We love making cheese boards because they’re an easy, no-cook meal that still feels special. All you need is the board, a few delicious cheeses and accompaniments, and a set of cheese knives—like our new black resin writeable cheese knives, for instance.
But there’s still some preparation involved, especially if you’re building a larger-scale board for a crowd—and one of the best ways to lighten your workload when entertaining is to do as much of that prep as possible in advance. In the case of cheese boards, that prep consists of two steps (we told you this was easy!): gathering your goods—whether hitting a local store or our online cheese shop or raiding your fridge and pantry—and cutting or portioning wedges.
Sounds simple, right? But not all cheeses are equal when it comes to pre-cutting. Here are our tips for simplifying your board building—and which cheeses you can pre-cut, which you should cut right before serving, and which ones you should leave whole.
Which Cheeses Can You Cut and Store in Advance?
You may be tempted to portion each cheese the day before your picnic, dinner, or tasting, but not every cheese is durable enough to pre-cut. Think about it: will that lush, ripe bloomy rind be as tasty tomorrow if you cut it into wedges today?
If you plan to pre-cut cheeses, it’s best to use only certain styles. Semi-firm and firm cheeses like Alpine styles, cheddars, and Goudas have the durability and consistency to withstand being cut into slices, batons, or triangles before being stored for a short period. Softer cheeses like bloomies, washed rinds, and fresh varieties like mozzarella or chevre should be cut shortly before serving—or, if possible, served whole on the board for guests to cut into along with the appropriate cheese knives for each style.
Why Can’t I Cut Some Cheeses in Advance?
As soon as a wheel of cheese is cut—whether by you or by the maker—the clock starts ticking. While the rind is intact, the cheese will continue to age, but once it’s breached, air and light come into contact with the paste and oxidation begins.
Cheese also begins to lose moisture and dry out if not stored properly, and that’s especially true once wedges or blocks are broken down. Smaller pieces mean more surface area that can give off moisture and come into contact with light and oxygen, accelerating perishability. (This is one of the reasons why it’s better to use freshly grated cheese rather than pre-shredded.)
The beneficial microbes that help make our cheese taste great keep working after it’s cut, though—and over time, that additional surface area will also lead to mold growth on cut surfaces. Luckily, proper storage and a little planning will help you ensure that your cheeses last for as long as possible, whether they’re hardy hunks of parm or delicate lactic bloomies.
How Should I Store Pre-Cut Cheese?
When you do pre-cut cheeses, be sure to plan your prep for no more than one day in advance of serving. Store your pre-cut cheeses on the shelves of your Cheese Grotto and keep them in the fridge for up to 12 hours, then take it out and bring everything to room temperature a couple of hours before you plan to serve. That’ll keep wheels, wedges, and pre-cut pieces from drying out. If you need to store for a little longer than 12 hours, tightly wrap the pre-cut pieces in cheese paper to provide extra protection.
No Grotto? Check out our lineup! In the meantime, store your prepped cheese in an airtight container in the fridge.
The next day, be sure to take your cheeses—pre-cut and not—out of the fridge a few hours before you want to enjoy them, which will let them come up to room temp. All you need to do now is lay everything out! Follow our cheese board building guide or take one of our virtual classes to create a board that looks gorgeous and tastes amazing.
We hope these tips have you feeling ready to prep your next cheese board on a schedule that works for you! What are your favorite hacks for making cheese board building a snap? Tag us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @cheesegrotto to show us your boards and let us know!