How to Store Cheese
If you're a cheese lover, it's really easy to get lost in the cheese section of the grocery store and come out with way more than you can eat. If this happens to you, you probably need a little extra cheese storage know-how. Here, we'll tell you how to store cheese properly, with tips and suggestions from a cheesemaker for extending its shelf life as long as possible. Plus, advice for three common special cases involving cheese storage.
How to Store Cheese (or Not)
There are a few different types of cheese: fresh, semi-soft, soft-ripened, blue, semi-hard and hard. They all need to be stored where it's cool but not cold—which is not ideal if you have more cheese than you can eat at once. Christian Dyrlund, cheesemaker and owner of Blue Ridge Creamery says, "The best advice I can give for storing cheese is, whenever possible … don't."
Because cheese likes the temperature to be about 55℉ with high humidity, Dyrlund recommends buying less cheese more often, so it's guaranteed to stay fresh and never sees the inside of a fridge. If it's too late for you, don't worry.
55℉ is much cooler than room temperature and much warmer than your refrigerator (refrigerators should be kept at 40℉ or lower, according to the FDA). That makes cheese storage difficult—but not impossible. Dyrlund warns, "Dry air is the enemy of cheese." That means that if the fridge is the only place you can store your cheese, he says, "Your vegetable drawer is the best bet for cheese storage." Just make sure the setting is on high humidity. If your vegetable drawer is full, you can use a storage container with a lid and place a damp cloth inside. Place that container on the top shelf of the fridge.
When storing cheese in the fridge, double-wrap it in parchment or wax paper and secure the package with tape. If you have to store fresh and soft cheeses, the refrigerator is always best, but hard cheese may be stored without refrigeration in a cool, dry, dark place away from direct light or a heat source. Before double-wrapping and taping your hard cheese, wipe down the cut sides of the cheese with white vinegar and dry thoroughly. Then, wrap in cheesecloth followed by the paper, according to Golden Age Cheese.
Cheeses That Come in Tubs or Containers
Soft cheeses like ricotta and fromage blanc are spreadable and best enjoyed as soon as possible. They're typically sold in plastic tubs. "We recommend leaving them there," says Dyrlund. He says if you keep them in the original packaging, they're less likely to get moldy.
Cheese that has been refrigerated should be allowed to come to room temperature before serving. But, that presents a slight problem: cheeses that have been sitting out at room temperature will release oil (the same way butter does) that won't recombine with the rest of the cheese. Because of this, Dyrund recommends storing the remaining cheese in a brown paper bag and keeping it in a cabinet to be eaten the following day. Dyrlund says the cheese will taste much better if it doesn't have to go through several cooling and drying cycles after losing oil content.
Cheeses with Rinds or Wax Coating
Cheesemaking is a method of food preservation, and the rind or coating on cheeses is a layer designed to protect the part of the cheese we like to eat. But when that layer is cut, it opens the cheese up to unwanted mold. To store cheese after the rind or coating has been cut, Dyrlund says, "Shave off a thin layer before wrapping first with a layer of parchment paper, then with a layer of foil." The combination allows the cheese to breathe while providing protection from cold, dry fridge air, according to Dyrlund. But if you don't have parchment paper or foil on hand, he says that's OK. Shrouding a few pieces of cheese in plastic wrap for the short term will keep the cheese fresh.
Cheese is best consumed as soon as possible after purchase. So, buy less cheese more often, in order to avoid having to store it. It helps, then, to have a plan for your cheese, whether it's a sandwich or a charcuterie board. When you have to store your cheese, double-wrap it and place it in the vegetable drawer of your fridge. Fresh and soft cheeses should always be stored in the fridge, in their original tub or container when applicable. Hard cheeses may be stored in a cool, dark, dry pantry away from light and heat, and require a few extra packaging steps. Leftover cheeses may be stored in a paper bag in a cabinet or pantry and should be eaten the next day.
If you're looking to make a dent in your cheese drawer, try some of our favorite cheesy recipes.