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Let's be honest about Parmesan cheese

I can't be the only one who thinks Parmesan has little to no flavor. I dutifully buy good cheese with "Reggiano" on the rind and I add it to the food as a recipe indicates. I don't skimp on the portions. I don't grate in advance of using it. I cannot tell the difference whether I do all of the above or I skip it entirely. Is it me? I know there are "supertasters" but am I a "lack-of-taster" when it comes to Parmesan? Or do the people from Parma have us all brainwashed and convinced of their cheese's superiority? I'd rather have Romano!

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  1. Where are you buying your Parm? My daughter's math teacher made the same comment to me, and when I asked this question, he said "Sam's Club." It was, indeed, genuine Parm, but of the lowest allowable grade, and it had been wrapped in plastic for God knows how long. I sent him to my favorite cheese shop, where they cut the cheese fresh from a wheel that's usually at least 18 months old. He couldn't believe the difference. If you're paying less than $14/lb, you're not getting the good stuff. In a big city, it's probably going to cost you more. TASTE BEFORE YOU BUY! This is the only way to know if the cheese you are buying is worth the price. If you don't live near a good cheese shop, I highly recommend igourmet.com. They have many excellent cheeses, including several great Parms.

    10 Replies
    1. re: pikawicca

      It's true that I've bought some inexpensive cheese from Trader Joe's and the regular grocery store. It's also true that I bought some from Whole Foods and from the really good cheese shop at the Eastern Market in Detroit. I don't recall the price but in theory I wouldn't be opposed to spending that much for a small hunk. It hasn't seemed to make any difference. But I will take your advice and ask for a taste next time.

      1. re: ETRIXIE

        It truly makes a difference where you buy your cheese. Cheap Parmesan cheese is rather bland and sometimes even rubbery. Great Parmesan has an incredible intensity with chewy, salty crystals, sweetness, and lingering flavors. At certain cheese shops you can even purchase Parmesan aged for different amounts of time, the older cheese become even more intense. I recently had the same experience at Trader Joe's when I purchased a Manchego cheese at a "bargain" price that was absolutely bland and disappointing. I usually buy my cheese at Cowgirl Creamery at the Ferry Building in SF, and even though most of the cheeses there sell for the outrageous prices of $16-35/lb, I find that it always worth it because there is so much flavor and quality in their cheeses; not to mention integrity and the satisfaction of knowing that you are supporting true craftmanship.

        1. re: Porcini

          gotta agree about much of tj"s cheese.
          i only buy organic mozzarella there for my kid, but the other 'upscale' cheeses they sell there are, imho, not worth the calories.

          1. re: westsidegal

            ALTHOUGH... i found a goat cheddar at TJs that i love.

      2. re: pikawicca

        pikawicca - how do you store your cheese once you get it home?

        1. re: howchow

          Wrap in a paper towel, then put in a plastic Ziploc bag. Every time I use the cheese, I wrap it in a fresh paper towel -- keeps a really long time.

        2. re: pikawicca

          Actually less in a big city, just got parm at Di Palo's in NY, $12/lb and this is prob as good as it gets.

          1. re: Produce Addict

            Agreed - and the parm at Di Palo's is fabulous. Generally cheaper in NYC than in DC or Miami - in fact I found generally that "gourmet" products are cheaper in NYC than in the other two large cities in which I've lived.

            1. re: MMRuth

              Teitel's in the Bronx sells excellent reggiano at about $9/lb. Not my absolute favorite as a stand-alone parm, but great for cooking and general seasoning purposes - and I've never found a better value.

              1. re: Striver

                Thanks - I've seen that when I've been up there but haven't tried it yet - glad to hear that it is good.

        3. I agree with you, etrixie. I regularly buy Parmesan Reggiano and have it grated together with an equal amount or more, of Romano. The Romano adds the zing (salt) to the mix.

          1. It may be personal preference but I doubt you got the good stuff.

            Good ones are great just eaten out of hand. Never mind grating over the pasta. It should taste faintly sweet, subtly nutty, a little bit of salty, savory at the same time. Love it shaved on top of arugula salads.

            P.S. The ones from TJ or Costco's are not the good ones.

            1. If you don't mind me asking ETRIXIE, what do you think Parmigiano-Reggiano should taste like? What is (was) your expectation?

              1 Reply
              1. re: Chinon00

                I guess buttery, slightly salty, something reminiscent of cheese. At least something with a flavor I would realize was missing when it was omitted.

              2. I love Parm cheese. Dishes just aren't the same without it. Romano is nice for sprinkling on zesty sauces but really can't replace the nutty warm flavor of Parm. A
                nd it is also not nice for eating but parm is delicious for eating or shaving onto salads.