The Reason You Should Never Serve Cheese Straight Out Of The Fridge

Cheese – in its myriad, diversified variations — is an absolute wonder. Smoky, smooth, creamy, stinky, crystallized, hard, soft ... the world of cheese is a stunning tapestry of flavors, textures, consistencies, and aromas — and that's not even taking into consideration the amazing things that happen to cheese once cooked. Cheese has a place on so many tables and in so many cultures, and while certain cheeses might be a bit much for some, it's safe to say that the world of cheeses has something for everyone (except vegans and those with lactose intolerance, of course).

Serving a smorgasbord of cheeses to welcome your guests? Arranging some specialty cheeses on a wooden block to bolster the culinary appeal of your latest charcuterie board? Not in the mood to cook and planning to voraciously consume a bock of cheese in front of the TV? No matter the circumstance, there are a few non-negotiables that will make your cheese experience A+ every time. 

As noted in Food & Wine, cheese should be served at room temperature — and, as clarified by numerous experts, practically all cheeses should be removed from the refrigerator at least one hour prior to serving. One expert interviewed astutely notes that "cheese is shy when cold," comparing the notion of bringing the cheese to room temp to the idea of decanting wine. Chilled cheese oftentimes doesn't possess the complexities, flavors, and nuances that might come through more clearly once the cheese has mellowed out at room temperature.

Why does room temp cheese taste better?

Serious Eats clarifies that "as cheese softens, its fat-soluble flavor compounds get better access to our taste buds," which is another reason the flavor and appeal of room temp cheeses are preferred to cold cheeses. And according to Fine Cooking, "cheese that's just been removed from the refrigerator has only a fraction of the flavor of cheese that's been tempered." It's also important to note that cheese should be able to "breathe." One way to do this is to drape cheesecloth over your cheese.

Food Network notes that the time that the cheese is being served is also important to consider. If it's an appetizer meant to whet the palate, then the intent of the cheese is vastly different than if you're serving it after the main course. While almost all cheeses should be brought to room temp regardless, certain varieties of cheese are better suited as appetizers, while it may be more fitting to serve others either before or after dessert. All Recipes notes that while most cheeses should be removed from the fridge about an hour prior to serving, some are better when removed from the fridge around 20 minutes beforehand. Be mindful of any cheeses that start "to sweat or look greasy," which indicates that they should be chilled again.

Remember, certain cheeses are anything but cheap, so it's important to handle and serve them properly, ensuring that you're getting most of your money and highlighting the intrinsic quality and integrity of the cheese itself.