Before refrigerators, cheese was stored in pots of salt and brine to maintain freshness. Today, cheese is usually wrapped and stored in the refrigerator, but not all cheeses require refrigeration. If you want room temperature cheese, you may be wondering, what cheeses can be left unrefrigerated.
Cheeses that can be left unrefrigerated are Asiago D’allevo, Parmigiano Reggiano, aged Gouda, aged Cheddar, Appenzeller and Pecorino Romano. These hard cheeses can be unrefrigerated because they have a low moisture content and develop acidity during maturation. As a result, they are more resistant to food-borne pathogens.
Read on to learn how to store these cheeses unrefrigerated. In addition, I’ll inform you about signs that indicate cheese spoilage and tips to prevent it from occurring.
6 Cheeses That Can Left Unrefrigerated
1. Asiago D’allevo
Produced in the Asiago plateau in Italy, Asiago is a well-known cheese throughout the world. There are two main types of Asiago, including fresh (pressato) and aged (d’allevo).
Pressato is made with whole milk and matured for a month, creating a fresh, soft, mild cheese. D’allevo, on the other hand, has three graduations, each producing a different consistency and flavor. The longer Asiago is aged, the more firm it becomes:
- Mezzano – 4-6 months
- Vecchio – 10+ months
- Stravecchio – 2 years
Asiago d’allevo cheeses do not require refrigeration. Stravecchio will keep the longest unrefrigerated.
To store Asiago d’allevo cheese follow these 4 steps:
- Cover any sliced areas with a moist cheesecloth.
- Next, wrap the cheese in parchment or wax paper and seal with tape.
- Store the wrapped cheese in a cool, dark location.
- Every day, moisten the cheesecloth again to prevent the Asiago from drying out.
2. Parmigiano Reggiano
Cheese connoisseurs consider Parmigiano Reggiano to be one of the top cheeses in the world. Today, this hard, dry cheese is produced worldwide, but only cheese made in Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna or Mantua may use the Parmigiano Reggiano name.
In areas outside of the European Union, similar cheeses are marketed as Parmesan or Italian Hard Cheese.
Parmigiano Reggiano has a hard rind and a straw-colored interior. The flavor is fruity or nutty, with hints of butter or straw. This sharp, rich cheese 1 contains cheese crystals, giving it a slightly crunchy texture.
Refrigerating Parmigiano Reggiano isn’t necessary, thanks to its low moisture content. To store chunks or wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano follow these 3 steps:
- Wrap the cheese tightly in food-grade paper.
- Cover it loosely with plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
- Set it in a cool, dry place.
3. Aged Gouda
Named after the city where it was traded long ago, Gouda is among the most popular cheeses in the world. Today, most Gouda is made industrially, but hundreds of farmers in the Netherlands still produce it using traditional methods.
Gouda produced by farmers using the conventional process is called Boerenkaas, or “farmer’s cheese.”
The term “Gouda” is used throughout the world for cheeses produced using Dutch methods. However, Boerenkaas, Noord-Hollandse Gouda and Gouda Holland are all granted a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) by the European Union.
Gouda is a semi-hard to hard cheese 2. It has an aromatic, caramel-like sweetness and a nutty flavor with a smooth or sharp finish, depending on maturation.
Aged Gouda is a hard cheese and does not require refrigeration. To store Gouda, follow the steps below:
- Double wrap Gouda in parchment, wax or waxed cheese paper.
- Cover the paper-wrapped cheese loosely with plastic wrap and place it in a glass jar or plastic tub with a lid.
- Store it in a cool, dark location.
4. Aged Cheddar
Cheddar cheese is a famous hard cheese that originated in the village of Cheddar in Somerset, England. Today, it is mass-produced all over the world.
The term “cheddar cheese” is widely used but has no PDO. “West Country Farmhouse Cheddar,” however, is protected under a PDO and may only be produced in Somerset, Dorset, Devon, and Cornwall.
Cheddar is a firm, pale yellow cheese but is sometimes orange if there are added coloring agents. It has a full, rich flavor and is somewhat nutty. The finish is sharp and earthy, the sharpness attributed to the peptides in the cheese.
Aged Cheddar may be stored outside of the refrigerator, away from direct sunlight and heat. To store Aged Cheddar properly, follow the steps below:
- Double wrap the cheese in a cheese cloth dampened with vinegar.
- Lay the cheese in wax paper or parchment.
- Keep it in a cool, dark area to maintain its distinct flavor.
Appenzeller is a hard cow’s milk cheese produced in Switzerland’s Appenzellerland region 3. The production of Appenzeller is highly regulated and limited to only four areas.
This cheese is made with milk from Brown Swiss cows. The cows feed on fresh grass, herbs and flowers. These flavors are passed to the milk and, subsequently, the cheese.
Before and during the aging process, farmers cover Appenzeller with a solution infused with herbs. Over 75 dairies in Appenzeller have their own brine wash solution and each recipe is a long-kept trade secret. These “secret” brines infuse the cheese with distinctive flavors.
