The world of cheese is complex and delicious, and we are so here for it. However, proper cheese storage can be confusing, especially when it comes to gourmet varieties. That's because the type of cheese dictates how well it will keep in the refrigerator — and ultimately, the optimal way to store it.
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How to store cheeses in water:
Cheeses like fresh mozzarella and feta usually come in a brine, or salt water. These cheeses are best kept in the brine because the salt helps preserve them, says Roszkowski. "Another option is to make a flavored oil with garlic, chili flakes, or fresh herbs, and store these cheeses in the mixture [in the refrigerator]," shares Roszkowski. (This works with extra-soft goat cheese as well, she adds.) Like salt water, oil will help extend the lifespan of the cheese.
How to store soft and semi-soft cheeses:
Soft cheeses include types like brie and gorgonzola, while semi-soft cheese consists of varieties like gouda and cheddar. These cheeses contain a significant amount of moisture, says Roszkowski, even though they're not suspended in water. This makes them more likely to cultivate undesirable bacteria, so the cheese should be wrapped in a breathable material like wax-coated paper, she notes. Avoid materials like plastic wrap, which will make these high-moisture cheeses too watery.
After using a soft or semi-soft cheese, re-wrap it and place it in a sealed container. On that note, due to their moisture content, these cheeses don't keep for long, so it's best to consume these varieties quickly or buy smaller portions, suggests Roszkowski.
How to store hard and semi-hard cheeses:
In general, hard cheeses — like Parmesan, Asiago, and pecorino — keep well because they don't contain a lot of moisture. The same goes for semi-hard cheeses, which include Swiss, gruyere, and Manchego. Still, proper storage is important, as the wrong technique can reduce the quality of your cheese.
To start, rub a bit of neutral-flavored oil (like grapeseed or vegetable oil) on the surface of hard and semi-hard cheeses. This will provide a thin layer of protection, ensuring the cheese doesn't dry out and crack. Also, compared to soft cheeses, "hard and semi-hard varieties will do better tightly wrapped in plastic wrap" because they don't have a lot of moisture, says Roszkowski.
How to store vacuum-packed and pasteurized cheese:
For cheese that's sold in resealable plastic bags (think: shredded cheddar cheese), it's best to keep it in its original container. In most cases, these varieties will indicate how quickly you should use the cheese (for example, within five or seven days) on the packaging.
Where to store cheese in the refrigerator:
As it turns out, the best way to store cheese involves a specific place in your fridge. "A drawer in the refrigerator [is] an ideal location because it will help prevent the cheese from drying out," explains Roszkowski. While you're at it, avoid overpacking said drawer, as this will affect the temperature. "Clean the drawer regularly and label cheeses with [the] date of purchase to keep your inventory in great shape," adds Roszkowski.
Oh, and here's a useful tip: "Add a few sugar cubes in an open container near the cheeses to help absorb excess moisture," suggests Roszkowski. Replace the sugar cubes as they start breaking down to continue protecting your cheese.