It's safe to assume that when it comes to dairy, it belongs in the fridge. Milk, yogurt and cheese all spoil if left out on the counter overnight. But then why is it that Parmesan can be found OUT of the fridge at the grocery store or at specialty food shops? This odd observation caused for quite a heated debate in our newsroom, and we thought it only right to get to the bottom of the Parmesan question.
We spoke to Amanda Parker, basically the spokesperson for cheese education at New York's Murray's Cheese, to set the record straight. Here's what she said:
Yes, you should always refrigerate your Parmesan.
Big wheels of Parmesan and large chunks of the stuff -- like what you see on display at stores -- don't have to be refrigerated thanks to Parmesan's low moisture content, which makes it less susceptible to bad bacteria. In addition, Parmesan contains a pH level of around 5.2-5.3 from leftover lactic acid, and that acidity helps kill harmful bacteria. BUT the size of Parmesan that you bring home is much smaller, and has much more surface area, making it more susceptible to grow the bad stuff. And it's just not worth the risk.
That being said, if you're refrigerating your cheese in the cheese drawer, you're doing it wrong. The cheese drawer is usually located close to the refrigeration vents, which dry everything out. You're better off storing Parmesan in the crisper drawer.
Another great tip from Amanda: For the best Parmesan-eating experience, let it come to room temperature first to bring back the flavors... especially if you're eating a real nice piece of Parmesan, like the Parmigiano Reggiano you can find at Murray's.