At Cheese Grotto, our mission is to help cheese lovers enjoy their wheels and wedges to the fullest. The best way to make sure the cheese you buy keeps its lively flavors and supple textures for as long as possible is to store it properly.
That’s why we developed this cheese storage guide. It has all the information you need to make the best decisions about storing your favorite cheeses—not just the what and the how, but the why. Follow our principles of good cheese storage and your cheeses will last longer and taste better.
What is the best way to store cheese?
Cheese is a living food. It needs to breathe. That’s the guiding principle of storing cheese, and here’s why.
Depending on the variety, cheeses are aged for anywhere from a few weeks to several months to several years. As long as the wheels remain whole, they’ll keep aging and developing. Once your neighborhood cheesemonger or cheesemaker cuts into that cheese, the aging process stops.
But that doesn’t mean your cheese stays static. It’s still teeming with the beneficial microbes—bacteria, yeasts, and molds—that transformed it from pale, flavorless curd into rich, aromatic cheese. Because of this, the cheeses you buy will continue to grow and change in your refrigerator or on your counter, and how you store them affects how soon they develop off-flavors, undesirable textures, premature molding, or other issues that make them less delicious to eat.
Because of this, it’s important that your cheese storage method allows your cheese to breathe without letting it dry out.
Should you keep cheese in the refrigerator?
In general, until about an hour before you’re ready to eat it, cheese should be stored in the refrigerator. The cold helps to preserve it and keep premature mold growth at bay—all things we want when storing cheese. In general, it’s a good idea to keep your cheese in the cheese drawer or crisper to protect it from the drying air of your fridge.
Of course, there are some exceptions. The mozzarella you’re about to put on pizza, or the cheddar you’re grating up for mac ‘n’ cheese? Those don’t need to come up to room temperature before eating, since you’re getting ready to melt them anyway.
But cheeses that you plan to enjoy on a cheese board, for example, should be brought up to room temperature before eating. (More on room-temperature cheese storage at the bottom of this post.)
Can you store cheese in plastic wrap?
We see cheese vacuum-sealed and wrapped in clear plastic all the time, everywhere from fine cheese shops to supermarket shelves.
Sometimes, this makes sense. Plastic wrap is fine for commodity cheddar cheese, which actually ages in big, vacuum-sealed blocks, and fresh mozzarella wrapped in plastic for consumption in a day or two is no big deal. Fresh cheeses like chevre or feta in brine are also fine to be stored in a clear plastic tub.
But for most varieties, plastic wrap is the least desirable cheese storage option. That’s because a tight seal of plastic doesn’t allow your cheese to breathe the way other storage methods do.
This means it can’t release gases like ammonia, which can build up and create unpleasant flavors and aromas in your cheese. Plastic wrap traps moisture, which can promote the growth of undesirable bacteria—not the good bacteria native to the cheese, but the kind of microbes that can create off-flavors or lead to potential food safety issues.
Translucent plastic also lets light in, which can oxidize the cheese and create off-flavors on its outer surface. That’s why it’s always a good idea to lightly scrape a knife against the cut surfaces of plastic-wrapped cheeses, especially if they’ve been sitting under bright fluorescent lights at the grocery store for who knows how long.
And we haven’t even gotten into the fact that plastic wrap isn’t exactly sustainable. It’s single-use, not recyclable, and takes up to a thousand years to break down in the landfill. Yikes!
In our view, plastic wrap should only be used to store cheese as a last resort, and then only for a short time.
Can you store cheese in aluminum foil?
Short answer: Yes, for a short time, but only if there’s no better option.
Aluminum foil is one step up from plastic wrap, but just barely. It’s opaque, and if you wash it well, it’s recyclable—both good things. But it’s not great at allowing cheese to breathe, and this can create some potential problems.
Wrapping cheese in foil can create some of the same issues as plastic. Because it’s not breathable, foil will hold in moisture and gases, creating those unfortunate flavors and aromas and leading to potential bacterial growth.
Foil can also affect the flavor of certain cheeses. Factors like acidity and salt content can cause a cheese to take on a slight aluminum flavor—a tasting note nobody wants. Foil is better than nothing, but it’s not an ideal option to store cheese.
What about cheese paper?
Cheese paper—and cheese storage bags, which are pre-folded pouches made from cheese paper—is a good option for all the reasons plastic isn’t. It’s opaque, and it wraps tightly enough around the cheese to protect it without mummifying the cheese like plastic does.
Despite the name, cheese paper is actually made from a layer of paper and a layer of plastic fused together. The plastic has teeny tiny perforations, essential for allowing air and moisture to flow out. This paper-plastic combo works great for protecting your cheese from the off-flavors and drying air of your fridge while also letting it breathe.
Sadly, cheese paper has some drawbacks, too. It’s on the pricey side, and for a dedicated cheese lover, those costs can add up. Like plastic wrap, cheese paper isn’t reusable. And unfortunately, since it’s a composite material, it can’t be easily recycled, either.
Source: Taste of Home
What about reusable, compostable food wraps?
In our experience, these wraps—a piece of fabric coated with beeswax, resin, and jojoba oil—work okay for storing cheese when used correctly.
Wax wraps must be wrapped around the cheese tightly to be effective—not great for soft cheeses. They do, however, protect cheese from air while allowing it to breathe. But wax wraps don’t protect hard cheese as well as cheese paper does unless you double up wraps, meaning your upfront investment is greater.
While wax wraps are reusable, you have to wash them between uses, which means more work. And eventually, they lose the waxy coating that protects the cheese. They can be composted, if that’s something you have access to, but you still have to replace them regularly. Not the most sustainable option.
The best way to store cheese
The perfect cheese storage container is reusable, durable, and easy to clean. It’s long-lasting, sustainable, and zero-waste. It uses natural materials like wood—the same materials cheesemakers use to age cheese in their caves. And it maintains the proper moisture level to keep your cheese tasting great for longer.
We developed the Cheese Grotto to be the perfect home for all your cheeses. It creates the humidity your cheese needs to taste its best and extend its shelf life, and it looks great while doing it. Think of it as a humidor for cheese, simulating the high-moisture, protected conditions of the cheese cave
Just soak the clay brick in water for two minutes once a week and place it on the antimicrobial floor of the Grotto. It’ll slowly release moisture, maintaining the 70% humidity your cheese needs to taste great and last for up to three weeks without premature molding or drying out.
The best part? There’s no wrapping needed—which means no waste and no ongoing costs. Just delicious, fresh-tasting cheese in a beautiful box that you can store on your counter or in your refrigerator.
How long can you store cheese at room temperature?
With the Cheese Grotto, you can store your aged cheeses at room temperature, just like the French do! Brie, Cheddar, Gouda, Manchego, Gruyere—they’ll keep for up to 7 to 10 days in the Grotto at room temperature, always the perfect temperature when you’re ready for a snack.
If you have a cool space in your home between 45 to 60 degrees, like a cellar or basement, you can even use the Grotto to age your own cheese. It’s like having a cheese cave in your home. How cool is that?
The Cheese Grotto can also be used to store cheeses in your refrigerator for longer-term storage. It’ll stay fresh for up to 3 weeks unwrapped. When you’re ready to serve your cheese, simply take the Grotto out of your refrigerator at least an hour before you want to dig in to allow the cheese to come up to room temperature. That way, it will taste lively and flavorful, with smooth, supple textures when you’re ready to eat.
The Cheese Grotto is a beautiful, sustainable, and economical cheese storage box that helps your cheese last longer and taste better. And that’s why it’s the best way to store cheese.