Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Great Parmesan (Parmigiano-Reggiano) Experiment! – Penny Wise, Parm Foolish

I've wanted to do this little demonstration for a long time now, and it has nothing to do with proving people wrong. Okay, that has a little bit to do with it, but mostly I really want people who could be enjoying “the good stuff,” but don't because they think it’s too expensive, to finally realize that's not the case.

As you'll see, a little bit of real, imported Parmigiano-Reggiano only costs about 20 cents per serving. Basically, for the price of a large gumball, you could be enjoying this world-class cheese. Of course, some people still won't buy Parmigiano-Reggiano, even after seeing this.

For them, cost really has nothing to do with it. This is a convenient excuse they use because they secretly enjoy that stuff in the green canister. Hey, there's nothing wrong with that. To each his own, but at least be honest, and don't claim frugality as your motivation.

By the way, I edited this video while in New York visiting family, and somehow lost a small portion of the audio. So, in the middle of the clip you’ll hear a change in the quality, from the usual mediocre sound, to something much worse. I didn’t want to wait until I got back into the studio to re-record, so I'm posting as is.

Nevertheless, I hope I’ve persuaded some of you to switch over to what you should have been using all along. As a wise man once probably said, “Life’s too short for fake cheese.” Enjoy!

32 comments:

d j said...

“Life’s too short for fake cheese.” ...and bad beer. I sooooo agree, wise Chef!

Lisa from Indiana said...

Don't confuse me with facts. My mind is already made up!

Lisa from Indiana said...

Don't confuse me with facts. My mind is already made up!

Julia Johnson said...

You've made me a believer, but before I go out and by my own chunk of parmesan goodness I must ask what the best storage method is for this cheese or any cheese for that matter. I had read from a very lengthy article on cheese that plastic wrap could compromise the cheese flavor and integrity, if this is the case what would you recommend for storage and keep?

Robin said...

A co-worker recently turned me on to your video blog and I love it!

But to the point, I have discovered a cheese I like even better than the Reggio Parm - Piave. I use it just like I use the Parm. I keep asking the cheese guy for side by side tastes, and the Piave always wins. You seem to be a guy who would like good food (!), so you might want to give it a tr.

Again, love the recipes and the presentation.

Mike said...

There's a midpoint between expensive imported Parmigiano-Reggiano and canned Kraft parmesan cheese-flavored product. I buy quality, locally produced parmesan cheese. I really don't see the need to spend twice the money to get my cheese shipped from Italy with a cool stamp on the rind.

Jo-Ann said...

I discovered "real" cheese many years ago. the taste was a complete and delicious surprise!! Never been back to the green can since!

will dukeshire said...

Good to see you back Chef John hope your vacation was wonderful.I loved that you did this video because my wife was one of those people...too expensive! but since I started using it in my cooking she always reminds me to not forget the regianno when im the one going shopping! besides we only go this way once, for the cost there is no comparison. Thank you for your videos

Michael said...

For those of us who live in what one might call a rural culinary wasteland, price isn't really so much the issue as access is. I can't think of a store that would sell the good stuff within 50 miles. Believe me, I've looked.

Any suggestions for mail order companies that don't add too much to that "per gram" price you did such a good job of breaking down?

Scott Rubens said...

There are a lot of places now selling the rinds for less than half that price. Typically you can get a good amount of non-rind of these pieces and when I'm only dressing 2-8 bowls, this is all you would need!

Guat said...

ok... in Brasil 1 kg real parmesan = $150 .... but you cant buy just a little bit :P at least 1 pound ... but i get the point...

Heidi Hoerman said...

I totally and completely agree! Not only is the "real stuff" more economical than the pre-grated, cellulose coated cheese in the cardboard container, but it lasts much longer and goes much further than the softer supermarket parmesan wedges. Go for the hard real stuff -- domestic or imported! And save the rinds in the freezer. Anytime you make soup, throw one or two in for flavor.

GailS said...

I too am curious about the best storage location and method... what is the shelf life, etc... can u just cut off any "Bad or unattractive" areas if it starts aging? Im just looking for a shred of knowledge here...nothing too grate..cuz now I just dont know jack....about cheese storage.. :)

Mark Leggett said...

Out here in Australia we can get the real stuff too!
For many years (forever really) we used the Kraft canned stuff cause nobody realised that we could get the real thing! It is expensive but so's caviar and the price of THAT doesn't stop me buying it lol

Steve Kennedy said...

It is discouraging to pay $12 for a nice chunk of parm, only to have it start molding before you use it up. My daughter showed me a few years ago, how to not let your cheese go to mold. You just never touch it. The bacteria or whatever on your fingers (even clean ones) is a big problem for cheese. If you use a knife to cut the plastic, then only peel the plastic back (with the knife) to expose as much as you are going to use, your cheese will last 4 or 5 times longer in the fridge before it starts to mold. This really works, you can try it with a hunk of inexpensive cheese and you will notice a big difference in how long it lasts. I have some guyer (however you spell it) in the fridge that is 6 months old. I only like it on french onion soup. It does not have a speck of mold. I peel back the wrapper, grate what I need, then put it in a zip lock.

