If you are a pasta connoisseur, you are probably quite familiar with parmesan cheese. It is a classic topping for many different pasta dishes and sauces.
In fact, parmesan cheese is even often used as a fried snack crisp for its sharp flavor and perfect texture.
This cheese is considered a hard cheese and by nature does not quite work exactly the same as a lot of other types of cheese out there.
With cheese like American and cheddar, we are so used to just using a bit of heat to get it to melt, but this is not always the case for parmesan cheese.
Does parmesan cheese melt? Yes, parmesan cheese can melt, but this depends on the type of parmesan you are using and how fresh it is. It will also melt better freshly grated than whole. If the parmesan has been processed like most packaged parmesan, it will be harder to melt.
In this guide, we will talk about melting parmesan cheese in every form. We will provide you with instructions for how to melt parmesan cheese and different factors that you can expect to potentially affect your melting efforts.
The Ultimate Guide to Melting Parmesan Cheese
Parmesan cheese is actually a copycat of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. This is an Italian cheese that is hard and granular. It comes from cow’s milk and is aged for a minimum of 12 months.
The packages of parmesan cheese that we see or buy from the grocery store are often not really even real parmesan cheese in the traditional sense.
Don’t misunderstand. You are still getting parmesan cheese, but by the time it has been grated or packaged or put into a tub for sprinkle use, it has been processed in many different ways.
The processing of parmesan cheese does affect the melting ability of the cheese as well.
Parmesan cheese is certainly a specialty cheese and it is hard to re-create. There are primary uses that it works best for.
Ultimately, what your cheese can and cannot do really boils back down to whether you are using fresh parmesan cheese or perhaps processed and aged parmesan cheese.
If you’re having trouble melting parmesan cheese, it is because it is not fresh – or young – parmesan. Some of its properties will have been changed and it simply will not melt as easily, instead browning, burning, crumbling, or seperating.
The older and more processed your cheese, the more likely it is to do this instead of melting.
Types of Parmesan
We’ve talked a lot about parmesan here. You’ve seen us use some official terms and you’ve seen us say grated, ground, fresh, and so on. Let’s differentiate these terms a little so that you can understand why they matter.
This is true and authentic Italian parmesan cheese. You purchase it fresh and to be labeled as such, it has to meet strict qualifications and quality guidelines from Italy. It also has to be produced in specific locations in Italy.
If you see this name, it is the real deal and you are getting true parmesan cheese that will melt into creamy goodness due to the way it was produced using rennet.
Freshly Grated Parmesan
If you see us freshly grated parmesan, we specifically mean fresh parmesan that you grated by hand.
This is referring not to a store-bought bag of grated parmesan but gratings that you prepare yourself from a fresh block.
Pre-shredded parmesan is already grated when you buy it. Here we mean those bags or tubs of parmesan that were grated and processed before they made it to the store.
Be aware, these shreds are not from fresh parmesan and they are likely to be stringy or clumpy when you try to melt them.
Ground parmesan refers specifically to finely ground parmesan that is in the form of small, almost powder-like crumbs.
Often, companies that sell this product add different ingredients like cellulose powder – or even different cheeses, like Romano – to bulk it up, as well as preservatives to extend its shelf life.
It is often sprinkled as a topping or mixed into recipes.
This is not likely to melt, since it has been so processed and may have any number of additives that affect its meltability.
What Kind of Parmesan Melts?
Remember that Parmesan originates from Parmigiano-Reggiano. This particular blend is actually a specialty to Italy and, in fact, the law dictates that it cannot be named as such unless it is truly produced in Italy.
We tell you this so that if you see Parmigiano-Reggiano, it truly is the authentic version. If you see another parmesan cheese label, it truly is not.
Much of the parmesan cheese that we know and love today is not authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be delicious parmesan.
Even some of the non-authentic parmesan is fine for melting purposes, as long as it is fresh.
This is your key factor. If you want the parmesan you are using to be able to be melted, it needs to be fresh parmesan. You can tell if your parmesan is fresh by how hard it is. Older cheese will be harder and may have white spots as well.
Using pre-grated parmesan or that sprinkle parmesan in a tub probably will not go far for you when it comes to trying to melt it. In fact, maybe you already tried it and just ended up with hard, burnt parmesan.
Parmesan is unique. While it is often mixed into various pastas and cooked with other ingredients in recipes like eggplant parmesan, it is also often served cold.
It can be cooked into some dishes, but it makes an even better topping for dishes like lasagna.
The finely grated parmesan that you sprinkle on your pizza and on top of already cooked pasta is not designed for melting. It is heavily processed and almost all of the melting features are lost.
On the other hand, some shredded parmesan will melt while others will only melt slightly. It depends on the freshness of the parmesan and whether or not it was heavily processed.
If you’re struggling to melt your parmesan, we will talk a little bit more about why it might be an issue.
Real, fresh parmesan cheese melts really well and actually becomes a creamy part of your meal that finishes it off. It tends to thicken things up slightly, but it certainly melts.
