Cool, Not Cold

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
If cheese must be kept for more than a few days, it’s usually easiest to refrigerate it. Unfortunately, the ideal conditions for holding cheese—a humid 55–60°F/12–15°C, simply a continuation of its ripening conditions—is warmer than most refrigerators, and cooler and moister than most rooms. Refrigeration essentially puts cheese into suspended animation, so if you want an immature soft cheese to ripen further, you’ll need to keep it warmer.
Cheeses should never be served direct from the refrigerator. At such low temperatures the milk fat is congealed and as hard as refrigerated butter, the protein network unnaturally stiff, the flavor molecules imprisoned, and the cheese will seem rubbery and flavorless. Room temperature is best, unless it’s so warm (above about 80°F/26°C) that the milk fat will melt and sweat out of the cheese.