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Spoiler Alert: Plastic Wrap Is a Great Way to Kill Your Cheese

Time makes fools of us all, and cheese is no exception. You know the routine: You spy some lovely tommes and wedges at your local cheese counter and snap them up with dreams of savoring them slowly with an elegant glass of wine—only to promptly forget about them in the back of your fridge for two full weeks. When that inevitable cheese craving hits again, you find that your precious (and maybe pricey) cheeses have sprouted hairy spots of mold. Tragedy.

You don’t necessarily have to spiral into despair: Depending on what kind of cheese it is, you may be able to rescue it. But understanding how to keep cheese at peak freshness—before it starts to go bad—is critical to preventing spoilage and waste. (And wasted cheese is a terrible thing, indeed.) Moisture, temperature, and ripening technique all play a part in how quickly cheese can spoil.

Types of cheese

Before jumping into the best way to store cheese, it’s important to understand how different cheeses are classified. Tracey Brigman, Ed.D., a scientist who specializes in food safety and preservation at the University of Georgia, highlights two ways of differentiating cheese types: by the amount of moisture in the finished cheese, and how a cheese is ripened.