Appenzeller is straw-colored with a golden rind. The aromas are nutty or fruity, and the flavor is mild or sharp, depending on maturation. Three types of Appenzeller are available:
- Classic – Aged 3-4 Months
- Surchoix – Aged 4-6 Months
- Extra – Aged 6+ Months
Store Appenzeller cheese by following these steps:
- Wrap the cheese tightly in parchment paper.
- Cover it loosely with plastic wrap.
- Place in a cool, dark, dry area, like a cabinet or pantry.
It may be a little hard finding this cheese in the local stores. Fortunately Amazon has a variety of them in different sizes.
6. Pecorino Romano
Pecorino Romano is a hard cheese made exclusively with sheep’s milk. All sheep used in the production of Pecorino Romano are raised on the plains of Lazio and Sardinia.
Granted a PDO by the European Union, Pecorino Romano is a protected name. Today, it is considered one of Italy’s oldest cheeses and still uses the same age-old recipe 4.
The sharpness of Pecorino Romano depends on its age. Table cheese is matured for around eight months, whereas grating cheeses are aged longer. This cheese has a sharp, salty flavor and is granular due to the salty cheese crystals.
Because Pecorino Romano has such a long storage life, it was a popular cheese among Roman legions. To store Pecorino Romano follow these steps:
- Wrap it in food-grade paper or aluminum foil.
- Place it in a cool, dry, dark area.
What Cheese Can Be Left Out At Room Temperature?
Hard cheeses can be left out because its low moisture content allows for longer storage. Hard cheeses store well in cool, dark areas wrapped in cheesecloth or food-grade paper. Hard cheese was produced to extend the shelf life of milk.
When storing hard cheese, check it daily for signs of spoilage. We’ll discuss what to look for at the end of this article.
As a general rule of thumb, the softer the cheese, the faster it breaks down. The following cheese requires prompt refrigeration:
- Soft cheeses
- Cream cheese
- Shredded cheese
- Goat cheese
- Cottage cheese
Softer styles of cheese should be refrigerated and consumed before their expiration date.
Is It OK To Leave Cheese Unrefrigerated?
It is ok to leave hard cheeses unrefrigerated. Refrigeration is recommended for soft cheeses and to extend the shelf life of all cheese. When storing cheese outside of the refrigerator, follow these steps to keep the cheese safe from spoilage:
- Cover any sliced areas with damp cheesecloth.
- Wrap the cheese in food-grade paper (wax, parchment, cheese wax, etc.).
- Cover the wrapped cheese loosely with plastic wrap or aluminum foil to prevent the moisture from escaping.
- Place the cheese in a cool, dark, dry area of your home.
Check the cheese regularly for signs of spoilage 5.
Signs That Indicate Cheese Spoilage
While most hard cheeses do not require refrigeration, they should be appropriately stored and monitored daily for signs of abnormal mold, sweating or drying 6.
- Sweating is not necessarily an indication that the cheese has gone bad, but is a sign that moisture has been trapped. Always store cheese in food-grade paper to keep away any excess moisture, then loosely wrap it in plastic or foil. Before eating, blot away any wet spots with cheesecloth.
- Dry, cracked cheese is common among cheeses stored in brine or rubbed with butter before aging. To revive it, cover the cheese in a dampened cheesecloth and wrap it in plastic wrap. Let it sit for a day in a cool, dark area.
- Stinky cheese isn’t always abnormal. Some cheeses, such as Limburger, have a naturally pungent odor, but for others, like Cheddar, a strong, stinky smell is a sign of spoilage. Be sure to know what’s normal and not for the type of cheese you’re storing. If it smells different than it’s supposed to, throw it out.
- Mold is often added to cheese to ripen it. Cheese mold is usually found on the interior and not the rind. Cheeses like Gorgonzola and Stilton have blue mold throughout the interior, which is acceptable and expected. However, if mold is growing on the rind or exterior of the cheese, it could be a sign that the cheese is expiring. Some people recommend if mold develops, cut an inch around the mold and discard. The rest of the cheese is safe to eat. I wouldn’t recommend it though and discard all my moldy cheese 7.
Can hard cheese be refrigerated? Hard cheese can be refrigerated safely for six months unopened and three to four weeks opened. If the cheese gets slightly moldy, cut it away and 1 inch around the mold and discard 8.
Read Next – More Food Storage Articles For You!
- WineEnthusiast: A Guide to the King of Cheeses, parmigiana-Reggiano
- Cheese.com: Aged Gouda
- Cheeses from Switzerland: Appenzeller
- Cheese.com: Pecorino Romano
- J.S. Bailey: Cheese Production
- Journal of Dairy Science: American artisan cheese quality and spoilage: A survey of cheesemakers’ concerns and needs
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Handling Of Cheese For Safety & Quality
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Food storage
- University of Purdue: Food Storage Guide