Stop Ruining Your Cheese by Avoiding These 5 Storage Mistakes
Enjoy the highest-quality cheese possible with cheese storage tips from the experts.
America loves cheese. In fact, on average we eat 40.4 pounds of cheese per year. (I’m quite sure my personal cheese consumption makes up for folks who don’t hit that level.) It’s easy to add cheese to virtually any meal. We eat by the slice, on cheese boards, in grilled cheese sandwiches, in casseroles, on top of bowls of chili, in quesadilla recipes, sprinkled on salads, on our eggs, and anything else we can dream up. Clearly, we’re pros at eating cheese—and hopefully shredding cheese—but what about storing cheese? After talking (and eating) cheese with experts at Wisconsin Cheese and Tillamook, my eyes were opened to these cheese storage mistakes.
5 Cheese Storage Mistakes
Of course you’re going to finish that block of cheese you opened, but you may need a few days. Keep cheese tasting its best by avoiding these mistakes.
1. Leaving Cheese in Plastic Once Open
That vacuum sealing around blocks of cheese from the grocery store is wonderful for keeping an unopened block tasting fresh, but once we break that seal and start slicing, it’s not the ideal storage material. “While it’s easy to store your opened block of cheese in the wrapper it came in, I would recommend against it,” says Jill Allen, director of research and development at Tillamook. “Blocks of cheese are usually vacuum packaged by the manufacturer, and once unwrapped, have a shortened shelf life. Once the vacuum seal is broken and the cheese is exposed to air, there is an increased risk of mold growth and oxidation.”
Instead, choose cheese paper ($9, Bed Bath & Beyond). Cheese paper is a special two-ply paper used to ensure cheese can breathe and prevent unwanted air from entering the cheese, says Ken Monteleone, the owner of Fromagination Cheese Shop.
I will take this direction as an excuse to buy some cheese paper, but there isn’t any in my kitchen right now. Thankfully, Monteleone has a solution. “If you can't find or don't want to buy cheese paper, wrap it in wax or parchment paper ($4, Target), then put it in a partially sealed plastic bag,” he says. “The paper creates a barrier between the cheese and the plastic, while the plastic keeps it from getting dry.”
2. Storing Cheese in the Wrong Part of the Refrigerator
Cheese maintains the highest quality stored at a consistent temperature. Storing ingredients in a refrigerator door or toward the front of shelves exposes foods, however briefly, to outside air each time you open your refrigerator. “All wrapped cheeses can be stored together in the cheese drawer or vegetable crisper, where the temperature is more stable and humidity is higher,” says Madeline Kuhn, cheesemaker and research and development technician at Roth Cheese.
Another benefit of drawer storage is that less light penetrates your cheese, says Allen. But if you’re about to toss your cheese in the crisper drawer next to your produce, that could be another mistake. “If at all possible, keep your cheese away from strong odor foods, such as onions,” Allen says. Cheese will absorb those odors and flavors.
3. Storing All Cheeses the Same
If you went to a cheese shop and came home with a collection of quality cheeses, storing them isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. “Hard cheeses like Parmesan should be tightly wrapped in paper, and then loosely wrapped in plastic” Kuhn says. “Semi-hard to semi-soft cheeses such as cheddar, gouda, Swiss, and fontina can be wrapped loosely in paper and then loosely in plastic wrap.” Similarly, wrap your soft ripened cheeses such as brie loosely in paper, but then place them in a partially sealed plastic bag or small airtight storage container with a cracked lid (they need to breathe more than other cheeses), Kuhn advises.
Keep cheeses like cheddar and jack separate from blue cheeses, bries and Camemberts to prevent foreign mold growth, Allen says.
4. Neglecting the Fridge
When is the last time you cleaned your fridge? If you can’t remember, it’s probably time because a clean fridge offers better cheese storage. “Any moldy food will put additional spores in your refrigerator and could cause your cheese to mold faster,” says Kerry Henning, master cheesemaker at Hennings Cheese. Ew.
For food safety reasons, your refrigerator temperature should always be below 40°F. Keep a thermometer ($6, Bed Bath & Beyond) in your fridge to ensure it’s keeping foods below the 40°F temperature when foods enter the danger zone. “Cheese is a delicate food and should be kept in the refrigerator with the temperature ranging between 34° and 38°F, says Adam Brock, director of food safety for Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin. “Any colder and the cheese is in danger of freezing and will not taste the same when prepared for your next party or meal.”
5. Putting Cheese in the Freezer
When we’re blessed with a surplus of cheese, it’s understandable to want to freeze cheese for later. While it is safe to freeze cheese, the quality suffers. “While cheese can be frozen, it often changes the texture of the cheese so we do not recommend it,” Brock says. “That said, cheese that has been frozen is best used as an ingredient in a recipe. The best candidates for freezing are firm cheeses, such as swiss, and hard cheeses, such as Parmesan.”