One of our most popular questions at TGS is how to properly store cheese. It’s actually more complex than one might think! So, to get the inside scoop, we asked our fav Cheesemonger, Leah for her best tips and tricks.
There are many different opinions on storing cheese, but as someone who has spent her fair share of time behind the counter, I have a few thoughts on what actually works and what doesn’t.
– Leah Mossman, Cheesemonger
Firstly, put away the plastic wrap. For all cheeses. Do it. Step away from the plastic wrap. Cheese is a living, breathing, even growing thing that requires oxygen (different levels for different types, but we’ll get there) and plastic wrap is nothing if not a barrier between cheese and its ability to breathe. So, now let’s talk cheese paper. What is that you ask? Basically, a thicker parchment paper that’s waxy (aka moisture-wicking!) on the inside, both allowing the cheese to breathe and also protecting it from too much oxygen which would dry it out. I told you it was complex.
If you get a cheese cut from a monger, or at a counter at a grocery store, it is likely to come wrapped in cheese paper. After you get home and need to rewrap your cheeses, we recommend using the same paper (if it’s only the one time) or picking up Formaticum professional-grade Cheese Storage Paper that we always carry in stock. It helps maintain proper humidity and breathability to keep your cheeses happy. If you’re in a pinch, or can’t spring for the waxy stuff, parchment paper will work, though it won’t help with the moisture-wicking, so perhaps you’ll want to peek in on that parm or gouda a little more frequently.
Basics aside, let’s talk cheese types- there are several categories, but for storage purposes, we’ll focus on the most popular: hard, blue, & soft(er). Each of these types requires different storage methods for maximum life and edibility. Also, remember to store cheeses individually and never wrap two kinds of cheese together. Flavors would blend, the moisture balance would be off, and general chaos would ensue.
Hard Cheese Storage: When wrapping your hard cheeses, just think of your block or wedge like a gift at Christmas. You’ll want it snug and tight, just waiting to be opened. Now that you’ve wrapped it properly, I suggest storing it in your refrigerator’s crisper. This allows a decent amount of both protection and airflow. Soft and blue cheeses can have problems collecting too much moisture, but harder cheeses can have the opposite problem.
If you’d like some extra insurance on your harder items, you might throw your paper-wrapped block in a plastic baggie. Don’t worry about flattening all of the air out-you can even leave it open if you want. This simply allows for an extra layer of protection against drying out.
As far as how long it’ll last there are a few things to remember: If it’s an individually pre-packaged item with an expiration or sell-by date, that’s a great place to start (though in my house we view that as a suggestion when it comes to cheese). If you get a custom cut from a counter, it is not likely to come with a date. So, my blanket advice no matter the type is to simply check in on your cheese every now and then. Weekly for harder cheeses and every couple days for softer/blue cheeses. Be sure to start with fresh cheese paper every time you take it out to use/serve. I know cheese storage can be intimidating in some respects, but generally, it’s as simple as knowing when your cheese looks or smells foul, that it’s time to say au revoir.
Soft Cheese Storage: As I mentioned before, softer cheeses and blues can have issues storing up too much moisture-especially if they’re not looked in on regularly. Too much moisture here will mean faster ripening than we want, a smell and taste reminiscent of ammonia, and potentially harmful bacteria. So, in this case, we’ll want to forgo the plastic baggie and just stick with our beloved cheese paper. If you’re dealing with an ultra-softie like mozzarella, burrata, ricotta, etc., you’ll want to store them in plastic containers or Tupperware in their original juices. These young cheeses will need extra babysitting.
Blue Cheese Storage: Similarly to the softies, cheese storage paper will be your blue cheese’s best friend. Blues are the biggest moisture-hogs of the bunch, so I might suggest taking a little less care when wrapping these wedges. You’ll want to leave the wrapping a little looser than your other cheeses.
As you might already know, blue cheeses can lean towards the pungent, intense, overpowering side of life. If you’re concerned with your cheese drawer or your entire fridge smelling like blue, I might store the paper-wrapped blue in a plastic or Tupperware container. This will not only save the nose of any sensitive household member but will also stop any flavor-bleeding from the blue cheese to a non-blue cheese.
One last thing I hear a lot at the cheese counter has to do with growth that may occur. Sometimes folks are wary of any additional “friends” that may pop up on a wedge or a block. These may come in the form of little white or gray “fuzz balls” and are, for the most part, harmless. Remember, cheese is a living, growing thing, and if your block or wedge seems otherwise fine (smells okay, looks okay) then simply cut off the fuzzies and keep it moving.