Monday, September 20, 2010

The Difference Between Mild, Medium, Sharp, and Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheeses

There are so many types of cheddar cheeses out there for your tasting convenience that it can be difficult to distinguish between them. After all, one look through a supermarket aisle and you are sure to see at least fifty different types of cheeses, ranging from mild to sharp and some even go so far as to boast different locations such as "New York Cheese", "Vermont Cheese", and "New York Cheese".

So, some people may be wondering, is there really a difference between sharp and mild cheddar cheese varieties? Yes, as a matter of fact, there is. Sharp and mild cheddar cheese, first of all, have completely different taste factors. Sharp cheese tends to be acidic and it has a slightly tangy taste that most people say is an acquired taste. Milder cheeses tend to be less "in your
face" with their flavoring and they have a much less tangy background flavor. In reality, it's the amount of time in which the cheese is aged that determines whether it is sharp, medium or mild.

Mild cheddars are aged between two and three months. Sharp cheddars are aged for around twelve months. Extra sharp cheddar cheese is aged for eighteen months and Premium cheddar is aged anywhere from two to five years.

As the cheese undergoes the aging process, it becomes sharper and sharper. The longer the cheese is left to age, the more crumbly it gets and it dries out. This is so because the whey in the cheese has begun to evaporate and continues to do so over time. Both sharp and mild cheddar cheeses are made from the same ingredients, but not always in the same location. Contrary to some people's beliefs, location does make a difference in the acidity and taste of cheeses. The cows that produce the milk for cheese eat different things at different locations where they are raised. This results in different undertone flavors in the milk that is sent off to be turned into
cheese. As the cheese is made, the flavors from the milk still linger, resulting in slight differences in the outcomes depending on where the milk was obtained.

Some cheeses can come out tasting slightly sweet and others can have bitter flavors, usually in the sharper cheeses as they are aged longer, that can be a turn off for newer cheese tasters. In the end, there are just too many types of amazing cheddar cheeses on the market to break them into groups based solely on their flavors and locations. Try them all!

-Written by Caitlyn Grisham


  1. Thanks! This article helped me out a lot. I've been wondering for the longest time how to differentiate between types of cheddar cheese. Thanks for breaking it down for me as well as others.

  2. You listed "New York Cheese" TWICE towards the end of the first paragraph. What about Wisconsin? You forgot Wisconsin.

  3. Hi! I love extra extra sharp cheese. I recently purchased some extra sharp cheddar from NY. state.
    It was good but not extra sharp cheese. I looked on
    the package it stated aged 9 mos. I was disappointed
    it just didn't have that sharpness i like.
    Dave Dennison, Sugar Grove, Pa.

    1. There is a farm in Lancaster County PA that makes super sharp cheddar. I like one they age for 6 years. It's not exactly close to Sugar Grove but they might ship to you.

    2. Try PA Noble Cheese from Lancaster County. It's a super sharp cheddar. They even make a cheddar that's aged for 6 years!

  4. Go extra sharp or go home. Mild cheddars simply taste less like cheddar than than their longer-aged counterparts. If you don't like the taste of cheddar, then eat something else.
    If all cheese-making milk was used to make good cheese, then good cheese wouldn't cost so much.

  5. Just tried "Old Croc", and australian cheddar recently introduced in the US. Really good if you like sharper cheddars.

    I'm not a shill, just passing it along for other everyday cheese lovers.

  6. Appa609: What if somebody likes the texture of cheddar cheese more than other cheeses, but prefers the subtle flavor that mild or medium provides?

    I don't understand why everybody thinks that "more flavor" is always "better flavor"

  7. Tillamook cheese from Oregon is one to try!

  8. Cheddar is BY FAR my favorite kind of cheese

  9. As a completely amateur cheese foodie, I think that sharp and extra sharp are best for cooking because they don't look their flavor. If you make mac 'n cheese, especially baked, with milk cheddar, it loses the cheddar flavor.

  10. So sharp cheddar equals old cheddar. In Canada it's referred to as old and extra old. I unfortunately can't have much in the way of aged cheddar as it leads to migraines, so I stick with mediums... I may get away with some sharp though... Must try.

  11. I love cheese, my issue is that cheese is also a migraine trigger for me. What I have discovered, however, is that mild cheddar is far less likely to trigger a migraine for me than sharp cheddar. I don't want to give up my love of cheese, therefore I compromise with eating cheese that hasn't been aged as long instead.

  12. ...locations such as "New York Cheese", "Vermont Cheese", and "New York Cheese". huh?

  13. P.S. Kerrygold brand is from Ireland.


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