It can be low-key devastating when good cheese goes bad. Proper storage is essential, whether you’re packing a top-notch French triple-creme whose name you hesitate to pronounce, or a workhouse block of supermarket cheddar.
“Cheese is alive, and will continue to evolve inside your fridge,” Christine Clark, a Certified Cheese Professional and VinePair contributor, says. “You want to keep it from drying out, but also allow it to breathe.”
Here are three expert tips to make the most of every slice, wedge, or hunk.
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Ditch the plastic wrap.
Cheese shops often display their wares in skintight plastic sheaths, but this is more about marketing than preservation. When Cooks Illustrated tested five cheese storage techniques, its tasters detected sour off flavors in the plastic-wrapped wedges after a few weeks.
“My favorite storage method (for all cheese) is a small zip-top plastic bag that allows you to suck out the air before closing,” writes cheese expert Liz Thorpe in her seminal tome, “The Book of Cheese.”
Alternatively, you can swaddle your cheese in a damp paper towel and then wrap it in aluminum. Or, fold it loosely in wax paper and place it in a porous container, like leftover plastic takeout containers with a few holes poked in the lid.
“If you want something fool-proof and effective, I love the cheese bags from Formaticum,” Clark says.
Buy small quantities.
The moment it’s cut from its wheel, cheese starts to oxidize from the outer surface in. The best way to prevent your half-eaten nubs or wedges from drying out in your refrigerator at home is to consume it fairly quickly. Win-win.
“You shouldn’t be buying cheese that you can’t get through in a week,” cheesemonger Jordan Edwards told Epicurious.
Embrace the crisper.
Like wine and other “living” foodstuffs, cheese ages best in climate-controlled environments. Maintaining moisture is key, which is why cheese caves (and this countertop grotto!) combine cool temperatures with high humidity.
No grotto? No problem. Store your lovingly wrapped cheese in your vegetable crisper drawer, which tends to get less dry airflow than, say, the top shelf directly under the vents. Marcella Hazan reportedly kept her cheese at the bottom of the refrigerator, where it is less likely to pick up flavors of other foods.