6 Ways You Might Be Ruining Your Leftover Cheese

Put down the Saran wrap.

Mixed race woman carrying fruit and cheese board
Photo: Getty Images

Whether you eat it by the slice, melt it into a sandwich, grate it onto pasta or chili, stir it into soup, or just eat it straight from the cutting board alongside a glass of wine, you probably have a few bits and pieces of leftover cheese hanging out in your fridge.

The chances are also that you're storing those pieces of cheese incorrectly—don't worry too much, we are all guilty of it!

If you've ever reached into the fridge and pulled out a chunk of cheese with white edges, mold spots, or a clammy texture, you've got a storage problem. Give your cheese new (or extended) life by learning how to properly store it to maintain maximum flavor, texture, and freshness.

Mistake 1: Don't use the original shrink wrapping

Most cheese comes in a snug shrink wrap when you purchase it at the store. The cheese is vacuum packaged when sent out for purchase to help keep a long shelf life. This plastic wrap also allows the customer to fully see the beauty of the cheese.

But once you open the packaging, the cheese is exposed to air and the life of your cheese dramatically declines. Rewrapping the cheese in the original packaging won't protect it from the elements—in fact, it may expose it to additional bacteria on the outside of the plastic—and shortens the overall shelf life. Once you break the seal, toss the wrapper.

Mistake 2: Don't wrap it in plastic wrap

Speaking of plastic, not only should you toss the original shrink wrapping, but you should also toss out the plastic wrap altogether.

Storing cheese in plastic can trap unwanted moisture and permeate the cheese with funky plastic flavors. Instead, wrap your cheese in specialty cheese paper, parchment paper, or wax paper. Then place the paper-wrapped cheese in a partially sealed plastic bag, storage container, or plastic wrap. It's ok to use plastic wrap at this point. The porous paper material allows the cheese to "breathe," while the plastic bag or container keeps the cheese from drying out.

Mistake 3: Don't keep it too cold

Whether it's the back of your fridge (the coldest part of your refrigerator) or the freezer, keep your cheese somewhere less frigid. Cheese loves a stable, slightly warmer and humid environment compared to most foods, so the cheese or crisper drawer is the perfect resting place.

If your cheese is stored in an area that's too cold, it can dry the cheese out and can slow down the ripening process of soft cheeses. If your produce drawers are already filled to the brim, you can store your cheese in a plastic storage container.

Tip: Sometimes we have too much of a good thing, which results in more cheese than we think we can reasonably eat (though, that's never been the case in my house). Avoid popping the excess cheese in the freezer, however. Not only does it not extend the shelf life, but it also changes the texture and the flavor of your cheese.

Mistake 4: Don't treat all cheeses the same

Not all cheeses are created the same, and they all have slightly different storage nuances.

Harder cheeses, like Parmesan and pecorino, should be tightly wrapped in paper, then loosely wrapped in plastic or a plastic baggy. Semi-hard and semi-soft cheeses, like Cheddar and Swiss, should be wrapped loosely in paper and loosely in plastic or a plastic baggy. And the real soft stuff, like brie and feta, should be stored loosely in paper, then in a partially sealed plastic baggy or storage container with the lid cracked (they like to "breathe" more than other cheeses). Super soft cheeses, like mozzarella and ricotta, can stay in their original containers.

Shredded cheese can also stay in its original packaging, but try to squeeze out as much air as possible to avoid it from drying out or getting moldy.

Mistake 5: Don't treat cheeses like other items in your fridge

We already know that cheese is pretty particular about its storage and requires special treatment, but it also doesn't like to mingle with non-cheese items. Cheese tends to absorb the aromas of other foods, so if you're keeping your properly wrapped cheese in the produce drawer, find another place for strong-smelling produce (like onions, which should be stored at room temperature, anyway).

Mistake 6: Don't panic

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we may find a little spot of mold or some unsightly white edges. The first thing to remember is that not all mold is bad—remember, cheese is made by introducing bacteria to milk.

If it's a hard cheese with some blue or green mold, don't toss the whole thing. Simply cut off the offending pieces and rewrap the cheese in new cheese or parchment paper. If it's a soft cheese with large portions of red, pink, yellow, or black mold, it's time to say goodbye to that chunk. If it's just a tiny bit of colorful mold, you can usually slice or scoop the bad part off and save the remaining cheese.

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