It’s easier to buy a bag of pre-shredded cheese, but is it better for you? Turns out, there are some surprising reasons why you should grate your own cheese by hand.

What is the difference between pre grated cheese and cheese by the block?

The answer is simple: freshness in the final product! Pre-shredded cheese certainly has its convenience but as often is the case convenience comes with trade-offs.

Pre-grated cheese contains preservatives like potato starch and natamycin, meant to keep the shreds from clumping together in the bag. That also means they don’t melt together as well when cooking. Freshly grated cheese lacks those additives so your Pasta Carbonara will turn out less clumpy and more smooth. Have you ever added pre shredded cheese to a recipe and it turns into a clumpy mess? This could be part of the problem.

1. Freshly Grated Cheese Melts Better

Pre-grated cheese contains preservatives like potato starch and natamycin, meant to keep the shreds from clumping together in the bag. That also means they don’t melt together as well when cooking. Freshly grated cheese lacks those additives so your recipes will turn out less clumpy and much smoother.

Do you see the smooth and velvety texture of this Creamy Saffron Parmigiano Sauce? I used freshly grated cheese to ensure the cheese would melt into the cream properly to create a luxurious sauce that coats the pasta like a dream.

creamy pasta sauce

How can you Tell if You are Buying Real Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese?

When Parmigiano Reggiano is in its traditional whole form, or cut into slices with its crust, the original product is easily recognisable. The crust, or any part of it, must clearly show the dots that spell out Parmigiano Reggiano. This is in fact a mark of origin that is marked on the form when it is made.

Europe Regulations on Parmigiano Cheese

Within Europe, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) product, meaning that, since 2008, only cheeses that comply with a strict set of rules can be sold as “Parmigiano-Reggiano PDO” or “Parmesan.” Like another familiar controlled-origin product, Champagne, in order to qualify it has to be produced within a specific and limited geographic area (which includes the provinces of Parma, Reggio-Emilia, Modena, Mantua, and Bologna) and it needs to be made following a specific process, using genuine raw ingredients that also come from the designated area of origin.

Within the U.S., however, there’s no such regulation, so anything can be sold as “Parmesan,” no matter where or how it’s made — and even if it doesn’t contain any Parmesan cheese at all. In 2012, the FDA investigated a cheese factory in Pennsylvania and found that the cheese it was selling as “100% grated parmesan” was actually cut with fillers like wood pulp and contained exactly 0% real Parmesan cheese, using instead cheaper varieties like Swiss and cheddar. That particular producer was busted and heavily fined due to a tip-off from a former employee, but similar practices are still widespread.

The Difference Between Parmigiano and Parmesan Cheese

For a cheese to be classified as Parmigiano-Reggiano, it must come from particular regions of Italy and contain only certain approved ingredients. Parmigiano-Reggiano is also aged at least one year and up to three years. Parmesan, on the other hand, is not regulated, and may be aged as little as 10 months.

More Reasons Why You Should Grate Your Own Cheese

2) Grating your Own Cheese is Saves you Money

Grating your own cheese from a block of cheese is definitely cheaper than having it pre-shredded. Minimal time with maximum benefits. Enough said.

3) Hand shredded cheese tastes better

Since freshly grated cheese doesn’t contain added preservatives and chemicals and since you’re shredding it on the spot, it will have a fresher, creamier taste. And fewer additives is always a healthier option.

Maybe you’ll have to do your own taste test but considering the powdery texture of wood pulp coating the outside of grated cheese, I think you’ll agree.

My favorite Products for Grating and Storing

I value my time! If I am grating my own cheese I still want a way to make it worth it in the long run. That’s why I store it in my own container. After I grate my parmigiano cheese I store it in an airtight container and it lasts up to a month (soft cheeses such as mozzarella will only last a couple of weeks). I buy a big block of Parmiggiano Reggiano (Costco has the best deal for the certified brand).

Use a high quality cheese grater. I like to use rotary (hand held with a turning handle) for grating hard cheese. These are 2 Cheese Graters I recommend for cheeses such as parmigiano and pecorino (they also work with soft cheeses such as mozzarella and cheddar):

1- Professional Grade Rotatary Grater

2- Commercial Stainless Steel Rotary Cheese Grater

This is the air tight container I recommend for storing parmigiano and other hard cheeses:

1- TightPac America canister I keep this in the fridge and it the cheese is good for at least a month. It usually doesn’t last that long in our house since we use parmigiano on everything!

2- Regular Mouth Glass Mason Jars, 16 Ounce (5 Pack) Glass Canning Jars

3- Shredded cheese freezes really well, especially in these reusable bags: Stasher 100% Silicone Food Grade Reusable Storage Bag

Cheese- grater

Grating Your Own Cheese is A SMALL Step that make a BIG Difference

* If you found this helpful, please share with someone who might like this article! Elena

Made with Amore, Elena

From my Cucina to your Table, Mangia! Mangia! (Eat!) 

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