We’ve all been there: opening a block of half-eaten cheese, only to find that the cheese is… different. In the span of a few days, cheese can develop unpleasant white edges, change color, become sweaty or slimy and even develop spots of mold. And if this is happening to your cheese, it’s occurring because you’re storing it incorrectly.
If you’ve been stashing your cheese inside glass or plastic containers or – even worse – wrapping it in plastic wrap, it’s time to change your ways. These cheese storage solutions are causing cheese to spoil faster than necessary. With smarter storage methods, you can extend the lifespan of your favorite cheeses, waste less and save money.
Here’s how you should really store your cheese, whether you’re dealing with blocks of hard cheese or packages of soft cheese.
Never, ever use plastic wrap
If there’s one thing that (most) of the cheese world agrees on, it’s that you should avoid using plastic wrap on cheese at all costs.
According to experts, plastic wrap actually suffocates cheese. Because the cheese can’t “breathe” and take in any oxygen, it loses its flavor. Plastic wrap can even lead to excess moisture, which breeds mold.
So, while plastic wrap is easy and sticky enough to seal on itself, keep it away from your cheese. You don’t want to ruin any variety and wind up with a bad taste in your mouth simply because you stored your cheese incorrectly.
Cheese paper: The best storage method for any cheese
When you’re wrapping up the remains of any kind of cheese, cheese paper is a must. Cheese paper is a specialty product, but it’s specifically made for cheese. It’s thin and lightweight enough to allow cheese to breathe, but it’s protective enough to shield it from the drying effect of your fridge.
Cheese paper is a waxy wrapping paper that’s coated in wax and polyethylene. Together, these two materials form a protective barrier around cheese, keeping moisture out while ensuring it’s properly aerated.
So, to properly stash your cheese and keep it fresh, all you need to do is wrap leftover blocks, wedges or slices in a sheet of cheese paper. Wrapping it neatly, with close folds and crisp creases, will be enough to get the job done. If your cheese came encased in cheese paper, you can simply save that sheet and reuse it each time you unwrap and wrap your cheeses.
Don’t have any cheese paper? Parchment paper and wax paper work well as stand-ins, since these options are similar in thickness. Wax paper even has a protective coating that’s a bit like cheese paper.
Once your cheese is wrapped, you can either place it in your fridge or put it inside a plastic bag (a reusable silicone bag is a great eco-friendly option) or a sealable container. Just make sure you don’t squeeze out all of the air as you close the bag – you want some extra air inside to encourage the cheese to breathe. This will give it one more layer of protection inside the fridge. With this method, Thrillist notes that most cheeses will last between four to six months.
Do soft and hard cheese need to be stored differently?
Both hard and soft cheese varieties thrive when wrapped in cheese paper. There are a few exceptions, of course – cheeses that are extra soft, like ricotta or mozzarella, can stay in their original containers. Sealed reusable containers also work well.
Hard cheeses do age a bit differently than soft cheeses. As Food52 explains, while hard cheese dehydrates naturally as it gets older, your refrigerator actually speeds up the process. If you’re noticing that hard cheeses tend to dry out quickly in the fridge, you can wrap them in cheese paper and place them in an open plastic container.
Regardless of the kind of cheese you’re storing, it’s also a good idea to keep this food group separate from all of the others in your refrigerator. Cheese naturally tends to absorb the aromas of other foods. If you have a cheese or deli meat drawer in your fridge, use it. The sole drawer at the middle of your fridge is most likely your cheese or deli meat option. However, in some fridges, a slim cheese drawer is located underneath the produce drawers.
Don’t have a cheese drawer? You can dedicate one of your veggie crisper drawers for cheese.
The ideal storage temperature for all types of cheese is between 34 and 38 degrees. If your fridge has any drawer that allows you to set a custom temperature, that’s an ideal storage spot; however, as long as your fridge is around 38 degrees, your cheese will be perfectly cold. Cheeses, particularly hard to medium-soft cheeses, also do well in higher humidity. If you have a drawer that allows you to increase the humidity level, you can turn it up and stash your cheese inside. If not, produce drawers are often more humid than the rest of your refrigerator.
What about shredded cheese?
Shredded cheese is a staple in just about every refrigerator. It’s convenient and super easy to store. This kind of cheese typically comes in a resealable bag, which means you don’t have to worry about any special storage solution. And it lasts quite a long time in its original packaging.
There’s just one tip to keep in mind when you’re putting away your shredded cheese. Try to squeeze out as much air as possible. It’s a move that’ll cut down on dehydration and mold formation (and it’s a smart idea for anything you’re putting in a plastic or reusable silicone bag).
Don’t freeze your cheese
The freezer can extend the life of almost any food. However, if you’re looking to keep your cheese full of flavor and at its best texture, it’s better to skip the freezer altogether.
Cheese can be frozen. You can freeze hard, soft and even shredded cheese. However, it results in a less-than-ideal final product. Freezing changes the texture of cheese, and it can be a bit unpleasant once thawed. To keep your cheese at its prime taste and texture, buy it in smaller amounts and stash it in the fridge instead.
Whether cheese is the star of a dish like Our Best Mac and Cheese Recipes or an appetizer like our Sweet & Spicy Goat Cheese Spread and Smoky Tomato Dip & Halloumi Jarcuterie, there are plenty of ways to put hard and soft cheeses to use in countless dishes. Give them a try the next time you have extra cheese that needs to be used.