Using Cheese

Selecting cheese

Here are some guidelines to help you select the best Australian cheeses.

  1. Choose one or two perfectly ripened cheeses, rather than a collection of mediocre cheeses to feature on a cheese plate.
  2. If possible, buy cheese freshly cut from a larger wheel or piece.
  3. Where possible, ask for a taste of the cheese before purchasing, to make sure you like it.
  4. Purchase from a reputable retailer with a large selection of cheeses and a high turn-over. Quality delis and supermarkets take time to know the best products and can advise you on a cheese that is in perfect condition and ready to eat.
  5. Buy Australian cheeses to support our local producers and dairy farmers.

For more information on selecting specific types of cheese see the links below:

Serving and presenting cheese

The French serve cheese prior to dessert. The English and Italians prefer to conclude the meal with cheese. Whichever way you decide to do it, here are some tips for creating a fabulous cheese platter.

  • Select cheese that is ripe, in season and in best condition. Shop at a reputable cheesemonger or deli and ask for their advice on what’s ripe and ready to eat.
  • Choose cheese from different categories to give a variety of textures, colours and tastes. Offer a choice of mild and stronger cheese.
  • Choose two or three cheeses for a platter to feed a group of more than six, but remember, one superb cheese is better than a selection of cheeses not at their best.
  • Allow 20-30g of each cheese per person or a total of 60-80g cheese per person, as a guide. Judge the quantity required and only bring that portion to room temperature, to minimise wastage.
  • Serve breads and biscuits that are not too strong in flavour as not to distract from the flavour of the cheese. Try sourdough with aged cheddar, fruit or nut loaf with brie and washed rind and a crusty baguette with blue cheese.
  • Accompaniments should complement or contrast the cheese, but never clash or overpower. Quince paste, figs, dried fruits, muscatels, ripe pears, crisp apples and nuts are all classic partners. Remember to allow the cheese, not the array of accompaniments, to dominate the plate.
  • Take the cheese from the fridge at least an hour before service and serve at room temperature for the best flavour.

Cutting cheese

If you’re serving cheese, offer a different knife for each cheese, to avoid mixing flavours. If you don’t have enough cheese knives, offer bread and butter knives, or pate knives for softer cheeses.

When it comes to cutting cheese, as a general rule, each person should get an even share of the rind and the centre of the cheese (usually the best bit!).

Try not to cut the tip off a wedge of brie, or scrape out the centre, leaving the rind for others. The following pictures are a cutting guide for different shapes of cheese.

images on how to best cut up different shaped cheeses 

Cooking with cheese

Cheese is a most versatile ingredient that adds taste, texture and wonderful culinary memories. Here are some tips for getting the best results when cooking with cheese.

  • Add cheese towards the end of cooking time, to avoid it overheating and burning or losing all its texture.
  • Always add cheese to a sauce, for example, once the pan has been removed from the heat and allow it to melt in gently.
  • Harder, ripened cheese with less moisture content (parmesan, romano and pecorino) can withstand higher temperatures.
  • Soft ripened cheese tend to lose texture and burn under very high temperatures so, always add them just before serving. Eg. drape brie or sprinkle blue over a tart or pizza after it comes out of the oven.
  • The more mature the cheese, the more flavour it will have – and therefore the smaller the quantity required.
  • Be aware that most cheese contains added salt, so taste before seasoning cheese dishes. Take note of blue cheese, in particular.
  • Always grate cheese straight from the refrigerator as it will be easier to handle.
  • Aside from the usual mozzarella and cheddar, eye cheeses such as Swiss and gruyere or raclette make excellent melting cheeses for quiches, pasta bakes and sandwiches! They add a real depth of flavour and sweet nutty character to a dish.
  • Keep in mind, firm ricotta, cream cheese and haloumi will all usually hold their shape when baked and can be baked in chunks and then scattered over a salad for something a little different.
For more great recipes using cheese visit The Dairy Kitchen.