If you ever cleaned out the depths of your fridge and found a rock-hard chunk of cheese, you probably wondered what you could have done to prolong its life. Sure, the first step is not forgetting it’s in there. But what else should be done to make sure your expensive fromage stays fresh?
Most of us are guilty of leaving cheese in the package it came in or rewrapping it tightly with plastic wrap.
It turns out, cheese lovers, we’ve been doing it all wrong.
“Wrapping your cheese in plastic for its lifetime in your refrigerator is a mistake,” said Anthony DiPietro of Delallo Foods, and go-to source for all things cheese. “If you’re someone who likes cheese and exploring the world of cheeses, or even if you just buy cheese once in a while, you’re doing yourself a disservice.”
“A hard and fast rule is to store any cheese that will fall or run apart in a plastic container, and everything else in some type of butcher paper,” said DiPietro.
Let’s dig a little deeper and take this cheese-by-cheese.
Examples: Parmesan, Cheddar, Asiago, Romano, Aged Goudas, Beaufort
Fridge life: Hard cheeses can last the longest. Most can last 4-6 months in the fridge if stored correctly. Harder cheeses have less internal moisture to lose, so they’ll be the least affected by storage.
How to store it: Hard cheeses should be removed from their plastic wrapping and rewrapped in butcher or parchment paper.
“A lot of hard cheeses have inedible rinds. There is no reason to take that off when you get the cheese,” said DiPietro. “You should leave that on for some type of protection during its lifetime in your fridge. The wedge has been cut open face, but you’ll have protection for the other sides.”
How to tell it’s gone bad: You’ll start to see white spots, but the cheese overall will darken from the outside in. If the cheese doesn’t have an ammonia smell to it and otherwise seems find except for a few moldy spots, DiPierto advises you can scrape that part off and eat the rest. If much of the cheese looks dark, dry, and moldy, and it has an unpleasant smell, it’s too far past its prime — just toss it.
semi-hard to semi-soft cheeses
Examples: Swiss, Gruyere, young Manchego, Muenster, Havarti
Fridge life: These cheeses are firm, but still have more moisture than hard cheeses, so you get less time than with a hard cheese. Still, stored properly, they can keep for two to four weeks.
How to store it: “Once these have been cut off the wheel, you should wrap them in butcher paper or parchment paper right away. Cheese is a living thing and you want it to be able to breath,” said DiPietro. “Even if you received them in plastic at a retail store — that’s done mostly just for aesthetic, so you want to purchase the product. When it’s wrapped tightly in paper, it can’t breath so it changes the texture and flavor.”
How to tell it’s gone bad: White spots on the outside can mean either mold is creeping in or salt crystallization. These can both be scraped off, and the rest of the cheese can be enjoyed. If you smell ammonia or other unpleasant smells, taste bitterness, or notice the cheese has gotten darker, it’s gone bad.
Bloomy or washed rind cheeses
Examples: Brie, Camembert, Taleggio
Fridge life: Once opened, these cheeses may last about a week.
How to store it: “It really depends on how thick the rind is. If it holds thick under refrigeration, you want to rewrap the product in parchment paper. Those that are too runny, I would put it in a container,” said DiPietro. “If your bloomy rind cheese came in a plastic or wooden container, you can reuse that.”
How to tell it’s gone bad: Like most other cheeses, if it smells bad or smells of ammonia, it’s gone bad.
Examples: Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stiltons
Fridge life: You’ll get about a week from blue cheeses before bitterness sets in.
How to store it: “Similar to bloomy rind, if the paste is thick enough that it’s going to hold itself together, then you should wrap it in parchment. If it’s very creamy, then you should put it in some type of container,” said DiPietro.
DiPietro recommends storing all cheeses together, away from produce to prevent them from absorbing flavors, but additionally, blues should be kept away from other cheeses for the same reason.
How to tell it’s gone bad: “All blue cheeses have anywhere from a stark white to a pale yellow paste. When you start to see it turning grey, that’s a bad sign.”
Examples: Fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, burrata, feta
Fridge life: Soft, less mature cheese will go bad fairly quickly. You can get about a week from them, “sometimes a little bit longer if it’s still sealed. But open ones — you’re talking a week,” said DiPietro. Be careful eating these cheeses past the expiration date. They have lots of moisture inside, meaning they can go bad in no time.
How to store it: “Keep fresh cheeses in some type of plastic container — even if you receive them in plastic wrap,” said DiPietro. “Put these in a plastic Tupperware container to seal them from airflow.”
How to tell it’s gone bad: “With these cheeses, the milk is going to sour, so you usually don’t have any promotion of mold. They’ll get mold eventually, but they’ll go bad first. You can tell by a sour smell — like your milk has gone sour. That smell.”
Examples: Deli slices, pre-shredded cheese, Kraft singles
Fridge life: Slices from the deli will stay fresh about a week. Pre-shredded cheese begins to dry out and lose flavor as soon as they are shredded. Kraft singles might just stay “good” forever.
“I’m not too much of a snob to say I’ve never eaten a slice of orange American cheese on a cheeseburger,” said DiPietro. “Everyone is allowed their guilty pleasures. I have mine, too.”
After all that fancy cheese, sometimes we reach for an childhood favorite. Old habits die hard.
Just don’t let your terrible cheese storing habits linger any longer.
Also see, Can you eat moldy bread?