How long can cheese last?

Food Storage – How long can you keep…

Tips

  • How long does a chunk of cheddar cheese last once opened? The exact answer to that question depends to a large extent on storage conditions – keep the cheese refrigerated at all times.
  • To maximize the shelf life of a chunk of cheddar cheese after opening, wrap the original packaging tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil; for even better results, wrap the cheese first in wax or parchment paper and then cover with plastic wrap before refrigerating.
  • How long does a chunk of cheddar cheese last in the refrigerator once opened? Properly stored, an opened chunk of cheddar cheese will last for about 3 to 4 weeks in the refrigerator.
  • Is an opened chunk of cheddar cheese still safe after the “sell by” date or “best by date” on the package? Yes – after the cheese is opened, it will typically remain safe to use for 3 to 4 weeks, even if the “sell-by” or “best by” date on the package expires.
  • If a chunk or block of cheddar cheese has mold on it, is it still safe to eat? Yes – cut away at least 1 inch around and below the moldy area (do not touch mold with the knife) and re-cover the cheese in fresh wrap.
  • Note: if mold appears in a package of shredded, sliced or crumbled cheddar cheese, the entire package should be discarded.
  • To further extend the shelf life of cheddar cheese, freeze it; when freezing, place the cheese in the freezer before the number of days shown for refrigerator storage has elapsed.
  • To freeze a chunk or block of cheddar cheese: Cut the cheese into portions no larger than 1/2 pound each, and wrap tightly in heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap, or place inside a heavy-duty freezer bag.
  • How long does a chunk of cheddar cheese last in the freezer? Properly stored, a chunk of cheddar cheese will maintain best quality for about 8 months, but will remain safe beyond that time.
  • The freezer time shown is for best quality only – cheddar cheese that has been kept constantly frozen at 0°F will keep safe indefinitely.
  • How long does a chunk of cheddar cheese last after being frozen and thawed? A chunk of cheddar cheese that has been defrosted in the fridge can be kept for an additional 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator before using; a chunk of cheddar cheese that was thawed in the microwave or in cold water should be used immediately.
  • Frozen cheese may become crumbly and lose some of its flavor; the thawed chunk of cheddar cheese will be best suited to cooked dishes, such as sauces, soups and casseroles.
  • How can you tell if an opened chunk of cheddar cheese is bad or spoiled? Cheddar cheese that is going bad typically will develop a very hard texture, will darken in color, will develop a strong smell and mold may appear; see instructions above for how to handle mold on a chunk of cheddar cheese.

Sources: For details about data sources used for food storage information, please

Putting cheese and crackers out at a party, whether sliced sharp cheddar and Triscuits or Humboldt Fog and crostini, is a simple way to welcome guests. Everyone loves cheese, and people will snack on it all night. But if hours go by and there’s still half a wedge of Brie on the cheese board, are you putting your friends in danger? In other words: How long can cheese sit out before you get sick…or die?

Bringing cheese to room temperature is essential to help the fat loosen up, which gives the cheese a better texture and flavor. However, there is a ticking clock on how long it should stay out past that hour (or two) out of the fridge. To keep yourself safe from bacterial growth or spoilage, you should only keep cheese out for four hours, according to Adam Brock, director of food safety, quality, and regulatory compliance at Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.

With that said, some cheeses fare better than others with quality after those four hours elapse. Higher moisture cheeses like ricotta, queso blanco, and mascarpone will deteriorate in quality and spoil faster when left on the counter. Soft cheeses—including Brie, Camembert, or a bloomy-rind fancier cheese like Jasper Hill’s Harbison—will last a little longer, and harder cheeses from cheddar to Gouda to Parmesan will hold up the longest. “Parm, Romano, or harder cheeses will likely not have microbacterium growth, or very insignificant amounts throughout the duration of a party,” Brock adds. Those cheeses you’ll often see hanging in Italian markets or cut into pieces on display at the grocery store because they don’t require constant refrigeration.

Long before you get an upset stomach from cheese (uh, unless you’re lactose intolerant), you’ll probably notice that it’s looking a little…sad. Cheese will dry out when left in open air, especially in a warmer room, and start to look crusty and crumbly. “After eight hours on a cheese board, cheddar will likely not have a lot of bacterial growth, but it won’t look appealing to eat,” Brock explains. However, there is no way to tell if there’s bacteria on a piece of cheese based on looking because it’s microscopic. One thing you can tell immediately about a cheese gone bad is if there’s mold growing on it in the fridge. If you see that, cut off about 1–1½ inches around the mold and continue eating it. However, if a high-moisture cheese like ricotta or cream cheese has a spot of mold, throw it out—it will have contaminated the entire container.

