Cheese is, for many of us, one of life’s great pleasures. From a fluffy cloud of freshly grated Parmesan atop your favorite plate of pasta to a well-curated cheese plate flush with fresh fruits; a golden brown mess of cheese on a slice of pizza to a comforting triangle of grilled cheese—cheese is as versatile as it is varied.
From aged hard cheeses to sultry fresh cheeses, storing each type of cheese properly is incredibly important to keep it fresh and ensure the flavors and textures are intact for maximum enjoyment. No rock hard wedges of Parmesan, dried out corners of Brie, or mold-covered ricotta —here’s everything you need to know about storing cheese properly.
A Quick Guide to the 5 Types of Cheese
Before we get into the nitty gritty of storing cheese, it’s important to know the main types of cheese so you can take the tips outlined below and put them to use with any type of cheese you might pick up from your local cheesemonger or grocery store. These are the five main types of cheeses:
- Fresh cheese: Think feta, mozzarella, ricotta, burrata; these are soft, spreadable, and/or squishy cheeses with a generally short shelf-life in comparison to the others.
- Soft-ripened cheese: Think Brie and Camembert; these are soft, creamy cheeses wrapped in thin, slightly fuzzy white or cream colored rinds. They might also be referred to as bloomy rind cheeses.
- Washed rind cheese: Also known as smear-ripened cheeses, think Gruyère, fontina, and Munster; these cheeses can be soft or hard in texture, but generally share a rusty orange rind and relatively strong, slightly funky flavor.
- Pressed cheese: Also known as granular cheese, think Parmesan, gouda, cheddar; these are harder, aged cheeses with firm textures and more nuanced flavors.
- Blue cheese: Think stilton, gorgonzola, or roquefort; these pungent cheeses have streaks or pockets of blue, gray, or green mold lending them a sharp, salty flavor.
How to Store Fresh Cheese
Storing the softest of the fresh cheeses is, well, unadvisable for too long. Buy ricotta and burrata when you plan to use within 1-2 days, keeping the cheeses in their original containers in your fridge. For other fresh cheeses, like feta and mozzarella, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge if you’ve already discarded their liquids. Feta can be stored in its own salty brine for a few months in your fridge, but without that brine you should, like the other fresh cheeses, use it up as quickly as you can—it won’t last long!
How to Store Soft-Ripened and Washed Rind Cheese
Soft-ripened and washed rind cheese store longer than fresh cheeses. Unlike fresh cheeses, they are best stored in parchment (or special cheese) paper and tucked into a high-humidity crisper drawer or a plastic bag left unsealed (or sealed with some air left inside) in the main compartment of your fridge. As soon as you bring a soft-ripened or washed rind cheese home, you should take it out of it’s original packaging and transfer it into the parchment paper so it can breathe—after all, cheese is technically a living, breathing thing.
When wrapping your cheese, make sure there are no exposed areas, as these can dry out and get a bit hard or crusty in the fridge. The more moisture in your cheese (generally the less hard it is), the quicker it will go bad—so keep that in mind when it comes to storing (and labelling!) any soft-ripened or washed rind cheeses.
How to Store Pressed Cheese
Pressed cheeses are generally the longest lasting of the cheese, that is, if you store them properly. The biggest problem you’ll probably encounter when storing these cheeses is that they can become pretty hard and dehydrated the longer they’re stored. To avoid this, wrap them up in parchment paper and tuck them into an unsealed plastic bag (or sealed with some air left inside) in the main compartment of your fridge, just as you would your soft-ripened or washed rind cheeses.
How to Store Blue Cheese
The stinkiest of the bunch, blue cheeses are special and should be treated as such. Their pungent flavor has a tendency to spill over to other cheeses, so it’s important to keep these ones away from other cheeses, especially soft and fresh ones. To avoid any flavor seepage, wrap up your hunks of blue in parchment and tuck them into an airtight container or their own sealed (with some air left inside) plastic bag. Most blue cheeses can last this way for 1-2 weeks in your fridge.
How to Tell If Your Cheese Has Gone Bad
I’m sure most of us are a bit wary of anything in our fridge that we discover to have mold on it, probably tossing it promptly upon seeing any fuzzy spores. However, most cheeses are still okay to be enjoyed with just a simple scrape or slice to remove the fuzzy mold. In the world of cheeses, mold does not mean “bad.”
If you see any mold on fresh or soft cheeses, these should be tossed, but this is the exception, not the rule.
So if mold is generally fine when it comes to cheese and can simply be cut or scraped off, how can you tell if your cheese had gone bad? Trust your instincts. If it smells sour or off in any way, it’s probably bad. If you unwrap a block of your favorite cheese, eat a bit, and it tastes different than usual, it might be bad. Go with your gut—that’s all there is to it!
3 Final Cheese Tips
- Remember to inspect any cheese before you buy it keeping dates in mind and checking the cheese itself for any discolored spots or cracks in the rind.
- Most cheeses yield their best, most complex flavors at room temperature, not straight from the fridge.
- Re-wrap your cheese in fresh paper if the paper ever gets a bit soggy or has any cheesy smears all over it; looking at you brie!