Does Cheese Go Bad?

Are you gearing up for festive gatherings where cheese plates will play a starring role? To help make your cheese shopping the most joyous experience, we’ve put together this quick guide on buying, serving, and storing artisanal cheeses.


Planning Ahead – Early Bird Gets The Cheese

Our cheese counters are stocked with a dizzying array of fabulous, special wheels—some only available seasonally. Don’t be afraid to shop early! If you follow the recommendations below, we promise you’ll be good to go for party time.

  • Hard cheeses: purchase up to a week in advance.
  • Ripe, Soft cheeses: purchase up to two or three days in advance.

Building The Perfect Cheese Plate – How Much To Serve 

If you’re serving a cheese plate of at least three to five different cheeses, plan for one or two ounces per cheese per person. It all depends on the crowd, but you’ll generally want each cheese to be distinct from each other. If in doubt, tell your monger how many guests you’re expecting, and let them help guide your portions and selections.

Keeping Your Cheese Happy Before Serving

Keep your cheese in the packaging in which your monger wrapped it, and put it in a safe spot in your fridge. Make sure the cheeses don’t dry out, and are kept separate from open containers of food—the odors can transfer and will affect your cheese’s flavor! A vegetable drawer, less cool and more moist than other parts of a fridge, is ideal.

It’s Go Time.  Get Ready To Serve Your Cheese

An hour before serving, take the cheeses out of refrigeration and let them come to room temperature. This will allow their flavors to develop fully.

Have Leftovers Somehow?  Save Em’.  See Our Guide By Cheese Type.

If you have any leftovers, depending on their condition, you may want to hang on to them to enjoy later. Here are some tips on storing a few main types of cheese, and how to tell when you should let them go!

1. Fresh Cheese: e.g. Chèvre, Ricotta, Fromage Blanc, Mascarpone


Best stored: in a closed container (e.g. Tupperware, deli cup, etc)
Will usually stay good for: 1 week or so
Signs that they’re spoiled include: mold growth (red, blue, green, etc) and an unpleasant soured smell. Please discard!

2. Bloomy Rind: e.g. Brie, Camembert, Delice de Bourgogne


Best stored: in a closed container, especially if ripe and runny! (e.g. a wooden box if it came in one, tupperware or deli container)
Will usually stay good for: up to 2 weeks
Signs that they’re past prime include: dried and hard rind; brown or red discoloring; an overwhelming smell and taste of ammonia.

3. Soft-ripened Washed Rind: e.g. Vacherin, Taleggio

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Best stored: in a closed container if ripe and runny! (e.g. a wooden box if it came in one, tupperware or deli container) If it’s relatively stable, wrapping in waxed paper or freezer paper will be fine.
Will usually stay good for: up to 2 weeks
Signs that they’re past prime include: dried, cracked rind; brown or red discoloration; loss of pleasant stinky aroma.

4. Hard: Gruyere, Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Parmigiano-Reggiano

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Best stored: wrapped in waxed or freezer paper.
Will usually stay good for: 3-4 weeks
Signs that they’ve spoiled include: trick question! If a hard aged cheese starts growing mold, simply cut or scrape off the moldy parts and enjoy the rest. These cheeses are low enough in moisture that this will not pose a significant food safety threat.

5. Blue: Stilton, Bay Blue, Gorgonzola

colston bassett stilton

Best stored: wrapped in wax or freezer paper, then in foil. Keep it separate from milder, younger cheeses if possible! Blue mold is pervasive and contagious.
Will usually stay good for: 2-3 weeks
Signs that they’ve spoiled include: runny texture; brown discoloration; an overwhelming smell and taste of ammonia.

These tips should be a good start. As always, when in doubt—ask our mongers for advice! Happy Holidays!


Josh Schwartz

I have always gone by the occurrence of ammonia aromas as the end of the cheese’s usability. Is this necessarily the case?



In general, you are correct, but it is really a matter of your own tolerance. Some people prefer when a cheese has developed a bit of ammonia, while others immediately reject it. As ammonia is often the result of suffication, try laying your ammoniated cheese on the counter, uncovered, for an hour or two. It is possible for the smell to dissipate and for the cheese to offer renewed satisfaction.


On any bloomy or washed rind cheese there will always be a faint smell of ammonia. This smell is a result of gasses produced by the respiration of these cheeses. As Hunter indicated, when these are suffocated (usually by plastic wrap, bags, or tupperware) these gasses are trapped and seep into the cheese. Avoid this in the first place by not suffocating your cheeses. Also as Hunter stated, it is possible to reverse this ammoniation if the cheese is not too far gone.


Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now. Keep it up!
And according to this article, I totally agree with your opinion, but only this time! 🙂

John Buetergerds

Re: Mozzarella, when do I know if it’s bad? is there a time frame rule of thumb once the package is ope? How can I be sure?
What is the light redish hugh or the yellowy, brown spots that it begin to form on the surface after allowing an open packet to sit? Can I simply wash it or slice and discard a layer from the surface and eat the rest of the block or is the whole block tained once the surface begins to discolor?

Matthew Sabella

I bought some raw milk cheddar a few months ago. It was packaged in plastic. I forgot about it in my fridge until this morning. When I pulled the package from the drawer, I noticed it was swollen and there was a brownish liquid in the package that wasn’t present when I bought it. I thought, “It’s cheese. What go wrong.” I’m eating it now for lunch and it isn’t awful with some bread and olives. I’m hoping I’m not bent over the commode in a few hours, but so far so good.


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