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Which cheeses are best to have on hand in the kitchen for cooking?

Strong, mature cheeses are generally better for cooking than mild cheeses. Cheddar is the most widely used cheese for cooking, but other firm-textured cheeses are equally versatile and delicious. Gruyere is very popular for cooking because of its excellent flavor and good melting qualities. Gouda cheese is a good alternative.

Emmental and stretched curd cheeses, such as Mozzarella and Provolone, make excellent melting cheeses and are popular because, although they become stringy, they maintain their creamy qualities during cooking longer than other cheeses. Emmental is classically used with Gruyere in fondues, and Mozzarella and Provolone are good for topping pizzas. Haloumy, which is another stretched curd cheese, can be dry-fried like steak.

Blue cheeses melt well and retain their piquancy, making them useful for sauces, pasta, grilled dishes, souffles, soups, salad dressings, dips and for topping red meats.

Very hard, grainy cheeses such as Parmesan and Romano are useful sprinkled over foods, but they also melt well in sauces, souffles and risottos. They are often combined with other cheeses such as Swiss Gruyere, but even a small quantity will add a lot of flavor.

Smooth, fresh cheeses such as curd cheese, cream cheese and ricotta have a mild, milky flavor that is excellent in desserts, and can also be used in savory fillings for pastries or pasta. Soft, fresh flavored cheeses, such as those with garlic and herbs, can be melted to make sauces or used in savory fillings. Keep the cooking time for these cheeses brief, otherwise they will separate.

Goat's milk cheeses are slightly less versatile than most but can be used for pizzas and crostini. They combine particularly well with nuts. Rinded goat's cheeses are best when peeled before being cooked in case the rind imparts too much of a farmyard flavor.

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