For The Absolute Best Piece Of Parmigiano Reggiano, Go For The Corner

Whether you find Parmigiano Reggiano wrapped in plastic at the store or get it freshly sliced at the deli, it all starts with a huge cheese wheel that, in some cases, can weigh over 70 pounds. However, don't be fooled by its uniform appearance — if you ever have the opportunity to taste different cuts from a complete wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano, you'll quickly realize that not all parts taste the same. In fact, the cheese's flavor changes depending on how close it is to the center. Slices from the outer parts have a more intense and nuttier taste compared to those deeper in!

The secret behind this difference lies in how the cheese ages. Think of it like cooking a meal, starting from the outside and moving inwards. That's how a cheese wheel's aging process works, too. The beneficial microbes that mature the cheese start from the outer rind and gradually work their way to the center. This means the outer layers age faster, resulting in a richer and more intense flavor, while the inner layers, being younger (in cheese age!), offer a milder taste.

The outer cuts also offer better texture, thanks to the denser presence of crunchy tyrosine crystals. These crystals form as milk proteins break down and clump together into solid crystals during the cheese's aging process, giving you a nice mouthfeel as you savor the cheese. These crystals are also indicative of a cheese wheel that has aged gracefully!

Is the outer rind of the Parmigiano Reggiano wheel edible?

There's a good reason why many people tend to avoid buying the corner or outer cuts of cheese, even though they're the most flavorful parts: It's because of the dry, waxy-looking, and totally unappetizing-looking rind. This has led to a common myth that the rind is inedible and should be thrown away. However, that's not true at all. The toughness of the rind is a result of aging, and the waxiness is just a natural part of the process (a cheese wheel doesn't have any wax or preservatives.) In other words, the rind is simply dried, hardened cheese and is perfectly fine to eat.

However, unlike the soft, crumbly inside of the wheel, you can't simply slice and eat the rind as is (you can try, but chewing on the tough cheese bits won't be pleasant). If you want to eat it, you'll have to prep it a little.

The rind can be made into a fast snack by zapping it for a bit in the microwave, which will turn it nice and crunchy. But if you have time, you can also use it as a cooking ingredient! Add the rind to dishes like soups and stews and the cheese will soak up liquid and soften. Once it does, fish it out and you can either use it as a spread for bread or eat it straight away to savor the full spectrum of the cheese's flavors!