How To Identify Cheeses

August 19, 2012 4 Comments

Cheese Guide

How to Identify Cheese

One of the first steps in becoming more knowledgeable about cheese and how to buy it is to learn how to identify the various cheeses you come across.

At first it may seem very confusing but once you understand the different characteristics of a cheese like type of milk, processing, texture and so forth, it will help you discover what cheeses you prefer and why.  Below are some important characteristics to help you make those decisions.

Type of milk:

Cow’s milk
Goats’ milk
Sheep’s milk


Fresh – usually unripened and packed into tubs or crocks
Ripened but unpressed – quick-ripened (1 month) by surface molds; allowed to drain naturally
Uncooked but Pressed – pressed and ripened from 2 to 18 months (Gouda)
Cooked & Pressed – cooked, then molded, heavily pressed and then ripened for up to 4 years


Very soft – fresh, spoonable (burrata, cottage cheese, mascarpone, cream cheese, ricotta)
Soft – neither cooked nor pressed, spreadable (brie)
Semi soft – pressed, can or cannot be pressed, firm but moist, sometime crumbly (cashel blue, chabichou du poitou, morbier)
Semi hard – cooked and pressed, sliceable
Hard – cooked and pressed, very firm, can be both sliced and grated (aged gouda,  petit basque, cheddar, parmesan, pecorino)

Shapes: 6 basic shapes:



Cheese colors can range from white to yellow to chocolate brown in various shade degrees. Much depends on the length of ripening along with how much butter fat is present.
Rule of thumb: the longer the ripening, and the more butter fat content, the darker the cheese.


Dry Natural Rinds – are formed by the curds on the edge of the cheese as it dries out.
Soft White Bloomy Rinds – have a thin or thick growth of white mold on surface.
Washed Rinds – a smeary bacterial growth washed by water, wine, or brine.





Last modified on Thu 16 February 2017 2:59 pm

Filed in: Cheese Primer

Comments (4)

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  1. JustLearnin says:

    It would be great to have chart of the most popular cheeses, with their taste, and texture – what makes that cheese good to cook with… Maybe even what types of recipes they are good in.

    (Kind of like a spice chart)

    • What a great idea! I’ll have to work on it. I think there may be a bigger demand for a chart listing the different types of cheeses, what they taste like, texture and what wines go well with them. I don’t find myself cooking with that many different cheeses. What’s everybody’s take on this?

  2. Cricketswool says:

    A chart is a great idea! I’d be more interested in the cooking characteristics of different cheeses than in wine pairings, even though I don’t cook with cheese often. Even though are certain generalities and particular pairs that appeal to most palates, wine-and-cheese pairing still comes down to individual preferences. I’d trust my own palette before I’d trust a chart. But whether a cheese I’ve tasted but haven’t cooked with gets stringy or grainy or smooth when it melts is objective information that I could use.

    • Another great idea to create a chart for cooking characteristics of different cheeses. Of course different pairings depend on personal preferences but there may be some people who need a place to start, get some ideas before they come to their own conclusions. It might help if they knew tannic red wines go better with rich, aged cheeses and sweet wines go better with salty cheeses because of their characteristics, not because of preferences. I like your idea and will look into seeing what I can come up with. Thanks

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