Experienced cooks know that some things are worth doing the long way, while for others, a short cut is perfectly acceptable. Evidence? Even the Barefoot Contessa points out when "store bought is fine," According to Showbiz Cheat Sheet. When you peruse the cheese section at the grocery store, you'll see bags and tubs of pre-grated and pre-shredded cheese, and you've probably wondered if it's worth investing the time to grate or shred your own. Those bags of pre-shredded cheese can be mighty tempting for a busy cook (and really ... who isn't a busy cook?)
If you ask Ina Garten about pre-grated cheese, her answer is definite. She told Time that pre-grated Parmesan is definitely on her list of things that should never be store-bought. Surely the Barefoot Contessa has her reasons, right? What is it about pre-grated cheese that makes it such a cardinal kitchen sin? Is this pretension or is there a good reason not to purchase pre-shredded cheese?
One of the main reasons you shouldn't use store-bought cheese is wood pulp. Doesn't that sound appetizing? Well, it turns out that pre-grated cheese contains additives, and one of them is cellulose, which is wood pulp, according to Taste of Home. And, cellulose isn't the only additive in pre-grated cheese. Manufacturers also add anti-caking agents like potato starch and preservatives like natamycin, according to All Recipes. While you don't necessarily want your pre-grated cheese to be all caked together or spoil, these ingredients can have unintended consequences when you cook with them.
Pre-grated cheese, with its anti-caking additives, won't melt as smoothly and can spoil your recipes by clumping together, according to Eat This, Not That. If you're attempting to make a perfectly smooth cheese fondue, for example, pre-grated cheese may cause you problems. Finally, pre-grated or pre-shredded cheese is more expensive than cheese you purchase and grate yourself, as Mighty Nest writes. A more pure product for less money? Sometimes store-bought isn't fine. Heed the words of the Contessa. Grate your own cheese for best results.