Your Guide to Every Type of Cheese

From crumbly, salty feta to smooth and milky mozzarella, here are 10 essential cheeses to experiment with at home.

Photo By: Tara Donne ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Tara Donne ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Tara Donne ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Tara Donne ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Tara Donne ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Tara Donne ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Tara Donne ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Tara Donne ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Tara Donne ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Tara Donne ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Tara Donne ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

10 Must-Try Cheeses

Whether it's the centerpiece of a party display, a creamy addition to pastas and salads, or melted between two slices of bread, cheese is one of the most versatile — and flavorful — foods you'll find in the dairy aisle. We'll help you navigate the often intimidating world of fromage and you'll be master of the cheese counter in no time.

Gruyère

Gruyère is basically the fancy version of the "Swiss cheese" you grew up with. It's a cow's milk cheese, and it's creamy and sharp-ish. It's great on cheese plates as a firm option and  awesome with ham in a grilled cheese, or baked into any savory baked good. It also makes a killer potato gratin. It's expensive, but a little goes a long way in the flavor department.

Goat Cheese

Goat cheese is — as you'd expect — cheese made out of goat's milk. Goat's milk can be used to make almost every style of cheese, but usually when a recipe talks about goat cheese, it's talking about fresh goat cheese, which is creamy, soft, and fresh. It's generally an amazing complement to vegetables or salads and great in crostini, on top of roasted peppers or eggplant. 

Pepper Jack

Pepper Jack is the undisputed quesadilla champion. It's just spicy enough and perfectly melty, and works wonderfully for anything with a Tex-Mex twist. It's also great on burgers or in grilled sandwiches. Plain Jack cheese — sometimes called Monterey Jack — works just as well if you're not a fan of heat.  

Cream Cheese

Cream cheese is creamy (obviously) and rich. It's usually made out of cow's milk, and much-loved for how well it melts. While it's great fresh — on a bagel, with lox — or as the backbone for savory spreads and dips, it's also excellent in combination with other cheeses in baked applications, particularly as part of a cheesecake. 

Cheddar

Cheddar is a medium-hard cow's milk cheese that can range in color from white to orange, and in sharpness from not sharp at all to "whoa, that's sharp." Classic cheddar is fairly firm and crumbly, and will have noticeable crunch if aged long enough. Most cheddar found in the grocery store is fairly young and thus creamy, and melts nicely in a grilled cheese sandwich or in mac and cheese. Aged cheddar, though, is best on its own or with fruit.

Blue Cheese

Blue cheese can be made from cow's milk, sheep's milk or goat's milk, though you'll most often see it made from cow's milk. The blue comes from a special kind of mold that's actively cultivated in the cheese — but don't worry, it's totally safe to eat. It's creamy and rich, and is fantastic paired with fruit, or with anything bitter or spicy. It can range all over price-wise but brings so much flavor to the table that you don't need to use a ton.

Feta

Feta is salty and briny. It's often paired with sweeter, juicier vegetables — like roasted tomatoes or summer squash — and is also great paired with sweet, juicy fruit like watermelon or peaches. While it can hold up to baked casseroles, its bright freshness means it's best just crumbled straight into salads or pastas. 

Ricotta

Ricotta cheese is made from the whey left over after making mozzarella — "ricotta" means
"recooked" in Italian. It's creamy and fresh, and adds richness more than flavor to dishes. If you can get ricotta from an Italian market, do so —it's best when freshly made. Bake it into pasta dishes and lasagnas or make incredible pancakes and phenomenal cheesecake with it.

Parmesan

Parmesan cheese is a super-flavorful, hard cow's milk cheese that adds intense flavor to anything it's paired with. While the good stuff is expensive, a little does go a long way, and you can use every bit — the rind can be simmered in broth or stock for a super-delicious soup. 

Fresh Mozzarella

Fresh mozzarella (or smoked mozzarella, which is what happens when you smoke fresh mozzarella) is milky and mild, and incredible for adding creaminess (or smoky almost-meatiness, in the case of smoked mozzarella) to sandwiches and salads. It's not the best melter, though, because it's so wet. If you're looking for mozzarella flavor and meltiness, opt for aged mozzarella instead. 

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