If you buy pre-grated or shredded parmesan, it may or may not melt. It relates back to the quality of the parmesan and how much processing it has gone through. And if you have finely ground parmesan, it’s not going to melt at all.
How Long Does It Take for Parmesan Cheese to Melt?
This is another two-sided question. How long does it take parmesan to melt? Here’s the deal – once again, we find ourselves wanting to say that it depends.
It depends on whether you are using real parmesan, quality parmesan, or heavily processed parmesan.
If you do in fact have real, fresh parmesan, it will melt almost immediately. Real parmesan only needs to touch the warmth and it will puddle into a creamy parmesan addition to your sauce.
If you think you have fresh parmesan and you grate it over your sauce only for it not to melt like this, then it’s because it’s really not fresh or real parmesan.
However, it might also just not be a high-quality parmesan, which could lead to it being stringy or clumpy instead of creamy and melted.
Sometimes, you just never really know if you’re working with a good parmesan cheese until you discover it isn’t melting into your sauce the way you want it to.
If it is true parmesan that is good quality, it will melt right away. If it isn’t great quality, you may have to work it pretty heavily for 8-10 minutes to get it to melt a little and not be stringy and clumpy.
At What Temperature Does Parmesan Cheese Melt?
Things do not have to be really hot to promote the melting of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. This true parmesan delicacy is a hard, grating cheese with a low melting point.
Interestingly enough, parmesan does have a higher melting point than soft cheese like mozzarella, but it still doesn’t require extreme heat to melt.
Typically, you can melt real parmesan at about 180°F. Some of the softer cheeses only need about 130-150°F, so this is slightly higher but still easy to achieve. You can often reach this temperature just by mixing it into a hot dish on the stove.
If you try to bake it, it could be a whole other story, as this intense heat might cause a different reaction, even if you simply use parmesan as a topping on your baked dish.
It is more likely to just melt slightly, turn golden brown, and harden together. It’s still yummy, but it’s certainly not melted and creamy.
Parmesan cheese will actually begin to melt at about 90°F. At this temperature, the milk fat in every kind of cheese starts to liquefy and the cheese starts to soften.
This is why even parmesan that doesn’t melt all the way down well will still melt some.
Parmesan cheese has little moisture in it. Even when parmesan melts, it may not melt completely. Parts of it will melt into creamy goodness while some of it might stay in lumps.
You will see this on pizzas that use it in their cheese blends.
Parmesan that has been processed has a fairly high acid content, which is what sometimes causes it to become stringy or clumpy instead of just melted creaminess like what you might have been expecting.
How Do You Melt Parmesan Cheese Without Clumping?
The only safeguard to perfectly melt parmesan cheese is to use authentic and real or fresh parmesan cheese. Don’t buy the bags of shredded parmesan for melting purposes.
Visit the deli and get fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, if at all possible. You can also probably get another parmesan type of cheese from the deli and rely on the freshness for melting.
Unfortunately, you can’t always be certain that the parmesan you buy will be true parmesan that isn’t going to cause melting problems.
No matter how hard you try, it’s possible that you will end up with a parmesan that simply wants to string you along and clump up and just won’t melt.
If you run into this issue, there isn’t a whole lot you can do. It’s too late to try a different parmesan and you’ve already started melting it.
However, you can keep working it to see if you might be able to improve the melting process and get it to spread out and not be as clumpy.
Here are some specific things you can try to prevent clumping:
- Be sure your dish is hot enough before adding cheese. Remember parmesan needs 180°F to melt.
- Stir in the parmesan slowly, rather than all at once.
- Use a fresh block of parmesan and grate it yourself.
- Avoid finely ground parmesan for melting purposes.
- Check the packaging for acidic additions.
- Continuously stir your dish for 8-10 minutes after adding the cheese.
These are not perfect solutions, but they are tips that just might help if you run into a clumping issue when you are trying to use parmesan.
It’s not always your fault. You might think that you got a good block of parmesan only to find out otherwise when you’re trying to melt it.
Don’t feel like you are doing something wrong. It’s really the cheese and how it was made. Just do your best to work with it using these tips and make the most out of it!
It will still taste like delicious parmesan cheese should.
How Do You Liquefy Parmesan Cheese?
Parmesan cheese is a dry type of cheese that might hinder the liquefaction process. You may not always be able to really liquefy it.
The surefire way to be able to turn your parmesan cheese into liquid is to ensure you are using real, fresh parmesan. You can be specific and go specifically for Parmigiano-Reggiano, if you really want to.
Like we’ve mentioned previously, the melting point for parmesan cheese is 180°F. The best way to attempt to melt parmesan cheese is to add it into a heated sauce of some sort and stir continuously for several minutes.
Remember that how well it liquefies might very well depend on whether it is real parmesan cheese or a processed parmesan cheese variety.
If you get it right, it will liquefy just by touching the appropriate amount of heat and become creamy and gooey rather than stringy and clumpy.
Don’t beat yourself up if your parmesan isn’t behaving. It’s not you, it’s the cheese!