmigiano-Reggiano was the most aged in our lineup. It earned raves from tasters, who pronounced it “intensely flavorful,” “strong,” and “nutty.” “Piquant,” with notes of fruit and umami, it was “very dry” with a delightfully crystalline texture. In a word: “Delicious!”
Tasters found this Parmigiano-Reggiano to be “more assertive” than its domestic counterparts, with an “authentic tang and nuttiness.” It was “robust” and “pungent,” with “a little funk” that spoke of both “tropical fruits” and “savory mushrooms.” It was “dry and crumbly,” with a “nice crystal structure.”
This was the best domestic Parmesan we sampled, likely because it’s aged twice as long as the four other American cheeses in our lineup. Tasters called it “nutty” and “pleasant,” with a “sweet start” and hints of “caramel” and “butterscotch.” The structure was “crumbly,” though “slightly waxy,” with “a little crystal crunch.”
Recommended with reservations
Tasters picked up on savory, umami notes in this cheese, “like chicken stock.” But it was muted, and in polenta it provided no “clear central cheesy note.” Others compared it to gouda, cheddar, or Swiss cheese. Its “creamy,” “gummy” texture was “too soft.”
This cheese was “slightly nutty,” “briny,” “milky,” and “meaty” but “overall bland.” In polenta, where it melted readily, it didn’t foster any complaints about texture, but tasters noted that it was “soft” and “waxy” when eaten plain. “No crystalline crunch! Disappointing!”
This little wedge had a hint of Gruyère-like nuttiness but was otherwise “quite mild,” so much so that tasters “hardly knew there was cheese” in the polenta made with 2 cups of it. It was inoffensive but more cheddar-like, “moist” and “creamy,” without the “crystalline snap.”
“Impostor!” declared one taster sampling this younger cheese. It didn’t taste bad, but it was denser and softer than a Parmesan should be. Tasters compared it to gouda, cheddar, and mozzarella. It was “mild” “with no real tang.”
Reviews you can trust
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing.
Hannah is an executive editor for ATK Reviews and cohost of Gear Heads on YouTube.