When it comes to snacking, I’m 100 percent cheesehead. My refrigerator is typically stocked with a half dozen cheeses—you know, a cheese to fit every mood. However, with a dairy drawer stuffed to the gills, it can be hard to keep all these cheeses fresh. There’s nothing more disappointing than getting your perfect cheese and charcuterie board ready and finding that your Muenster has seen better days.
In efforts to prevent that happening ever again, I decided to see exactly how long cheese would last in the refrigerator. However, I didn’t just want to pop a brick of shrink-wrapped colby inside and start the clock—I wanted to see which common storage method would really keep my cheese the freshest. So I rounded up a few traditional methods and one novel storage idea and put them to the test.
For this this experiment I took a block of Colby-Jack cheese and cut it into equally sized pieces. Then I stored them five different ways: in plastic wrap, parchment paper, a zip-top bag, an air-tight container and a cheese vault.
Psst! The vault, for the uninitiated, is just a silicone box with a ridged bottom.
I popped them on the same shelf in my refrigerator (well, first I had to do some fridge reorganizing) and waited. While it was hard not to snack on this cheese, I refrained. This was for science! And the sake of all future cheeses.
The Method That Just Didn’t Work
Stashing these cheeses in my refrigerator, I figured it would be a few weeks until they’d start to turn a bit fuzzy. However, after just eight days, one cheese was rendered inedible. The block wrapped in parchment didn’t mold, but it did dry out. When I checked on it, it was dry, crumbly and just not suitable to eat. So when it comes to keeping your cheese under wraps, skip parchment (well, not altogether—use it to line your cake pans the right way).
The Ones That Were Pretty Good
While I was definitely shocked at how quickly that first brick went bad, I was pretty surprised at how long my other chunks of cheese lasted. Wrapped in plastic wrap, that block took 28 days to develop mold. Stashed in a airtight plastic container, the cheese took 31 days to go bad and the zip top bag cheese took 34 days. Overall, these all kept pretty long in the refrigerator, but their demise was ultimately caused by all the moisture trapped inside those containers (moisture really helps mold grow fast). I wasn’t too shocked since I typically stored my cheese in plastic wrap, but it was interesting to see how the other options stacked up.
Despite a good showing from those plastic-wrapped options, the cheese vault did end up keeping the cheese the freshest the longest! After 40 days—let me say that again: 40 days!—the cheese still had zero signs of mold. The cheese did look just a touch dry but slicing into it, it was still perfectly suited for cheese and crackers. The product page for the cheese vault does say that if you’re planning on keeping the cheese stored for a long time, you can add a sprinkling of water to the bottom of the container to keep the cheese climate a bit more humid so the cheese doesn’t dry out (but this is only necessary if you’re planning on storing it for a month or more).
So what makes this cheese vault so good at keeping your cheddar fresh? Well, it’s just the construction of this box: it’s made of durable silicone with ridges on the bottom. The box doesn’t have an tightly sealing lid, rather the lid just sits atop the base. This, along with the ribbed bottom, helps allow a bit of air—but not too much—circulate inside the vault.
The Cheesy Conclusion
Photo: Taste of Home
While I rarely have a problem finishing cheese before it goes bad, I do think that having the cheese vault is incredibly handy. It’s a great insurance policy for people that are serious about their cheddar (or gouda or havarti) and would hate to see it get fuzzy. (Here’s where to find one online.)
There are a few other upsides to this particular product too—namely that it’s a greener way to keep cheese (pssst… here are some other ways to go green at home). Of course it’s a larger investment up front (about $30), but it saves you from using plastic baggy or cling wrap for each cube of cheese. Oh, I forgot another bonus: You can store different cheeses in the vault without them affecting one another’s flavor. The vault comes with a divider that keeps cheeses separate (they think of everything!).
Of course if you’re not too worried about keeping cheese, the regular plastic wrap routine will work fine (just keep your eye on it), but for serious cheese connoisseurs, this product is a must! Right now, mine is chock full—time to make a grilled cheese or two!
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