What this is: A lesson about the cheese type that makes everyone happy.
Who it’s for: The people pleaser in all of us.
This is the staple cheese category for many. It’s a huge category that includes crumbly English cheddar and great Goudas. If you need cheese for snacking or a sandwich, you can't go wrong here.
The cheeses in this category are the easiest to love and some of the best known. Technically, if you’re following along the cheese map you may notice that this cheese type takes a detour off the map path to be pressed. Official Cheese People would call cheeses in this category, Pressed Cheeses, but we like to call them friendly&flexible for three reasons.
- If you went anywhere and asked a cheesemonger for a friendly and flexible cheese, they would know generally what you’re talking about.
- These cheeses are friendly and most loved cheese in the U.S. (besides mozzarella which is eaten mostly as part of a pizza.)
- These cheeses are usually semi-firm to firm, but are still a little flexible while not being squishable, or smooshable, or breakable. Of course, when you get a deliciously aged gouda or cheddar, those tend to be more more brittle...but they’re delicious, so we’ll cut them a break.
What sets this category apart from the smooth&melty category is that these cheeses are not cooked before they’re pressed. Otherwise the two categories can feel, and look, very similar. The lack of cooking means these cheeses wont melt quite as well as their cousins over in the smooth&melty group, so if you were thinking of melting these cheese, like in a casserole or mac and cheese, we recommend shredding in a little smooth&melty cheese to help hold it all together.
Cheeses in this category include:
- Moliterno al Tartufo
These cheeses may come with or without a rind. For more guidance, check out our Can You Eat the Rind lesson, but in short: you don’t want to eat any waxed, waxed dipped or cloth rinds (really, just common sense.)
Like most cheese categories, you will discover cheese from all 4 milk types here. In general, you can use this guide to help you find a milk type you like (or ask your favorite monger for a taste!)
- Sheep's milk is Saltier
- Cow's milk is Creamier
- Goat's milk is Tangier
- Buffalo milk is Fattier/Creamier
Unlike some of the younger, fresher cheese types, this one has a big range of texture and firmness. You can find young creamy cheddars and goudas but also beautifully aged ones that have toasty notes of broth, caramel, fried chicken (we aren’t kidding!), butterscotch and more. They can get beautifully complex and are so worthy of your tastebuds.
Favorite Flavor Profiles
The friendly&flexible category pairs very well with all of the flavor profiles: Sweet, Spicy, Salty, Nutty, Sour, and Umami. These cheeses can even be the star of a Hero Cheese Board surrounded by pairings from all of the flavor profiles. Because it’s so pairable, we like to push the boundaries and find new and unusual things to pair with these cheeses.
Favorite Wine Profiles
This category makes it easier for wine lovers to find beautiful wine pairings. We recommend the following wine categories for pairing:
- Sparkling (Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, Lambrusco)
- Rich White (Chardonnay, White Burgundy, Sémillon, Viognier)
- Light Red (Pinot Noir, Gamay)
- Medium Red (Merlot, Malbec, Chianti, Nebbiolo)
- Bold Red (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Bordeaux, Tempranillo)
- Dessert (Port, Sauternes, Ice Wine, Sherry)
How to Shop for friendly&flexible Cheese
Here are a couple of our favorite tips for these cheeses.
- Since there are so many of them, do your best to try all that your store has to offer before repeating.
- Taste before you buy, if possible. It’s reassuring to fall in love with a cheese before it’s cut up and wrapped for you to buy.
On a Cheese Plate
When it comes time to plate these cheeses, there are a few things that will make your life easier.
- Never try slicing cheddar - because of the way it’s made, it will always want to crumble and break where the curd lines are. Instead, try the nugget technique.
- Young goudas can be sliced but old goudas prefer the nuggeting (and so will your hand. You can even leave the wax rind on the gouda and nugget out the inside so that the rind is a “holder”.
- Manchego can be a fun cheese to cut into big long triangles, just keep in mind how much cheese you have, how many people may want a slice and just how big that slice is, no one wants to commit to a 1/4lb triangle when there are other cheeses to choose.
Take a pick, cheddar or gouda.
Click the icons to download a pdf of this lesson and our two handy guides: How Cheese is Made and Cheese and Pairing Types.