Cheese 4 Basics: Etiquette For Serving And Eating Cheese
Cheese etiquette is the set of rules for appropriately serving and eating cheese.
Who is cheese etiquette for?
If you are hosting, learn how to serve cheese to your guests, including the appropriate presentation and pairings.
As a guest, learn the correct manners to enjoy cheese best.
Cheese etiquette micro-class
1) How to choose the best cheese
What you should know about cheese
Cheese is a dairy product made from milk. It comes in a variety of textures, flavors, and forms, depending on the milk source, processing, and aging.
Season and availability
Most cheese varieties are available all year-round. Some varieties are seasonal due to milk production cycles. Fresh cheeses, for example, are often more available in the spring and summer.
Types of cheese and how to choose the best
Cheese types vary by flavor and texture. Each type can vary due to aging, milk quality, pasteurization, and processing methods.
The most common distinctions are between soft and hard cheeses or between fresh and aged cheeses.
Good-quality cheese has a uniform texture, no discoloration, and a pleasant aroma.
Alternatives to cheese
Non-dairy cheese substitutes are available for vegans, such as cheese made from almond milk or soy milk.
2) How to serve cheese
How to store cheese
Store cheese at a cool, stable temperature in the fridge, ideally between 35-45°F (1-7°C). Pantry storage is not recommended. Freezing can alter the texture and flavor. Sliced or cooked cheese should be kept in airtight containers for up to 3-5 days in the fridge.
Spoiled cheese may have mold, or a foul odor or taste.
How to prepare cheese
Cheese can be consumed raw or cooked. It is an appropriate ingredient in salads, pasta, sandwiches, and for popular preparations such as fondues or gratin.
How to serve and present cheese
Cheese is versatile and can be served at formal dinners, informal gatherings, or casual snacks. It works as an appetizer, side dish, or after the meal before or after dessert.
Present cheese on a wooden board or cheese platter. Serve between 3 and 7 varieties. Order cheese by flavor, from mild to strong. Use appropriate cheese knives and a cheese fork for serving. A beautiful cheese presentation involves various cheese types, textures, and accompaniments on a well-arranged platter. Common accompaniments are bread, crackers, honey, nuts, and dried fruits.
Present cheese in large pieces or cut it into individual servings, such as wedges, slices, or cubes. Cut cheese along its length, from the center to the rind. Serve cheese at room temperature.
Cheese dietary restrictions
Cheese is not suitable for vegans and individuals with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies. Some vegetarians may avoid cheese. Jewish persons following kosher principles cannot eat dairy and meat at the same time.
3) How to eat cheese
Food and wine pairings: what goes well with cheese
The ideal pairings depend on the type of cheese and its texture, flavor, and aging.
In general, cheese can go well with most vegetables and many fruits, such as pears or figs. Meat pairings largely vary depending on the type of cheese. It is best to avoid pairings with fish or seafood.
Red wines like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon pair well with aged cheeses, while white wines like Chardonnay go well with soft cheeses. Sparkling wines and dessert wines pair well with some varieties of cheese, such as blue cheese. Beer and spirits can also be great options.
The appropriate manners to eat cheese
Do not eat cheese straight from the cheese board or serving plate. Cut your cheese and put it onto your plate. Do not use your knife to cut the cheese from a cheese board or serving plate. Use the provided serving knife instead.
If the cheese is a roll, like goat cheese, cut a slice of the roll. If the cheese is a soft spread, serve yourself with a spoon. With round cheese, like Camembert, cut yourself a triangular portion. When the cheese is served in wedges, such as Brie, cut a sliver along its full length. To eat melting seasoned cheese, such as Gorgonzola, do not scoop the melted cheese but cut a sliver instead. With a hard seasoned cheese, such as Parmigiano, cut thick flakes from the main piece.
Use cheese knives and forks. Bring cheese to your mouth with a fork or on a morsel of bread or a cracker. Fingers are acceptable for some hard cheeses. Eat small morsels of cheese. Do not bite off mouthfuls of cheese from a larger piece. It is common to discard the rind of hard cheese, while the rind of most soft cheeses is edible.
4) Etiquette mistakes when serving or eating cheese
Avoid these faux pas:
- Cutting the cheese in a way that leaves it unattractive.
- Overwhelming guests with too many cheeses; 3-5 varieties are sufficient.
- Touching communal cheese with your hands.
- Double-dipping in shared dips.
Additional resources & links
- Etiquette references: allergies & intolerances, lactose-free diet, kosher diet, vegan diet, eating with your fingers, types of plates, types of knives
- Etiquette for serving and eating some popular varieties of cheese: Parmigiano Reggiano, Ricotta, Mozzarella, Camembert, Brie
- Interesting reads and sources: International Dairy Federation