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Are You Storing Cheese All Wrong?

Extend the shelf life of blue, parmesan, cheddar and more with this guide

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There’s a lot to love about cheese. It’s delicious, versatile and a great source of calcium and protein, which are good for bone health.​

​Cheese is easy to throw in recipes, perfect for charcuterie boards during the holidays and a great snack. But there is nothing more frustrating than finding your cheese has gone bad, which often comes down to storage methods. Storing cheese improperly — or reusing cheese after it’s been sitting out — can cause bacteria growth that can make you sick. ​

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​Not all cheeses are created equal. Some last for months; others expire after a few days. In some cheeses, you can cut out the mold and still eat it, but in others, you should get rid of the whole block.​

​Two cheese aficionados weigh in on the rules for storing all kinds of cheese.​

Storage basics

​Cheese is a living thing, and you’ll want to treat it as such. Shannon Berry, cheese specialist at Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, has three basic rules that apply to all cheeses: ​

Give it space: Don’t overcrowd your cheese. Some cheeses need more oxygen than others. Provide a bit of space when you wrap, so a blue cheese or a brie, for example, can get more air.​

​“I prefer putting my brie and creamy cheeses in wax paper first and then into a Tupperware container to allow them more space to breathe,” says cheesemonger Emilie Lehan from Murray’s Cheese in New York. ​

Keep cheese away from other aromatic foods as it easily absorbs other flavors.​

Keep it cold: Refrigerate cheese at 34 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit. “Store cheese in the vegetable or cheese drawer; it tends to be cooler, and the humidity is good for the cheese,” Lehan says. This is most important for softer or medium-soft cheeses. Some of the harder cheeses can withstand being kept at room temperature for longer.​

spinner image Fresh hard cheese grated on a large grater
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​Freezing cheese isn’t universally recommended because, in some cases, it can drastically change the texture. Shredded cheese (either the kind you buy pre-shredded or shred yourself) can be frozen and still perform well if you store it in an airtight container (even a sealed plastic bag with the air squeezed out). If the cheese is going to be in a recipe that calls for it to bake in an oven, such as a casserole or mac and cheese, it can go straight from frozen to melted without thawing. Shredded cheese should last two to three months in the fridge.​

​Parmesan rinds are excellent for freezing — just wrap tightly in plastic. Rinds are great to throw in soups or pastas to add another dimension of flavor.​

spinner image cheese paper
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Cover it: Most cheesemongers recommend using cheese paper — the waxy paper you’ll get when you buy cheese at a deli counter or cheese shop — to wrap your cheese. It’s a worthwhile purchase if you eat a lot of cheese at home.​

​“Cheese paper allows your cheese to have some breathing room without being totally exposed and losing its precious moisture,” Berry says.​

​If you don’t have cheese paper, you can use parchment or wax paper, then put it in a plastic bag.​

​“The paper creates a barrier between the cheese and the plastic, while the plastic keeps it from getting too dry,” Berry says.​

​Make sure your cheese is fully covered, but not wrapped so tight that it doesn’t have breathing room. A plastic or glass container is OK for very fresh cheeses such as burrata or ricotta, but it should be avoided for other cheeses.​

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​​Consume soft cheeses quickly

​​Super fresh cheeses, such as mozzarella, should be eaten in less than a week because they’ll start to go bad. Softer cheeses such as ricotta, gorgonzola or feta should be consumed within two weeks, and brie within a week of opening.​

​You’ll want to smell soft cheeses to make sure they haven’t gone rancid. If you spot any mold, pitch the whole hunk right away.​

spinner image Broken blue cheese wedge with crumbles on wax paper
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​​​Let blue cheese breathe

​The stinkiest of the bunch, blue cheese, should be separated from other cheeses because of its smell. Blue cheese also needs a fair amount of oxygen to retain its blue color. ​

​“Blue cheese is best kept in loosely wrapped tinfoil,” Lehan says. “Roquefort, for example, includes tinfoil in their aging process as a means to allow the cheese to mature.” ​

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​If blue cheese comes vacuum-sealed or wrapped in plastic when purchased, rewrap it. Don’t choose foil for other cheeses: It’ll impart unwanted flavor.​

​Blue cheese already looks moldy, but discard it if you see spoilage with mold that is greenish, white or fuzzy. ​

spinner image Parmesian cheese
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Hard cheeses last longer

​Semi-hard cheeses (cheddar, gouda) or hard cheeses (parmesan) can last up to four weeks in the refrigerator and harder cheeses for up to six weeks.​

​If you see mold in one spot, cut away the bad area, and the rest should be edible. But if the mold has permeated the whole cheese, make sure to toss it.​

Do a sniff test

​Most cheeses have a “best buy” date instead of an expiration. The best way to tell if a cheese has gone bad is to smell it. ​

​“Cheese can sour or become ammoniated,” Berry says. “Cheese does naturally let off ammonia as it ages.” ​

​Discard any cheese with a bad smell even if it hasn’t reached its best buy date.​


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