When served with a plate of pasta, you might automatically reach for a bottle of grated cheese to sprinkle on top. If you have it, you may reach for a grater and the parchment paper-wrapped wedge in the refrigerator to grate over your pasta.
This cheese is probably Parmesan cheese. The bottled grated cheese is called “Parmesan cheese” but unless you’re grating cheese from a wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano, the cheese you are eating might not be real Parmesan cheese.
1 Not all Parmesan is Parmigiano Reggiano.
Parmesan cheese is the shortened English translation of the Italian cheese Parmigiano Reggiano. It basically means “from Parma” and “from Reggio”. The cheese along with its name, Parmigiano Reggiano, is strictly protected only in Europe with a Protected Designation of Origin, or PDO, which is recognized in Europe.
Outside of Europe, “Parmesan” as well as “Parmigiano Reggiano” is and can be used loosely. Despite using similar ingredients and the same techniques to create the cheese, if it’s not made in the Italian region of its origin, it legally cannot be called that. Since the most popular bottled grated Parmesan cheese comes from the United States, it can be. That’s why these cheese products, including bottled Parmesan outside of Europe, that claim to be “Parmesan” might not be considered “Parmesan” in the continent.
2 Parmesan cheese should only be made of three ingredients but the bottled Parmesan may have additives.
Have you ever grated cheese, left it out for longer than a few minutes, only to come back to it to find a melted mound? This is common for many types of cheese that are grated. However, this doesn’t happen to bottled grated cheese because of the additives in the cheese to prevent coagulation.
According to the regulations under the law that protects the cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano can only legally contain three ingredients: milk, salt, and rennet. However, since bottled grated cheese needs to be shelf-stable, the additives not only preserve the cheese but also prevent it from clumping or even melting.
3 Parmesan cheese tastes better than bottled Parmesan cheese.
It’s a given that most of the time, the fresh version is usually better tasting. That’s why when it comes to a taste test, Parmesan cheese is best when it’s freshly grated instead of the already grated cheese. Plus, with all the additives in the pre-grated cheese, these can interfere with the taste profile of any real cheese that is in the bottle.
4 Parmesan cheese can mold and dry out. Bottled Parmesan cheese is made to be shelf-stable.
If there’s one thing that makes bottled cheese better than a wedge of cheese, it may be that the bottled stuff isn’t fussy when it comes to storage. A wedge of cheese has to be stored in a certain way or it can either dry out or develop undesirable mold. These are both enemies of cheese and it can ruin a good meal if you discover one or the other has happened to your wedge. Wedges of cheese need to be wrapped properly to last long in storage.
These storage issues are less likely to happen to bottled cheese. The convenience of bottled, pre-ground cheese is that it removes the task of grating the cheese yourself and even storing it in layers of paper. It even comes in a handy container that makes evenly sprinkling it over your pasta easy. Just open, shake, close, and store in the refrigerator once opened.
There’s no need to judge taste when it comes to convenience or preference, so if you are the type of person who favors one over the other when it comes to your Parmesan cheese, your choice is definitely the right one.