Simmon Mariani said...

Bravo Chef! I made the switch years ago and never looked back. Nothing beats the flavor profile of the original.

Roberto said...

For those who still choke at the price per pound of the "good stuff", try Grana Padano.

It is made in a similar way to the Parmigiano Reggiano of Emilia-Romagna but over a much wider area and with different regulations and controls. It's got it's own DOP (certification).

It's also usually younger and isn't as full flavored as Parmigiano, but it's WAY better than the dust in the green can or any U.S. made fake Parmigiano.

In fact, in Italy, it's widely used because the "good stuff" costs an arm and a leg here in Italy too. Grana Padano might very well be what they offered you when you ate that great pasta on your last Italian vacation.

Stefan said...

Chef, do you grate straight from the large wedge or do you cut off a piece and grate that?

When I grate a larger wedge, I sometimes find that the rest dries out. Is this your experience as well?

Wishbone said...

Cheese are like wines, I don't often have the chance to have the best, but when I do its real dago cheese and a bottle of Silver Oak. Pasta not needed.
Great wine and great cheese is the pleasure of life..

MAYBELLINE said...

You're putting food in your body. Make it the best you possibly can. That powdered stuff is like a Twinkie in the pastry world.

Enjoy!

TruePerception said...

Well, the canned stuff is about 50 cents an ounce, or less if on sale. So, the expensive stuff is still 2.5 times as much as the canned stuff. It adds up when one is on a budget. I usually skip Parmesan, altogether, to save on the extra cost. Plus, that 15-20 cents would be per bowl. The math sounds nice, but is not what it appears to be.

Darcy Thomas said...

I agree Chef John. Any substitute for the real stuff here is a false economy. For those asking how to store it I have for many years wrapped my parm in waxed paper (like my mom did sandwiches when I was in school - fold the seams together then tuck the ends under). Then keep it in a ziploc. Every time I use it, i replace the waxed paper. I am intrigued by the comment about not touching the cheese w your hands. Maybe hold it with a piece of waxed paper....I will try that. These two tips together should give your parm reg a long life. Mine lasts months in the fridge. No harm to my parm. ;)

Darcy Thomas said...

... And when you get all the cheese off the rind, freeze the rind and drop it in your next tomato based soup. Nothing goes to waste. Flavour galore. There is also a difference between not being able to afford the best and just being cheap......er, ahem, frugal....and always gravitating toward the cheapest. Different strokes and all that.

Unknown said...

Yes, I agree with TruePerception. When you break it down Chef John the price does seem more manageable, and I realize you specifically did not come out and say 'this is cheaper than the fake stuff' (maybe on purpose because you knew it wasn't factual) but for people on a very strict budget (student, fresh out of college, family near or under poverty line) it is just not doable.

If, not when, I ever get into the income bracket where I can buy the 'good stuff' and not worry about how that frivolous purchase might cost me something I truly need down the road, I will definitely buy this. But for now, the cheap/none stuff.

I guess myself, and any other strict budget-ers out there, would appreciate a clarification that you aren't saying that the 'good stuff' is in fact cheaper per ounce, since that would just be false, but that if you can afford to it's not as expensive as it seems and that it's worth buying. I cannot wait to hopefully someday buy some.

Chris said...

Chef John, what brand and grind size (is that how they're identified?) of microplane is that?

Chef John said...

The brand is Microplane! Don't know size.

eve+line said...

I've never had any parmigiano go mouldy. I've had them dry out on me, but that's because I did not bother to wrap them up properly. I wrap the chunk up first with baking paper, then put it inside a ziplock bag. I've also wrapped it in aluminum foil (make sure to use enough to wrap totally). Then store in the fridge drawer. For mouldy hard cheese, I just cut the mouldy part and eat the rest.

Howard Bischof said...

Since buying my first wedge of Parm years ago, they never go moldy because we eat it so fast! The easiest way to keep it is in a zip top bag. When serving cut a few slices off for the people standing around get out the box greater and go to town on it! Yum!

Asia.Samasia said...

I'm from Poland. I bought some parmesan and did the math myself. 400 g cost 26 zł (about 8 dollars). We used a moderate amount on our broccoli and pasta. I weighed the cheese again: 350 g. So we'd used up 50 g, that is 1,5 dollars worth.

The parmesan cost more than the dish itself! It was delicious, true, but there's no way I can afford that.

Gian D said...

Trader Joe's has some 20 month reggiano for 14 dollars a pound. They even sell them in smaller sizes so I was able to pay $6.30 for my block. I'll try the more expensive stuff at an Italian market to compare.

melodiee said...

What about pre-shredded stuff that comes in a plastic container? Something like this: http://www.artisanpantry.com/assets/products/parmesan_shred_5oz_cup.jpg

Jae Hyung Park 박재형 said...

Where do you buy your Parmigiano Reggiano? What cheese brand?