The Reason Cheese Tastes Better At Room Temperature

You're having friends over and want to serve the ultimate cheese platter. You've gone to the cheesemonger to pick out the perfect assortment of hard, soft, mild, medium, and pungent cheeses. You have the right bread and crackers, the ideal accompaniments, and the best wines with which to pair your choices. But all that work can be for naught if you forget this essential rule when it comes to serving cheese: You must never serve it cold. 

To achieve maximum flavor and texture, cheese must be brought to room temperature (via Cheese Grotto). This is all due to the composition of cheese. All the flavor is stored in its fat molecules, which contrast when cold and expand when tempered. Basically, when cheese is cold, the fat molecules greedily hold all the flavor inside. When it warms, the fat molecules open up and release all that wonderful, cheesy flavor (via Culture). Flavor is also amplified by tempering, because the cheese reaches a temperature that we can more readily taste. According to Serious Eats, it's much easier to perceive flavor when food is closer to one's body temperature.

Bringing cheese to room temperature also changes its texture, resulting in a creamier, more melt-in-your mouth experience. Think putting cold butter on your toast vs. butter that is softer.

But how long should you leave cheese out before serving? And do different cheeses require different times?

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First of all, what, exactly, is room temperature? According to the Academy of Cheese, room temperature is 68 to 72°F. If you don't have a food thermometer, or don't want to be poking holes in your perfect cheese, U.S. Dairy notes that most cheeses only need about 20-30 minutes to get to room temperature. Softer cheese like brie, however, may need an hour or more to achieve the perfect feel and flavor. That's why some outlets, like Serious Eats, recommend leaving your cheese platter out a full hour before serving.

Depending on what kind of cheese you're serving, between 30 minutes and an hour before your guests arrive, remove your cheese from the fridge, arrange it on a plate, and then simply leave it out. Do not take the individual wrappings off the cheese when tempering. As The Kitchn notes, this can dry out your cheese. They recommend removing the packaging right before serving.

That's it. As hard as it is to wait to bite into that first piece of cheese, having patience will definitely pay off.