We hope the following suggestions will help you enjoy your cheese, and help make it last.
1. Let your cheese breathe.
Despite what goes on in the dairy aisle at many grocery stores, plastic isn’t the ideal wrap for cheese. Instead, cheese is best stored in breathable paper or cheese bags. (In a pinch, parchment or wax paper will work. However, paper alone isn’t always sufficient. We recommend double-wrapping delicate cheeses, such as bloomy or washed-rind cheeses like Brie. Wrap them first in parchment paper, then in plastic wrap. Cheese rinds are living things, and wrapping them tightly in plastic alone will smother and kill the rind.
Put some cheeses, such as Cheddar, in a zip-top bag alone. Squeeze all the possible air out to improve your cheese’s chances. Otherwise, humidity will build up and the cheese will ammoniate. The same situation applies to small plastics (Tupperware, etc.).
2. Face your cheese.
We get it. You’re not always going to be able to go to a cheesemonger to get a hunk sliced fresh off the wheel. Sometimes you just gotta go for the shrink-wrapped grocery variety. That’s okay, but know that the longer a cheese is wrapped in plastic, the more likely it is to taste like it. Improve the cheese’s taste by “facing” it - take the edge of a knife and scrape along the exposed face of the cheese to peel off the layer that’s been next to the plastic.
You can also use this method to scrape mold off hard cheeses. The cheese underneath is still good. On the other hand, don’t try facing the mold off fresh cheeses with no rind. Once you see green, blue or pink mold, it’s done.
3. Keep your cheese cool—but never frozen.
Store your cheese (properly wrapped) in the vegetable drawer or the lowest part of your fridge, which is warmer and a bit more humid. As tempting as it may be to freeze a delightful cheese you just have too much of, don’t do it. The freezing and unfreezing can cause the membrane of the fat molecules to burst and release their moisture, which causes off flavors and texture.
And though you can keep some cheeses, especially hard ones, out at room temperature for a couple hours at most, don’t store them that way. It’s too warm, and the cheese will sweat out its butterfat, drying out in a few days.
4. Remember, the shelf lives of your cheeses vary.
Just as there are hundreds upon hundreds of types of cheese—from bloomy to blue and fresh to firm, cheeses’ ideal shelf lives vary considerably. We recommend the following general guidelines:
Fresh (no rind): 5-7 days (these can’t be faced)
Bloomy (Brie type): 5-10 days
Washed rind (orange exterior): 7-14 days
Semi-soft to firm: 2-3 weeks (face before serving)
Hard/dry: Up to 4 weeks (face before serving)
Blue: It really depends on moisture. Soft, creamy blues like Gorgonzola Dolce last 5-10 days; drier, fudgy blues like Stilton last 2-3 weeks.
Store like cheeses together. Parmigiano Reggiano is going to store much differently than a Reblochon or other soft ripened cheese, so it doesn’t make sense to wrap these two up together in the same piece of waxed paper. Aged cheeses are more durable and store longer than softer, fresher cheeses.
Store milder cheeses away from stronger cheeses. Stronger cheese can impart their flavors to the milder ones. Blue cheeses should generally be stored on their own, since the mold from the blue cheese can particulate over whatever is stored with it.
Trust your instincts. Ammonia smells, black mold and slimy surfaces are all good indications that your cheese may be too old for consumption. Different people have different levels of tolerance for this sort of thing, but here’s my suggestion: if it grosses you out, throw it out and don’t look back.
Results may vary. Remember, good cheese is a high maintenance food. Variables like room temperature, humidity, the temperature inside your refrigerator and the temperature outdoors will all affect the lifespan of a cheese. Experiment with what works best.