How to Store Parmesan Cheese

Storing Parmesan cheese, which encompasses both Parmesan and its authentic Italian counterpart Parmigiano-Reggiano, is essential to maintain its texture, flavor, and longevity. When stored properly, these cheeses can add a delectable richness to dishes long after purchase. Their hard texture and low moisture content contribute to a longer shelf life compared to softer cheeses, but the right storage techniques are key to preserving their quality.

When you store Parmesan cheese in the fridge, it’s important to allow the cheese to breathe while protecting it from excess moisture that can lead to spoilage. Wrapping the cheese correctly is paramount; using the right materials such as parchment paper or wax paper can prevent condensation without suffocating the cheese. Grated Parmesan, on the other hand, requires an airtight container to keep it from absorbing odors and drying out.

For those who enjoy Parmigiano-Reggiano, the cheese’s distinct characteristics and heritage call for careful handling. The aging process it undergoes imparts a depth of flavor that is best preserved under optimal storage conditions. By attending to how you store this cheese, you ensure that its nuanced flavors are ready to enhance your meals whenever needed.

Understanding Parmesan Cheese

When you choose Parmesan cheese, you’re selecting a product renowned for its rich flavor and versatility in cooking. Delve into the specifics of Parmesan cheese nomenclature, types, and nutritional profile to appreciate its culinary and health benefits fully.

Nomenclature and Types

Parmesan is not just a single cheese but a type of hard, granular cheese wherein authentic Parmesan cheese is named Parmigiano-Reggiano. It is produced in Italy and protected under European law, ensuring it meets stringent standards. For cheese to be deemed Parmigiano-Reggiano, it must come from the Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, or parts of the Mantua and Bologna regions.

Types of Parmesan cheese vary based on age:

  • Fresh Parmesan: Aged for a short period; it’s softer and less intense.
  • Aged Parmesan: Typically matured for two years or more, with a hard texture and rich flavor.

Nutritional Profile

Parmesan cheese is a good source of protein and calcium, critical for muscle development and bone health. A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving typically contains:

Protein10 g
Calcium330 mg
Vitamin B120.9 µg

Additionally, Parmesan can offer some health benefits due to its nutrient content, such as promoting bone health. However, as with all foods, it should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

Proper Storage Methods

Storing Parmesan cheese correctly extends its shelf life and preserves its flavor. The key to proper storage involves maintaining the correct temperature, using specific wrapping techniques, and understanding the conditions for both refrigeration and freezing.

How to Properly Store Cheese at Home

Ideal Conditions for Storage

Your Parmesan cheese keeps best between 39 to 46 degrees F (4 to 8 degrees C). Ensure your storage location is cool, dark, and away from direct heat or sunlight. The ideal environment minimizes moisture exposure and maintains a consistent temperature to prevent spoilage.

Wrapping Techniques

Before refrigeration, wrap your Parmesan cheese properly to protect its quality. For larger pieces, use cheese paper, wax paper, or parchment paper followed by a loose layer of aluminum foil or plastic wrap. This combination allows the cheese to ‘breathe’ and prevents moisture build-up. For grated Parmesan, opt for an airtight container to deter moisture and other contaminants.

  • Block or Wedge: Wrap in paper, then loosely in foil/plastic.
  • Grated Cheese: Store in airtight containers.

Refrigeration Practices

Always keep Parmesan cheese in your refrigerator. If already vacuum-packed, maintain its original packaging. Otherwise, ensure that once wrapped, the cheese is placed in a part of your fridge with stable temperature, such as a middle shelf or a dedicated cheese drawer if available.

  • Vacuum-Packed: Refrigerate as is.
  • Wrapped Cheese: Position away from the fridge door.

Freezing Parmesan

Freeze Parmesan cheese only if it’s been ground or grated. Freezing blocks or wedges can affect texture and flavor negatively. When freezing grated Parmesan, use an airtight container or a resealable freezer bag to prevent freezer burn and to seal in freshness. Remember to thaw frozen Parmesan in the fridge overnight before use.

  • Grated Parmesan: Freeze in airtight containers or resealable bags.
  • Thawing: Transfer from freezer to fridge, allowing it to thaw overnight.

Preventing Parmesan Deterioration

You've Been Storing Cheese Wrong Your Entire Life

To maintain the freshness and flavor of Parmesan cheese, it’s essential to manage moisture levels, avoid strong odors, and limit exposure to air, sunlight, and heat.

Avoiding Moisture and Odors

Moisture is one of the main causes of spoilage in Parmesan cheese. To prevent moisture build-up and protect against strong odors:

  • Wrap your Parmesan in wax paper, as it allows the cheese to breathe while maintaining the right humidity levels.
  • Store the wrapped cheese in a part of your fridge that is less susceptible to trapped odors, such as a vegetable drawer.

