What Is the Best Way to Store Cheese?

When storing cheese, it’s crucial to consider both the type of cheese and the storage environment. Simply placing it in the refrigerator isn’t enough; the wrapping and placement can significantly affect its freshness and flavor.

Wondering why some cheeses spoil faster or develop an odd texture? Understanding the subtleties of cheese storage can make a significant difference.

Let’s explore the best practices to keep your cheese delicious and fresh for as long as possible.

Types of Cheese

Types of Cheese

Understanding the different types of cheese is crucial for proper storage. Cheeses are categorized by moisture content into soft, semi-hard, and hard varieties. Soft cheeses, like Brie and Camembert, have high moisture content, making them more perishable. Hard cheeses, such as Parmesan and Cheddar, contain less moisture and last longer. Semi-hard cheeses fall somewhere in between.

Another way to classify cheese is by the ripening process. Unripened cheeses include varieties like Ricotta, while mold-ripened cheeses include Blue cheese, and bacteria-ripened cheeses include Gouda. Each type has unique storage needs to preserve its flavor and texture.

Soft cheeses typically have a storage duration of 1-2 weeks, while hard cheeses can last up to 6 months before opening. Proper storage techniques can greatly extend these durations. Use breathable materials like cheese paper to wrap your cheese, allowing it to breathe while preventing it from drying out.

Maintaining an ideal temperature, usually around 35-45°F (1-7°C), is essential for all types of cheese. By understanding the types of cheese, moisture content, and ripening process, you can ensure your cheese stays fresh and delicious for as long as possible.

Understanding Cheese Spoilage

Recognizing the signs of cheese spoilage is crucial for ensuring its optimal quality. For firm cheeses, mold can often be trimmed away without discarding the entire piece. In contrast, any mold on soft cheeses necessitates immediate disposal to avoid health risks.

Proper storage is key to preventing spoilage. Soft cheeses should be stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator to maintain their freshness.

It’s essential to understand the difference between ‘Best by’ and ‘Expiration’ dates on cheese packaging: the ‘Best by’ date indicates peak quality, while the ‘Expiration’ date signifies when the cheese is no longer safe to consume.

For long-term storage, avoid using plastic wrap, as it traps moisture and promotes mold growth. Instead, use specialized cheese paper or wax paper to allow the cheese to breathe while staying protected.

Storage Temperature and Environment

freezing cheese

To keep your cheese fresh, set your refrigerator temperature between 35°F and 45°F. Avoid freezing cheese, as it can change its texture and flavor. Consistent temperature is crucial to prevent spoilage and maintain the quality of your cheese.

Here are some tips to create a stable storage environment:

Use the vegetable bin: This area often has ideal humidity levels for cheese.

Monitor your fridge temperature: Regularly check it stays within 35°F to 45°F.

Avoid frequent door openings: Prevents sudden temperature changes.

Store cheese on middle shelves: These areas have the most consistent temperatures.

Use proper wrapping materials: Cheese paper or parchment paper helps maintain quality.

Why Should You Avoid Freezing Cheese?

Freezing cheese is not recommended because it can significantly alter its texture and taste. The freezing process disrupts the cheese’s moisture content and structure, leading to a crumbly texture and a loss of its creamy consistency. This not only affects the texture but also diminishes the flavor, reducing the overall quality of the cheese.

Wrapping Cheese Correctly

When it comes to wrapping cheese correctly, avoid using plastic wrap because it traps gases and can alter the cheese’s flavor. Instead, use cheese paper or parchment paper, which allow the cheese to breathe while maintaining its freshness.

If your cheese was initially wrapped in plastic, re-wrap it at home using cheese paper or parchment paper. This is especially beneficial for hard cheeses, as it helps maintain their unique flavors and textures.

For cheeses like blue cheese, keep them separate to avoid flavor transfer. Store them in a ziplock bag after wrapping them in cheese paper or parchment paper. This method ensures that the strong flavors don’t affect other cheeses in your fridge.

While plastic wrap might seem convenient, it isn’t the best choice for maintaining the quality of cheese. If you plan to freeze cheese (which you should not do), use aluminum foil instead of plastic wrap. Properly wrapping cheese ensures it stays fresh and delicious for longer periods, enhancing your overall cheese experience.

