5 Myths About Cheese You Shouldn’t Believe

An assortment of cheese and charcuterie on a board for the writing '5 myths about cheese you shouldn't believe'.
: lidante

As a living, breathing food, Cheese has a culture all its own. And it’s a mystery to many. I know this because as a cheesemonger, I hear the same questions and concerns over and over, every day, from customers. Here are five of the most common misconceptions I encounter at the counter that I need to constantly debunk.

All cheese must be refrigerated

Cheese being stored in the window of a cheese shop for the writing '5 myths about cheese you shouldn't believe'. : paulgrecaud

Eventually, yes. Softer cheeses such as brie, blue, and washed rind are too perishable for a road trip, but harder cheeses are perfect for tossing in your backpack for a hike or short road trip. Generally, any firm Cheddar is a good choice. Others to consider are Vella Dry Jack and aged goudas, including Waag and Beemster’s 26-month.

American cheese is just a cellophane-wrapped sheet of orange Frankenfood

A selection of American cheese on a wooden board for the writing '5 myths about cheese you shouldn't believe'. : Jasper Hill Farm

Emphatically, I say NO! Artisan cheesemakers in the United States have been producing an array of award-winning cheeses for years. In fact, in 2019, Rogue River Blue from Oregon’s Rogue Creamery took the top prize at the World Cheese Awards in Italy. Other impressive American cheeses include Alpha Tolman and Harbison from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont; Wabash Cannonball from Capriole Goat Cheeses in Indiana; and Original Blue from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese in California.

Cut away the rind or don’t cut away the rind

A round of soft rind cheese on a piece of slate for the writing '5 myths about cheese you shouldn't believe'. : Ana Belen

Cheesemongers have a saying: “All rinds are edible, but not all rinds are palatable.” The exterior of a washed rind cheese will have a different flavor from the paste inside, but the two complement one other. The exception is gouda. You quit eating crayons a long time ago—at least, I assume you did—so definitely discard the wax from your gouda. With all other cheeses, it’s entirely up to you. That said, if you don’t like the rind, don’t eat it! Some are too tough to bite into, although in the case of aged cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano, those hard rinds can be saved in the freezer and tossed into the soup pot to enrich your soup’s flavor and texture.

All mold is bad

Two cheese rounds with mold on a wooden board for the writing '5 myths about cheese you shouldn't believe'. : Jota_Visual

With the exception of fresh cheeses like ricotta, chevre, and mozzarella, most cheeses rely on mold to make them the swoon-worthy puddles of lusciousness we so love. Unwanted molds grow in moist environments, so the harder the cheese, the less likely it is to spoil. Bad mold on cheese is uncommon, but if you happen to spy a piece with black-gray mold, toss it. As for other molds, they may not make you sick, but they don’t taste good and may detract from your cheese-eating experience. If you find a bit of mold on your Cheddar, Parm, or gouda, just cut it away.

All cheese contains lactose

All cheese starts out containing lactose, but the longer the cheese ages, the less lactose it retains. During the cheesemaking process, lactose is converted into lactic acid. The minuscule amount remaining is broken down by glycolysis during aging. Essentially, the lactose in your cheese is pre-digested! If you have lactose issues, play it safe with aged cheeses like Piave DOP, Locatelli Pecorino Romano, Asiago DOP, and Grana Padano DOP.




  1. First, I think the American cheese people talk about is the common yellow block of cheese which is sliced and used in most homes and not the specialty cheeses you highlighted in your comments. Most people don’t understand the difference between the natural cheese sliced at the deli counter such as what companies like Land-O-Lakes makes and the wrapped slices of processed cheese sold in packets. Good cheese is made with lots of milk while the not so good is made with oil. I’m sure the producers you mentioned are pleased to be included.

    Second, cheese mold can be harmful for people who have penicillin allergies. I have such and can go into anaphylactic shock if I consume any sort of blue cheese. Even a little bit will harm me and could kill me. Just so you know, this is not something I’ve made up in my head but something that actually happened to me that caused a trip to the Emergency/Trauma Center.

    1. MJ, I agree with you on the difference between sliced American cheese and processed cheese products. And thanks for the info on mold allergies. Wow. Clearly, the author is referring to the effect of a bit of mold on those who don’t have an allergy to it.

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