Buying beautiful cheese is such a pleasurable indulgence that the last thing you want is to find it has gone mouldy, or hard, two days later and is no longer edible. Cheese needs to breathe and has to be treated as a living food, which is why how your store cheese is important.
When cheese is developed, it’s aged for a period of time and will keep ageing until the wheel is cut into. Once it has been cut, the cheese stops ageing, however, due to the bacteria and moulds within it, it will continue to develop after you buy it.
How you store it, can mean that development turns it into inedible hard or mouldy cheese, or, if stored well, can help the flavours to remain strong and well developed. So let’s look at some of the common mistakes people make when storing cheese.
Common mistakes people make when storing cheese
1. Overfilling your fridge so it’s too warm
One of the issues which causes problems with cheese is if your fridge isn’t cold enough and actually, we often fill our fridges with so much stuff, they operate above the ideal temperature of around 5 degrees.
Shelves filled with things like bread, fruit and vegetables that could be in a fruit bowl or vegetable rack, not to mention jars of jam and bottles of mustard or ketchup that just don’t need to be in the fridge, can all heat up our fridge needlessly.
If you are finding your cheese is going mouldy too quickly in your fridge, have a clear-out and check that it’s operating at the right temperature, as a starting point. If it’s still too warm, you might need to buy a new fridge.
2. Storing cheese wrapped in plastic
This might seem counter-intuitive as a lot of shop-bought cheese is sold in vacuum-packed sealed plastic and if you are storing a big block of cheddar, that’s fine, however, for most cheeses, being wrapped tightly in plastic is the worst possible way to store them.
If it’s a cheese you are going to eat within a few days, then storing it in a plastic tub is better than wrapping in cling film as at least it can breathe, however, plastic should be a last resort for cheese storage.
Tightly wrapping cheese in plastic means it can’t breathe, or release gases within the cheese which can then build up causing rather unpleasant smells and tastes. Plastic also traps all the moisture inside which is then a breeding ground for bad bacteria.
Plastic also lets light into the cheese which can affect the taste on the surface of the cheese, which is why it’s a good idea to cut the very outside edges off of cheese that was bought while wrapped in plastic.
If you are interested in keeping your cheese as natural as possible then the other problem with plastic is the impact on the environment and the waste is causes. Plastic wrap should always be a very final resort and never used for more than a few days for cheese, if at all.
3. Storing cheese in aluminium foil
Another option people often use for storing cheese in their fridge is aluminium foil but unfortunately, while this is marginally better than plastic, it’s still not a great choice if you want your cheese to be at its best.
While foil is recyclable and also reusable if you wash it, it still doesn’t really allow the cheese to breathe very well and can create some of the same problems with your cheese as wrapping it in plastic.
It will still keep the moisture next to your cheese, as well as those nasty gases, which all affect the quality of your cheese. Another issue with foil is that the metal itself can affect the food, giving it a slightly metallic flavour.
So, we’ve looked at some of the common mistakes which people make when storing cheese, keeping it too warm, and wrapped in materials that don’t allow it to breathe – so just how do you store cheese correctly?
Here are our top tips for how to store cheese:
1. Double wrap your cheese
Our top tip for storing cheese is to always double wrap it in something which helps it to breathe. Our suggestion is to use waxed paper, cheese paper or baking parchment paper – all of these keep your cheese from drying out while allowing it to breathe.
They also don’t store the moisture next to it, so you can avoid the problems of nasty bacteria breeding and the nasty gases that you get if you wrap your cheese in plastic.
Once you have double-wrapped your cheese in a breathable wrap you can store it in a plastic container, put the lid on, and store it in the top of the fridge as that’s where the temperature usually stays constant.
2. Use cheese paper
As we’ve mentioned you need to wrap cheese in material that allows it to breathe and the very best choice is cheese paper or specialist cheese storage bags. These are great in many ways as they give extra protection without affecting the taste or flavour.
They don’t cause all the issues that plastic does because it’s made from two layers which are fused, one of paper one of plastic, but the plastic layer has holes in it which helps the cheese to breathe. The only problem is it can be quite expensive and it’s also not recyclable as its a wax paper.
Cheese paper also doesn’t give that extra protection you might want for soft cheeses, so you need to make sure they are then placed in containers as well. When it comes to hard cheeses, you will want to keep them in the container with the soft cheese, to avoid any smells spreading to other food, and to keep all the cheese fresh.
3. Add a sugar cube
A trick used by some restaurants when storing their cheese is to add in two sugar cubes into the plastic container, next to the cheese, to help keep the atmosphere in the box regulated. If it’s good enough for chefs then it’s worth a try.
If the sugar cubes dissolve in the container, due to the moist atmosphere, then you will need to clean them out and replace them, if you haven’t eaten all your cheese before that happens.
4. Store cheese in containers to avoid making other food smell
Once you have double-wrapped your cheese it’s important to store it in closed containers, which can be plastic or wood, so that your fridge doesn’t end up smelling of cheese, along with all the other food that you have in there.
You can either choose a sealed airtight container, or a wooden box, both of which should be kept in your fridge to keep your cheese cool, to prevent mould from taking over and ruining your delicious delicacy. Its important to store cheese properly as the last thing you want is for your fresh cheeses to go off and then infect the rest of your refrigerator contents with the smell.
The best place in the refrigerator to place your containers, is either on the top shelf, for a consistent temperature, or in the cheese drawer or vegetable drawer if there is one, as it avoids them drying out too much. This is the best way to store cheese and to keep your cheese fresh.
5. Remove from storage an hour before you want to eat it
While you need to store your wrapped cheese in boxes, in the fridge, when it comes to serving cheese for people to eat directly, you should take it out of the fridge about an hour before you are planning to serve it, to allow it to reach room temperature.
If it’s cheese for cooking, this doesn’t matter as you are going to melt it anyway, but cheese for a cheese board, or to have with cheese and crackers after a meal, should be left to warm up a bit before eating.
6. You can store cheese at room temperature
This might sound strange given all the focus on storing your cheese in the refrigerator, but it is possible to store it at room temperature as well, for around 4 – 7 days if it is wrapped and in a container, just like they do in France, or you can store it in a cool cellar if you have one. Storing cheese correctly, at room temperature, is definitely not the worst thing you can do to your cheese.
Now you know how to store cheese, what next?
No more suffering from mould-ridden cheese or hard edges on the cheddar you bought only a few days beforehand. There is no excuse for ever having rancid cheese in your house again.
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Or, even better, you could give one as a fit to your loved ones, as long as you share with them your new knowledge on the importance of storing cheese correctly, so they can really make the most of the contents.
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So now you know how to store your cheese, and more importantly, the key pitfalls to avoid when it comes to cheese storage, why not test out your new skills with our range of cheese hampers.