How To Prevent Cheese From Getting Moldy
In this article: We explore proper handling and storage techniques plus some handy tricks for prolonging the shelf life of cheese so you don’t lose it to mold.
Dear Dollar Stretcher,
Do you have any ideas for keeping cheddar cheese from getting moldy so quickly? I know that it is safe to eat it after trimming mold off since it’s a hard cheese – I read that the other day. If you know the answer for how to prevent cheese from getting moldy, please let me know.
Why does cheese get moldy so fast? Wilma was asking specifically about cheddar cheese, but let’s first take a look at what how any cheese may get moldy.
Often, moldy cheese results from improper storage and handling and the reuse of utensils. Read on for a more thorough explanation of how these factors can cause your cheese to mold quickly.
Key Factors That Can Prevent Cheese From Molding
To prolong the life of your cheeses, take the following steps to ensure it is stored and handled properly.
Proper Cheese Storage
It’s best if you store cheese at the proper refrigerated temperature. But what is the best way to store cheese in the fridge?
Keep your cheese in the refrigerator, ideally in the crisper drawer, where humidity levels are slightly higher. According to the American Cheese Society, the ideal temperature for storing most cheeses is between 35°F and 45°F (2°C to 7°C).
If you have a variety of cheese types, keep them separate to prevent cross-contamination of flavors and mold spores. Separation is especially important with strong-smelling or blue-veined cheeses.
Also, make sure you use the correct wrapping material. Cheese needs to breathe, so avoid using plastic wrap or airtight containers. Instead, use wax or parchment paper, then loosely cover it with plastic wrap or place it in a resealable plastic bag with some air inside. Also, change the wrapping periodically if you don’t use up the cheese right away.
Specialty cheese storage bags or paper, like Formaticum cheese paper, can also be used.
Here are some additional storage tips that can help prolong the life of your cheeses.
If you have a large block of cheese, consider cutting large blocks of cheese into smaller portions and wrapping them individually. This will help reduce the surface area exposed to potential mold spores each time you use the cheese.
Track the life of your cheeses
Even with proper storage, cheese has a limited shelf life. Soft cheeses typically last 1-2 weeks, while harder varieties can last up to several months.
However, always check the cheese for mold or a scent of spoilage before consuming.
Freeze if necessary
If you don’t plan to consume the cheese within its shelf life, consider freezing it. While freezing can alter the texture of some cheeses, it’s an effective way to prevent mold growth.
To freeze cheese, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, then place it in a resealable plastic bag, removing as much air as possible. Thaw the cheese slowly in the refrigerator before consuming.
When cutting or handling cheese, use clean knives and hands to minimize the introduction of bacteria and mold spores. However, even clean hands and utensils can transfer mold spores to cheese.
If possible, handle cheese with food-grade plastic gloves or plastic wrap.
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How Can You Prevent Cheese from Getting Moldy?
We also asked our frugal readers to share their most effective tips for preventing cheese from getting moldy. Below you’ll find the best responses we received.
Shred and Freeze
I’m not sure that you want to freeze the cheese or not but I do buy larger pieces bring them home and shred them up. In the bowl I add a little corn starch which will prevent it from sticking. I shake it up and then either store it in Tupperware or freezer Ziploc bags. I can then take out how much I want and refreeze the rest.
It works great and saves me loads of money.
Related: Stop Losing Food To Freezer Burn
Don’t Touch the Cheese!
I worked at Hickory Farms while I was in high school. We were always told that touching the cheese would encourage mold so we never touched it with bare hands. We always used a piece of plastic wrap when handling the cheese and it seemed to work.
Plus, always make sure the surface you are cutting on is clean as well. Any left over residues on a cutting board can contribute to it molding. In short, don’t touch it and don’t let it touch anything that isn’t clean.
Sugar or Vinegar
Store cheese in an airtight container with a couple of lumps of sugar. Another way is to moisten a paper towel lightly with vinegar, and store that with the cheese. Don’t be too generous with the vinegar, or it will affect the taste of the cheese.
If you’re not going to use it right away, store your cheese in the freezer! Really, you can! Soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert stay usable for up to one year if frozen. Hard cheeses will last twice that long if tightly wrapped before freezing.
I Leave the Wrapper On
I’ve had the best luck with leaving the wrapper on the cheese and only cutting off what I need for each use. I usually buy the big two to five pound bricks and cut right through the shrink wrapping. That way, only one end is exposed to the air (I cover that tightly with plastic wrap). I’ve had very little trouble with cheddar going moldy this way.
Use the Freezer for Preventing Moldy Cheese
We store our cheddar (and all other block and shredded cheeses) in a freezer bag in the freezer. This keeps them fresh and easily accessible. Simply pull it out about 20 minutes before you need to use it, and you’re set.
Buy food quality wax from the store (it is usually in the canning section of the store.) Melt the wax. Then as it gets cooler, dip your cheese in it. Just make sure that your wax isn’t too hot or you will melt your cheese.
Of course, if you know that you are going to use the cheese grated, you can grate the entire block and freeze it. Ask at the deli counter. Some places that sell deli cheese in blocks will slice it for free. Some places even will grate it for free. Grated cheese defrosts in just a matter of minutes so you don’t have to worry about it having to defrost first.
I have found on occasion that grated cheese will freeze together in a lump. A solution is to grate it on a cookie sheet in a single-ish layer and then put it in a zip bag. It only takes about 15 minutes for it to freeze well enough not to clump together.
Reviewed May 2023
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