Contrary to popular perception, cheese does not need to be refrigerated in order to increase its shelf life. In fact, refrigeration in true terms did not even exist until post second world war. Until then, a cool and dark storage space is all that was required to store cheese. Cheese stays fresh unrefrigerated inside a cool pantry or a storage room for months at a stretch.

Staying fresh unrefrigerated only works for particular types of cheese. Specialty cheese that are soft in texture, cream cheeses in particular, are required to be consumed fresh and can only be stored under refrigeration. Unlike that, hard cheese like cheddar that are aged, do not need to be refrigerated. Cheese itself is classified as a preserved food and does not go stale upon storing it in conventional ways.

Refrigeration brings irreversible changes to the texture and even flavour of cheese, some more than the other, depending on the type of cheese. Specialty cheese like boccocini or marscapone needs to be stored by refrigerating, but most other types of cheese, especially hard cheese, will retain their flavour better without any refrigeration.

To store cheddar cheese without refrigeration, the cut surface of cheese needs to be wiped with white vinegar and then dried to remove all traces of vinegar. Next step is to wrap the cheese inside cheesecloth. However, special attention might be required, while soaking up the cheesecloth in white vinegar, making sure it is merely damp instead of wet. Merely wrapping up the cheese in cheesecloth is not enough. You have to lay the wrapped cheese inside the cheese paper, butcher’s paper, parchment or wax paper. Make sure you wrap at least two layers of paper and seal the whole unit shut using tape.

Once this is done, you can store the specialty cheese for extended duration without bringing any sort of harm to it. Make sure you do not keep it anywhere near a source of heat or under direct sunshine. If you are living in cold and dry places void of humidity, the cheese will be preserved for extended duration while maintaining its distinct flavour.

Well-matured sharp cheddar cheese works best for storing without refrigeration. These are drier and younger cheddars than normal and are ideal for long storage. The age old custom of rinsing cheese in white vinegar once every week can be practiced if you want to extend the storage duration further. Sometimes, you might observe mould on your specialty cheese. This is normal and can be cut away at a depth of 1 inch without any issues.

How Long Can Cheese Be Out of the Fridge?

Maybe you hosted a nice little soirée with your friends and drank too much wine, or maybe you fell asleep on the couch while working on your night cheese. Either way, you’ve gotten up this morning and found a block of cheese sitting on your kitchen table, and now you’re wondering, “Is this cheese still safe to eat? How long can cheese stay fresh unrefrigerated, and will I get sick if I eat cheese that’s been left out overnight?” Unrefrigerated cheese happens to the best of us, and the good news is that though you should store cheese in your fridge, you’ll probably be able to still enjoy cheese that’s been left out overnight.

“Leaving cheese out overnight may impact the quality of the product, but would not—in most cases—result in a food safety issue,” explains Adam Brock, director of technical services at Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. If anything, there’s a good chance you’re over-refrigerating your cheese. “All cheeses, besides fresh cheese, should be served at room temperature for optimum flavor,” says Brock. Fresh cheeses include burrata or fresh mozzarella, and they should be chilled until ready to serve. But soft cheeses like Brie or Camembert will both taste stronger and be easier to spread if given a chance to come to room temperature, and firmer cheeses will be easier to cut.

All you need to do to is take your cheese out of the fridge about an hour before you plan on serving it or using it. Though it’s unlikely you’ll face food safety issues if you leave cheese at room temperature for too long, for best quality, you should return it to the fridge after about two hours.

If you’re still squeamish about leaving cheese out at room temperature, or eating cheese that’s been left out overnight, stick with hard cheeses. “Cheeses that have been aged a bit longer, such as Parmesan, will be better able to maintain their unique flavor functionality characteristics and are less of a food safety risk even when held outside of ideal conditions,” notes Brock.

Soft cheeses, on the other hand, hold more moisture and so are friendlier to bacterial growth. (Sound gross, sure. But remember that soft, ripened cheeses are made with the help of bacteria.) So if you’re being extra cautious, follow the USDA guidelines that recommend you toss perishable foods, including soft cheese, that have been left out at room temperature for longer than two hours. But as Brock notes, “There is always the potential risk of pathogens or mold, but the risk is minimal with most cheese that are manufactured under safe conditions.” If you see mold on soft cheese, however, throw it out immediately.

So go ahead and eat that leftover Brie for breakfast. We won’t judge you.

So you’ve bought a large block or wedge of hard cheese. Maybe it’s Cheddar, Parmesan, or Pecorino, or one of the Dutch cheeses such as Edam or Gouda. The cheese sits in the fridge for some time, and you start to wonder: does hard cheese go bad?

Or you chose convenience and bought the cheese sliced for your sandwiches or grated for toppings. And you’re wondering how long does the cheese last in the fridge. Or you simply bought too much on a sale and want to know if freezing the cheese makes sense and how to do it.

