Certain kinds of cheese melt extremely well, such as Colby, Swiss Cheese, Provolone, or Monterey Jack. Some types aren’t too great for melting. For instance, young goat cheese, Ricotta, and Paneer are better served fresh or separately from your main dishes. And then there’s Parmesan.
If you are wondering can Parmesan cheese melt, the answer can be both “yes” and “no”, depending on its type. More specifically, the main factor that determines how well your Parmesan will melt is its moisture level.
There are a couple of other factors that deserve consideration; pre-grated Kraft Parmesan, for example, can never come close to the authentic Parmigiano made in Parma, Italy in terms of melting properties.
The answer to the “will Parmesan cheese melt” also depends on your cooking, or rather “melting” ability, so to give you a more concrete answer, let me slice this topic into finer details.
Melting Parmesan: What Works and What Doesn’t
Shredded Parmesan cheese melts incomparably better than grated Parmesan simply because it boasts a considerably higher moisture level, but this issue goes a bit deeper.
The term “moisture migration” is a problem affecting all pre-packaged cheese, meaning only homemade wheels aged in special containers won’t be impacted by this issue. Since most people buy Parmesan in grocery stores, the right questions to ask are “how much moisture leaves the cheese” and “why”.
Air pressure affects moisture migration. The more space that’s left between slices or tiny granules of grated cheese, the easier it will be for moisture to slip away.
Furthermore, casein, a milk-based protein holds the moisture flow. With higher levels of casein, more moisture is held in cheese. Parmesan typically contains 2.9-3.7% lactose content, so its casein levels are decent. Knowing this, let’s see which kinds of Parmesan melt, and which types won’t.
What Kind of Parmesan does not melt and why?
Parmesan cheese that depends on additives to keep the bits apart; contains little to no casein, and is tightly pressed in vacuum-sealed packaging doesn’t melt too well.
Cheese with a firm texture and proteins in modest quantity need the air to breathe but more importantly, they need to be kept in moist, damp areas shortly before consumption. Such is not the case with Kraft (grated) Parmesan and powdered Parmesan cheese.
Does Kraft Parmesan Cheese melt? It certainly can, but you will have an extremely difficult time making it. Of all Parmesan options, Grated Kraft Parmesan melts the worst.
Firstly, Kraft Parmesan is almost completely dry. Tightly pressed in vacuum-sealed packaging and ground into tiny particles, this type of cheese has almost no moisture content that would help it melt faster and smoother.
Although low lactose levels are usually great, especially for people allergic to lactose or certain dairy products, this also means that there’s less casein contained in Kraft Parmesan. What little moisture content exists within doesn’t have a “brake” to stop it from migrating away.
Parmesan Cheese Powder
Powdered Parmesan cheese is (almost) completely dry and virtually doesn’t melt. It is meant to be used as a topping (as-is), mainly because it would turn into a sticky, mushy mixture if brought to high temperatures. Needless to say, it would also have a distinctly unappealing taste, if you even manage to stop it from burning all the way through.
What Kind of Parmesan Melts?
Parmesan cheese created using traditional recipes and storing practices melts the best. Italian cheese makers knew how to work on the strongest points of Parmesan while keeping its drawbacks in check, which is the reason most people love this creamy cheese.
Real Parmesan melts the best, but sliced and shredded Parmesan are also viable options if you can’t find or afford the former.
Real Parmesan Cheese
“Real” Parmesan or Parmesan made by cheese makers rather than machines is more difficult and takes more time to create. Unlike “fake” Parmesan widely available in delis and supermarkets, the “real” Parmesan undergoes a special aging process meant to add and preserve moisture.
Placed in containers with plenty of space to breathe, real Parmesan cheese is aged between 12-24 months before being placed on markets. No matter if you grate, slice, or shred it, it will melt remarkably well.
Since its texture is dense and firm, you should probably avoid throwing a large chunk of Parmesan cheese into the skillet. It “will” eventually melt, but unless it’s remarkably fresh, this process may take a while.