Storing Soft Cheeses

Soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert thrive best when stored in their original packaging or wrapped in parchment paper. This helps maintain their delicate texture and flavor. To keep your soft cheeses fresh, change the wrapping every few days to prevent mold growth and extend their lifespan.

Soft cheeses should be stored in the warmest part of your refrigerator to avoid hardening too quickly.

Here are some tips for storing soft cheeses:

Original Packaging: Use the original packaging or parchment paper to maintain freshness.

Wrapping Frequency: Change the wrapping every few days to prevent mold growth.

Refrigerator Placement: Store in the warmest part of the refrigerator.

Consumption Timeline: Consume within a week of opening for the best flavor and texture.

Mold and Spoilage Check: Always check for signs of mold or spoilage and discard if necessary.

Storing Hard and Semi-Hard Cheeses

Cheddar cheese

To keep hard and semi-hard cheeses like cheddar and Gouda fresh, wrap them in parchment or wax paper. After wrapping, place the cheese in a loose plastic bag or a partially closed container to allow for some airflow. 

For hard cheeses like cheddar or Parmesan, trimming moldy spots is acceptable. Cut away the moldy area with at least a half-inch margin around it, and the rest should be safe to eat. Semi-hard cheeses such as Gouda and provolone can stay fresh in the refrigerator for about four weeks after opening.

To extend shelf life further, you can freeze cheese, but be aware that freezing may cause slight changes in texture. Always store these cheeses in the produce drawer or another cold spot in your fridge, as these areas typically offer the best conditions for maintaining both flavor and texture.

Storing Shredded and Sliced Cheese

To keep pre-shredded cheese fresh, always store it in its original packaging or a resealable bag in the fridge. Shredded cheese retains its quality for 1-2 weeks when refrigerated. For extended storage, you can freeze shredded cheese for up to 3 months without significant changes in texture or taste.

For sliced cheese, refrigeration is also recommended for optimal freshness. If you need to freeze sliced cheese, place it in a freezer bag or wrap it in an extra layer of foil to prevent freezer burn. Thaw sliced cheese in the fridge to maintain its flavor and texture.

Maintaining Cheese Freshness

Fresh cheeses like mozzarella and feta, which have shorter shelf lives, often come packed in brine to preserve their texture. Soft cheeses, such as brie, will soften over time, while hard cheeses like Parmesan become firmer as they age. To maximize freshness, buy cheese in large pieces and only slice what you need. This helps preserve the integrity and flavor. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Best Way to Store Cheese in the Refrigerator?

To store cheese in the refrigerator, maintain a temperature around 35°F and place it in the vegetable bin for optimal humidity. Keep larger pieces intact and slice as needed. Fresh cheeses should be used promptly, while hard cheeses have a longer shelf life.

Can I Store Cheese in an Airtight Container?

You shouldn’t store cheese in an airtight container. Cheese needs to breathe, and airtight containers can trap moisture, leading to mold and off-flavors. Instead, use breathable materials like cheese paper or wax paper for optimal storage.

How to Store Cheese to Prevent Mold?

To store cheese and prevent mold, wrap it in cheese paper or parchment paper, avoiding plastic wrap. Inspect it regularly and discard any moldy soft cheese. For extra protection, use a vinegar-dampened cheese cloth or paper towel.

What Is the Best Container to Store Shredded Cheese In?

To store shredded cheese, use a resealable plastic bag or its original packaging. These methods help maintain freshness by preventing moisture loss and exposure to air, thereby preserving texture, flavor, and extending shelf life.

Conclusion

The best way to store cheese depends on the type of cheese and the conditions in which it is kept. Hard cheeses benefit from being wrapped in wax or parchment paper and then placed in a plastic bag or container to maintain optimal humidity. Soft and fresh cheeses should be stored in their original packaging or in an airtight container to prevent drying out and contamination. 

Regardless of the type, it is important to store cheese in the refrigerator at a consistent temperature to preserve its flavor and texture. Additionally, bringing cheese to room temperature before serving can enhance its taste and aroma, providing the best culinary experience. By following these storage guidelines, you can extend the shelf life of your cheese and ensure it remains delicious and safe to eat.