Reducing Exposure to Air

Minimizing the amount of air that comes into contact with your Parmesan helps preserve its quality:

  • Tightly wrap your cheese in a material that seals well, like plastic wrap or foil, immediately after use.
  • Use airtight containers for storing grated Parmesan to minimize air contact and maintain the cheese’s integrity.

Protection from Sunlight and Heat

Parmesan cheese is sensitive to light and temperature changes:

  • Keep Parmesan away from direct sunlight and avoid storing it near windows or other sources of light.
  • Store the cheese in a cool part of your refrigerator, away from the fridge light and heat sources like the motor.

Usage and Servings

Understanding how to incorporate Parmesan into your dishes and master the art of grating will elevate your cooking. Let’s explore the specifics.

Incorporating into Dishes

Parmesan cheese is a versatile ingredient that can be used both in cooking and as a finishing touch. When grated, Parmesan’s rich flavor enhances a variety of dishes:

  • Casseroles: Sprinkle grated Parmesan on top before baking to create a golden, flavorful crust.
  • Sandwiches: Add a layer of grated Parmesan to your sandwich fillings for a subtle, nutty taste.
  • Pasta and Risotto: Stir in grated Parmesan cheese at the end of the cooking process for a creamy texture.

By adding grated Parmesan, you infuse your meals with a depth of flavor that can transform everyday cooking into something special.

Proper Grating Techniques

For the best results, use these grating techniques:

  • For Grated Parmesan:
    • Use a box grater for a coarse texture, ideal for melting into dishes.
    • Opt for a microplane for finely grated Parmesan, perfect as a garnish on salads and pasta.
  • Grating Tips:
    • Ensure your Parmesan block is cold for easier grating.
    • Grate only what you need for each meal to maintain the cheese’s freshness.

Remember, freshly grated Parmesan cheese has a superior taste and texture compared to pre-grated varieties. Your culinary creations will benefit significantly from this practice.

Longevity and Preservation

Ways to Store Cheese Long Term

To ensure that your Parmesan cheese retains its rich flavor and firm texture, proper storage is vital. This involves understanding how to determine freshness, handle cheese wheels, and spot signs of spoilage.

Identifying Freshness

When selecting fresh Parmesan cheese, look for a rind that is intact and a texture that is hard and granular. The cheese should have a pale, straw-like color. A fresh wedge of Parmesan cheese, when stored correctly, can have a long shelf life, rewarding you with its full-bodied flavor for many meals to come.

Handling a Cheese Wheel

If you’re lucky enough to have a whole Parmesan cheese wheel, store it in the cheese drawer of your refrigerator. For long-term freshness, first, wrap the wheel or a wedge in parchment paper or a cheesecloth, which allows the cheese to breathe and prevents moisture build-up that could lead to mold growth. The wheel can then be placed in a large, resealable plastic bag or wrapped in a cheese paper. Ensure it’s stored away from strong-smelling foods to avoid cross-contamination of flavors.

Signs of Mold and Spoilage

Regularly inspect your Parmesan for signs of mold, which can include small blue or green spots. If you find mold on a wedge or block, carefully cut about 1 inch around and below the mold to salvage the remaining cheese. If the cheese smells sour or has an off flavor, it’s best to discard it. To absorb extra moisture and further prevent spoilage, place a folded paper towel inside the container with the shredded or grated Parmesan.

By following these specifics, your Parmesan cheese can remain a flavorful addition to your meals while minimizing waste due to improper storage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Proper storage of Parmesan cheese is crucial for maintaining its flavor and extending its shelf life. Below are answers to common storage questions that will help you keep your Parmesan in optimal condition.

What is the recommended way to store Parmigiano Reggiano in the refrigerator?

For best results, wrap a wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano in parchment paper, cheesecloth, or wax paper to allow it to breathe and prevent moisture buildup. Then place it in the refrigerator.

Is it possible and safe to freeze Parmesan cheese for extended freshness?

Yes, you can freeze Parmesan cheese. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil before placing it in the freezer. This method is suitable for extending its freshness for future use.

How do you prevent grated Parmesan cheese from clumping when stored?

To prevent clumping, store grated Parmesan in an airtight container. This keeps out moisture and maintains the cheese’s texture.

What is the shelf life of grated Parmesan cheese once it has been opened?

Once opened, store grated Parmesan cheese in the refrigerator, where it can last for about 4 to 6 weeks if stored properly in an airtight container.

How should a Parmesan cheese storage container be used effectively for preservation?

An effective Parmesan cheese storage container should be airtight to prevent moisture from getting in and should be used in conjunction with proper wrapping before placing the cheese in the refrigerator.

Where in the kitchen is the ideal place to store Parmesan cheese to maintain its quality?

Store your Parmesan cheese in a cool, dry area of your kitchen if unopened or in the refrigerator’s cheese drawer to maintain its quality once opened. Avoid places with fluctuating temperatures or direct sunlight.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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