Cheese paper, also known as cheese wrap or cheese wrapping paper, is a specialized type of paper designed specifically for wrapping and storing cheese. It allows cheese to "breathe" while also protecting it from drying out. Using the right cheese paper helps prolong the life of cheese and maintain its quality.
Cheese paper is different from regular waxed paper or parchment paper due to its specialized construction. It is a composite material made of two layers - an outer wax-coated paper layer and an inner porous plastic layer.
Why Proper Cheese Storage is Important
Proper storage is crucial for preserving cheese and preventing it from drying out, growing mold, or absorbing unwanted flavors. Cheeses are living organisms that continue to ripen and age even after you bring them home.
Cheese needs the right temperature, humidity, and airflow to age gracefully. Unwrapped or poorly wrapped cheese dries out rapidly in the refrigerator. And wrapping in non-breathable materials like plastic wrap or aluminum foil makes cheese too moist and can impart off-flavors.
Using the right packaging helps regulate moisture, allows the cheese to breathe, and protects the cheese from outside contaminants.
What Makes Cheese Paper Different
The composite two-ply construction of cheese paper makes it ideal for cheese storage. Here's how it works:
- The outer wax-coated paper layer is moisture-resistant to prevent cheese from drying out. The wax coating blocks light that can oxidize cheese. And it provides structure to wrap and protect cheese blocks without squishing them.
- The inner porous plastic layer regulates humidity by absorbing excess moisture but still allowing the cheese to breathe. This creates the ideal microclimate for cheese.
The opacity, breathability, and structure help cheese paper mimic the caves that many artisanal cheeses are aged in. This slows down the ripening process and preserves the cheese.
Common Types of Cheese Paper
There are a few different materials used to make cheese paper:
- Poly-coated paper - The most popular type of cheese paper uses a food-grade polyethylene coating on paper. The thickness of the polyethylene layer can be adjusted based on the cheese variety. Softer cheeses need more moisture retention.
- Vegetable parchment - Also known as vegetable-coated paper or simply parchment paper, it uses coatings made of wood pulp, vegetable oil or silicones instead of polyethylene. Parchment paper is heat-resistant and non-stick.
- Wax paper - Traditional waxed paper is moisture-resistant and breathable. But it lacks the porous layer for humidity control. So it may not be ideal for high-moisture soft cheeses.
- Cellophane - Biodegradable and compostable cellophane is also an option. But it lacks breathability compared to other papers.
Cheese paper comes in various colors and patterns, though white and cream are the most common. Talk to your cheesemonger about the best cheese wrapping paper for your variety.
How to Choose the Right Cheese Paper
Pick cheese paper based on the variety:
- Soft cheeses with higher moisture content like brie and camembert need more humidity control. Go for poly-coated paper that has a thicker plastic layer.
- Hard cheeses like aged cheddar don't need as much moisture regulation. Wax paper or lighter poly-coated paper work well.
- Washed rind cheeses with sticky surfaces may need a non-stick material like parchment paper for easy unwrapping.
Buy the right size: Choose sheets that are large enough to wrap around your cheese block without too much overlap. Measure cheese dimensions before buying paper.
Consider visual appeal: Colored or patterned cheese paper can add flair for gifting or cheese boards. White and cream are common for everyday use.
Talk to the cheesemonger for recommendations based on the specific cheese variety. When in doubt, pick a heavier poly-coated paper.
Key Takeaway: Choose cheese paper variety based on the moisture content, dimensions, and surface of the cheese. Pick poly-coated paper for soft, high-moisture cheeses.
How to Use Cheese Paper for Storage
Wrapping cheese in paper takes a bit of technique:
- Clean and dry cheese surface before wrapping. Wipe off any condensation or crumbs.
- Place cheese in the center of the sheet. Fold paper tightly around cheese leaving no air pockets. Make neat, tight creases.
- For an extra-secure wrap, use tape on the seams. Pick a food-safe tape to avoid chemical contamination.
- Label the package with cheese name and date for easy identification.
- Store wrapped cheese in the vegetable crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Avoid the door which fluctuates in temperature.
- Change the paper wrap every 2-3 days for best results, or whenever it gets excessively oily. Reuse paper for the same cheese variety.
With practice, you can wrap cheese neatly like a professional cheesemonger!
Cheese Storage Temperatures
Use these temperature guidelines for refrigerated storage:
- Hard cheeses: Store at 35°F - 40°F (1°C - 4°C)
- Soft cheeses: Store at 40°F - 50°F (4°C - 10°C)
The bottom drawer is often the coldest spot in a fridge. You can also use a thermometer to identify the best temperature zone.
Can You Reuse Cheese Paper?
Cheese paper is reusable for the same type of cheese unless it gets torn or too stained. Here are some reuse tips:
- Rinse paper gently under cool water to remove oil and debris. Don't scrub vigorously or soak the paper.
- Air dry the paper completely before reusing. Never reuse damp paper.
- Store cleaned cheese paper in a zip lock bag or sealed container.
- Toss paper if it gets overly stained, torn, or impossible to fold without cracking.
Reusing saves money and reduces waste. But switch out the paper if it looks unsanitary.
Key Takeaway: Cheese paper can be reused for the same cheese variety unless stained or torn. Gently wash, completely dry, and store paper between uses.
Other Foods You Can Wrap with Cheese Paper
Don't limit cheese paper just to cheese! Use it to wrap other oily, moist foods:
- Charcuterie - Paper absorbs meat oils nicely.
- Chocolate - Cheese paper protects chocolate from bloom and drying.
- Cake and pastries - Wrapping prevents staling without making baked goods soggy.
- Sandwiches and burgers - Keeps bread moist but prevents sogginess. Great for packing lunches.
Anything that needs humidity regulation and breathability makes a good candidate for cheese paper wrapping. Get creative!
Is Cheese Paper Worth the Cost?
Cheese paper costs more than regular wax or parchment paper but delivers superior cheese storage results. Let's weigh the pros and cons:
- Maintains ideal cheese moisture for weeks
- Allows cheese to breathe without drying out
- Doesn't impart plastic or chemical flavors
- Looks beautiful for gifting cheese
- Reusable to reduce waste
- More expensive than regular paper
- Need to learn special wrapping technique
- Not reusable indefinitely
For high-quality artisanal cheese, the benefits of proper storage outweigh the small added cost. With practice, you can wrap cheese like a professional!
Key Takeaway: The ideal humidity regulation and breathability of cheese paper makes it worth the extra cost for cheese storage.
Is cheese paper the same as freezer paper?
No, freezer paper is not suitable for cheese storage. It lacks breathability and humidity control.
Can you recycle cheese paper?
Unfortunately no. Most cheese paper contains plastic layers like polyethylene and is not recyclable. Compostable cellophane cheese paper can potentially be commercially composted.
What cheeses should not be wrapped in cheese paper?
Doesn't plastic wrap work as well as cheese paper?
Plastic wrap makes cheese sweaty and impacts flavor. It lacks breathability. Cheese paper is the best material for proper cheese storage.
How long can you store cheese in paper?
Depends on the variety, but change paper at least every 2-3 days. For long term aging over months, rewrap cheese in clean paper whenever it looks oily.
Cheese paper is specially engineered to create the ideal microclimate for storing cheese. The wax-coated porous paper regulates humidity and provides breathability without drying out cheese. Using cheese paper helps prolong shelf life and maintain quality.
While it costs more than regular paper, cheese paper is a worthwhile investment for artisanal cheese lovers. With some practice, you can wrap cheese neatly for attractive storage and gifting.