Does Parmesan Cheese Melt?

Parmesan Cheese; An essential element in Italian cooking.  Many Italian dishes are often topped with parmesan cheese, and it’s a staple in many Italian sauces, as well as pesto.  

Because parmesan is a hard cheese, it does exactly turn into that ooey gooey goodness that other cheeses like provolone and mozzarella do.  So, that begs the question: 

Does parmesan cheese melt?  Well, the answer is quite simply – sometimes! Ultimately, it depends on whether your cheese is fresh or processed.  

When Parmesan Doesn’t Melt

Store bought parmesan cheese is often aged and processed to prevent the cheese from sticking together prior to hitting the shelves at your local grocery store.  Because this type of cheese is coated with cornstarch and cellulose, it rarely melts well in dishes.  Often, you’ll end up with clumpy, stringy cheese in your meals.  

Store-bought Parmesan Cheese

If you purchase pre-grated, store-bought frozen parmesan cheese, you will certainly run into trouble when you are trying to melt it.  While it’s great for topping dishes, trying to mix it into sauces or melting in your pizza won’t turn out too well.

Ground Parmesan

You probably grew up shaking this cheese on your spaghetti at the family dinner table.  The consistency of this cheese is akin to saw dust, and honestly doesn’t have much of a flavor at all. Unless you are using it for nostalgia purposes, skip this cheese.  There are much better options in your local store! 

When Parmesan Does Melts

When parmesan cheese does melt, it can completely change the taste and texture of your dish.  It will thicken your sauces and provide your meal with a really great umami flavor.  But you have to be sure to use fresh cheese in order for this to happen.  You can find it in your local grocery store and can even hit up your local upscale market for an even better selection.  

Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

If you want to be sure your parmesan melts in your dish, you need freshly grated parmesan cheese.  You can tell if your cheese is fresh by how hard (or soft!) it is.  Fresh cheese will be softer.  If your block of cheese is harder and has white spots on it, it’s old.  Fresh parmesan will typically melt pretty quickly after being exposed to heat.

How to Make Sure Your Parmesan Melts Well

As you’ve already read, fresh parmesan cheese is definitely the answer to making sure your parmesan melts well.  There are some other things you can do to help it melt properly:

  • Gradually include it in your dish.  Simply add a little at a time until it is melted, then add more.
  • Make sure your dish is hot enough to melt the cheese.
  • Add other types of cheeses like provolone or mozzarella (if your recipe allows)
  • Stir… a lot!  If you’re mixing it into your dish and you know your dish is hot enough, be sure to keep stirring.  This will help your cheese in the melting process.

Conclusion

Sometimes parmesan does melt, and sometimes it doesn’t!  The key is certainly to buy fresh parmesan and grate it yourself.   You will not be disappointed with delicious creamy, nutty, umami flavor it will bring to your dish.