Sliced Parmesan Cheese
The second best option when it comes to melting Parmesan is either melting slices of real Parmesan or buying pre-sliced Parmesan.
Since you’ll likely buy slices packed in plastic wrap, they’ll be considerably drier than real Parmesan but significantly moister than grated or powdered Parmesan cheese.
Shredded Parmesan Cheese
The worst Parmesan option that melts well is still leagues beyond the best Parmesan option that doesn’t. You can shred raw parmesan into a skillet or over a smoking-hot dish, or buy pre-shredded Parmesan, just like you’d buy pre-grated or pre-sliced cheese.
What helps shredded Parmesan melt well is the fact that it has a decent level of moisture to rely upon. Even when pressed and kept in plastic bags, the larger surface of shredded Parmesan allows moisture to move from one end to the other before dissipating, helping it retain its great melting properties.
At What Temperature Does Parmesan Cheese Melt?
Real Parmesan cheese melts at approximately 180 F or 82.2 C. The melting point is different depending on the freshness, moisture, and texture of the Parmesan cheese in question.
Fresh Parmesan melts at 180 F and slightly below, mainly because it is decently moist if recently opened. Aged Parmesan can still be melted at 180-190 F if properly stored, but its melting properties will not be the same if it is older than a couple of years because it will become firmer.
How To Melt Parmesan Cheese
Melting Parmesan is slightly harder than melting a soft-textured cheese, and the steps to doing so are different depending on whether you plan on melting Parmesan cheese into a sauce or melting it over a dish.
How Do You Melt Parmesan Cheese Without Clumping?
Any hard-textured cheese will clump if there are no hot liquids surrounding it. Here are a couple of tricks that will help you melt Parmesan without clumping:
- Glaze the skillet with melted butter over 180 F and shred or grate Parmesan over it
- If you’re making pasta, the boiling water will evenly melt Parmesan over the meal
- Never pour an entire package into the pan/oven. Gradually sprinkle or grate Parmesan all over the plate
How To Melt Parmesan Cheese Into Sauce
One of the best ways to melt Parmesan cheese into sauce is to mix it with a bit of milk and flour. I prefer shredded Parmesan for my cheese sauces, although grated Parmesan will do the trick as well since this recipe involves quite a bit of flour and milk:
- Preheat your oven to 180 F
- Melt one and a half cups of butter across a pan to prevent Parmesan from becoming sticky
- Add one-third of a cup of flour for better sauce consistency
- Gradually add two and a half cups of cold milk while stirring in the meantime
- Grate or shred Parmesan into the pan
How to Melt Parmesan Cheese in the Microwave?
Although I generally don’t recommend microwave-melting cheese with high moisture content, you can melt Parmesan by following these steps:
- Place baking paper on a microwave-friendly plate (glass or ceramic ideally)
- Shred the desired quantity of Parmesan onto the plate
- Set the timer to no more than 15 seconds; repeat the process until your cheese has melted
How do You Liquefy Parmesan Cheese?
Shredding fresh Parmesan and melting it into a sauce is the best way to liquefy it.
What Does Parmesan Cheese Taste Like?
Parmesan is a multi-flavored cheese with a characteristically sharp, fruity, and somewhat nutty taste.
Is there a way to Soften Parmesan Cheese?
Chilling Parmesan in your freezer for 24 hours or less will soften it up a bit.
Parmesan cheese isn’t the best-melting type, but if you know how to pick a good slice and know how to do it, the process becomes fairly simple. Avoid Kraft Grated Parmesan and powdered Parmesan if you’re making a sauce, and if you can’t find home-grown and aged Parmesan, I recommend shredded or sliced Parmesan cheese.
There are also many alternatives you could try. If you’re curious, check out our list of Parmesan substitutes.
If this guide about melting Parmesan cheese has been useful, please share it with your friends! If you have any questions feel free to drop them in the comment section below.