How to Buy, Serve, Store and Taste Cheese

A Cheese Board with Camembert

© shutterstock

A Cheese Board with Camembert

A Cheese Board with Camembert

© shutterstock

Buying and Selecting

  • Get the best cheese you can, ideally from an independent deli or a specialist cheese shop.
  • Taste before you buy.
  • Go for a broad range of flavours and textures, from a delicate, fresh cheese to something harder and more intense like Cheddar or Comté, finishing on a rich blue like Stilton or the rustic, tongue-tingling Cabrales.
  • Go for between three and five, but sometimes a heroic piece of one perfectly ripe cheese is all you need.


  • Keep your cheese in the salad drawer of your fridge to stop it drying out.
  • Remove any clingfilm or plastic and keep the cheese in the waxed paper it came in, failing that, baking parchment is best.
  • Cheese needs to be served at room temperature to express itself fully, so do remember to take it out of the fridge at least half an hour before eating it - longer for larger pieces.


  • Proper artisanal cheese has a beauty which speaks for itself, but its warm earth tones, buttery yellows and rustic surface texture are perfectly set off on a dark grey slate or a wooden board.
  • Fruits make a nice visual accompaniment but choose them mindfully – a sharp cheese like an aged Cheddar is best paired with something sweeter like a fresh fig, while the acidity in a bunch of green grapes cuts refreshingly through the luscious creaminess of an indulgent triple crème like Brillat Saverin.

Cutting Cheese

  • Disc shaped cheeses like Camembert are the easiest to cut: each piece should have a fair distribution of rind and cheese. Using a normal kitchen knife, first cut the disc in half, and then in half again. You will now have a wedge with a sharp point –  the nose. Cutting from the nose to the back edge of the cheese, cut thinner wedges for each guest. This method also works for pyramids like Valençay and cones like Tetilla.
  • For a tall thin wedge, like one that has been cut from a wheel of Gouda or Gruyère, lie the wedge flat, cut off the rind on one side and then cut slices until you get to the rind on the other side.


  • First, feel the texture, noting its firmness and the amount of moisture left on your fingertips. Then smell the cheese – aroma is a vital part of our experience of flavour.
  • As you eat, think about what you are tasting at first, then how that flavour develops and finishes. Pay attention to length. Even a mild cheese should have some length after the finish, an important sign of quality.
  • Talk about what you are tasting with your friends. Talking, and listening, helps us to pick out and identify flavours, further enriching our experience.
  • Finally, approach all of this, the buying, storing, presenting and tasting, with a lightness of heart and in a spirit of free and easy wandering - a happy explorer in the wonderful world of cheese.