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A cheesemaker reveals: Here’s how you should actually store your cheese

This story is part of Home tipsCNET’s collection of practical tips for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

If you are a the cheese enthusiast, you know it’s no fun when a fancy block dries up or turns green before you’ve had a chance to enjoy it to the fullest. But storing your cheese properly can keep those creamy, nutty, salty cheeses way longer than you think, and what you wrap your cheese in can have a big impact. If you’re wondering how to properly cut and store cheese so it lasts longer, there are a few simple rules to keep your cheese in top shape for as long as possible.

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For advice on all things cheese storage, I turned to an expert, John Montez, a certified cheese professional and events and education coordinator for New York’s Murray’s cheese. “Cheese is a preserved product,” says Montez. “It has a lot of things that help it keep. It’s high in acid and salt and has a lot of water removed compared to milk. So it’s rare you ever have to throw out a piece of cheese.” Cheese, in other words, is made to last; ergo, an investment worth making.

How you cut and store your cheese matters, however, in terms of treating it in such a way as to prolong its liveliness for as long as possible. You don’t need a lot of fancy gadgets to make cheese last for weeks or months, just some basic tools, supplies and know-how. With help from Montez, here’s what you need to know about cheese to understand its aging potential, and how to best cut and store your fancy cheese so you never have to throw it away. (You can also take a look how to figure out which cheap wines are actually goodAnd how much money can you save by shopping at Trader Joe’s instead of the supermarket.)

The cheese is alive

blue cheese on the plate with a cheese knife
A little extra mold on your cheese shouldn’t stop you from sticking. Just scrape it off with a knife and continue.

Murray’s cheese

Some cheeses, like blue cheese, wear their mold more proudly than others, but it can be helpful to think of cheese as the controlled decay of milk and know that there’s pretty much always some mold involved regardless. The snow-white rind of brie and other bloomy-rind cheeses is actually a type of mold, as is the mottled outer surface of a firmer cheese like Gruyere. But fear not! If you’ve ever taken a probiotic, then you already inherently understand that not all microbes are bad.

Read more: Whole Foods 12 Days of Cheese is the best gift to give yourself

This is all to say that, first of all, a little extra mold on your cheese shouldn’t stop you from holding on to it. “If you see it mold a little bit, you can generally scrape that mold off and it’s not a problem,” says Montez. Due to the lack of water content in cheese, food mold does not have the ability to penetrate it very deeply as it would many other food products. “Look for whether it’s black mold or something like that,” she says, “but the thing is, it’s rare that a piece of cheese becomes dangerous to eat. It’s going to become unpalatable to you long before it’s dangerous.”

Cut the cheese so it’s easier to wrap

block of sliced ​​cheese on cutting board with knife in background
Precise cuts that leave flat surfaces make it easier to wrap the cheese in the most effective way.

David Watsky/CNET

Keeping the cheese palatable, therefore, is the real goal. How you store your cheese will have the biggest impact on its longevity, but how, when, and what you cut it with can also play a part in its continued success in flavor and texture. Precise cuts that leave flat surfaces facilitate wrapping most effectively, and keeping the cheese whole for as long as possible also helps its longevity. “Minimizing the surface area (exposed to air) will keep the cheese from drying out or getting moldy,” says Montez. “So, for example, if you’re planning to make cheese ahead of time for a party, the longer you can leave it whole, the better,” or if you’re a regular meal prep, resist the urge to cut a whole piece of cheese for easier access and cut as you go.

As far as clean cuts go, “you can do just about any job you need with a chef’s knifesays Montez. “When it comes to softer cheeses, a skeleton knife it’s good to have something that reduces the resistance of the knife or a wire cheese harp which is used in many cheese shops. Nowadays, you can even find cheese boards with built-in wire. These are really great for leaving the rind of flowery rind and other soft cheeses as intact as possible.”

Wrap the cheese but don’t use plastic

block of cheese wrapped in parchment paper

There is special cheese paper you can buy, but butcher paper or parchment paper will work just as well.

David Watsky/CNET

One of the two main goals when wrapping and storing cheese is to allow for some airflow so the fancy cheese can still breathe. “The main idea here is that you don’t want to wrap it in plastic,” Montez says. “There are a lot of active microorganisms in cheese, and you want to keep them alive before you eat it.”

If you’re wondering why then, the pre-cut slice of cheese you bought from the grocer or cheese shop was wrapped in plastic, presumably by cheese professionals, the answer is marketing. “It’s mostly for display purposes,” Montez says, as you’re unlikely to buy what you can’t see. “There are cheese shops that wrap exclusively in paper, but that’s rare. If you’re a large shop that handles a lot of produce, it’s okay if you know if the cheese is wrapped in plastic for a couple of days, but other than that, it can be bad for the cheese”.

You can extend the life of your artisan cheeses, therefore, by rewrapping them in paper after you bring them home. “Formaticum is fantastic cheese paper which is specially formulated to keep the outside from drying out while allowing the cheese to breathe,” says Montez. “

hand putting cheese into case

Formaticum makes excellent cheese storage bags and wrapping paper.

Format

While it can take some serious practice to achieve the crispy folds of expert cheesemakers, think of your cheese as a small gift (which it obviously is) and wrap it as if you were using festive wrapping paper. “You want the paper to contact the piece of cheese,” Montez says, “so fold as you go and make sure all sides of the cheese contact the paper evenly and flat.” If that sounds intimidating, Formaticum also makes handy cheese storage bags where no origami-level folding is required.

How and where to store cheese to make it last longer

Parmigiano Reggiano crust on cutting board

Cheese that you intend to consume within a couple of days doesn’t necessarily even need refrigeration. And the real Parmigiano Reggiano never he needs to see the inside of your refrigerator.

David Watsky/CNET

“What you’re really trying to achieve when storing cheese is to keep cold air from the refrigerator from blowing on it, because that will make it dry quicker,” says Montez. Wrapped cheeses should go in a drawer inside yours fridgein a corner where the fan doesn’t quite reach, or even in a small container with a broken lid to keep air circulation available.

Hard cheeses, or even some softer cheeses that you plan on using up within a couple of days, don’t necessarily need refrigeration. You can just look for something to cover them like a cheese dome or, for the really committed, a cheese cave. According to Montez: “Parmesan Cheese he never needs to see your fridge. You can keep it pretty much indefinitely at room temperature.”

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