Either way, if you have any questions regarding storage, shelf life, or going bad of hard cheese, this article is for you.

Image used under Creative Commons from Bob Peters

How To Store Hard Cheese

It won’t come as a surprise that you should refrigerate cheese. That’s true for almost all hard cheeses, except some grated ones that are sold unrefrigerated. That’s the easy part.

What’s more important is to know how to treat this dairy product after opening the package, so that it lasts the longest.

Storing Cheese Blocks and Chunks

Let’s start with hard cheese sold in blocks or chunks. After opening the package, make sure you wrap it well when you put it back into the fridge. If the cheese comes in wax or cheese paper, and you can reuse it, that’s great. If not, you can use parchment paper, foil wrap, or go with a freezer bag (remember to squeeze out the air). The last method seems to be super effective on Parmesan, so there’s little reason it won’t work for other hard cheeses.

If you want to store a block or chunk for a prolonged period, freeze it. Proper wrapping is a must, as you need to protect the product from low temperature. Once again, a freezer bag is the way to go.

If it’s a huge block, consider cutting it into week’s-worth of cheese chunks. This way you won’t keep the product in the fridge for too long after thawing.

Tip

If you need that cheese for grating or shredding, take care of that before freezing it. That’s because freezing and thawing might change the texture a bit and makes processing the cheese more difficult.

The bottom line is hard cheeses freeze really well, at least compared to soft cheeses like Brie.

Cheese block and a few slices on a cutting board

Storing Sliced Hard Cheese

For sliced hard cheese like Gouda or Edam, storage guidelines are very similar. If the package is resealable, keep the cheese in it after opening. If not, transfer the container into a freezer bag or wrap the slices.

When it comes to freezing, the slices will stick to each other, so if you have a lot of cheese, it makes sense to divide it into a few portions. Freezer bags are super useful here.

A pile of cheese slices with fresh herbs

Storing Shredded Cheese

Last but not least, let’s talk about shredded and grated hard cheeses. Most of them come refrigerated and that’ how you should store them. And even those that come unrefrigerated should be chilled in the fridge after opening.

In almost all cases such cheeses come in a resealable tube or canister, so there’s no need to repackage after opening. And like all other varieties, you can freeze those as well. That’s true especially because they usually are used for cooking, so the possible slight texture change is no big deal.

Tip

Thaw frosted cheese in the fridge, possibly overnight.

Bowl with grated cheese

How Long Does Hard Cheese Last

Generally, the harder the cheese, the longer it lasts. Firm cheeses like Cheddar retain quality for about 4 to 6 months unopened, and then 3 to 4 weeks after opening. Hard cheeses like Parmesan or Pecorino keep well for even longer, up to 9 months unopened and 4 to 6 weeks opened. Dutch cheeses are the exception here. Both Edam and Gouda last about a month or so unopened, and up to two weeks after opening.

Fortunately enough, you don’t need to remember all of these dates. Cheese always comes with a sell-by or use-by date on the package. Unless you get a cut straight from the wheel, of course. And that date is a good starting point when it comes to the shelf life of the cheese.

Obviously, the cheese will retain good quality for some time past that date. While it’s impossible to say how long exactly, the longer the general shelf life of the cheese, the longer past the date on the label it will last and the longer you can keep it in the fridge after opening.

When it comes to shredded or grated hard cheeses sold refrigerated, they usually retain quality for up to a week.

Fridge
Hard cheese (Parmesan, Pecorino; unopened) 6 – 9 months or Use-by + 1 month
Hard cheese (Parmesan, Pecorino; opened) 4 – 6 weeks
Firm cheese (Cheddar; unopened) 4 – 6 months or Use-by + 2 – 3 weeks
Firm cheese (Cheddar; opened) 3 – 4 weeks
Dutch cheese (Gouda, Edam; unopened) 4 – 6 weeks or Use-by + 1 – 2 weeks
Dutch cheese (Gouda, Edam; opened) 1 – 2 weeks
Shredded or grated hard cheese (unopened) Use-by + 1 week
Shredded or grated hard cheese (opened) 5 – 7 days

Please note the periods above are estimates only.

Image used under Creative Commons from Steven Lilley

How To Tell If Hard Cheese Is Bad?

Once again, let’s start with blocks and chunks of hard cheese. Prolonged storage sometimes results in mold growth, but you can simply cut off the moldy part (with some excess) and consume the rest. Other than mold, if the appearance (e.g., change in color) texture, smell, or taste of the cheese has changed noticeably, it’s time to let it go.

Of course, as long as you take good care of the cheese, it will likely last much longer than the periods noted above. While these guidelines aren’t super specific, for long-lasting cheeses going with your gut is often the best. If you don’t feel like the cheese is okay to eat, just toss it out.

When it comes to shredded and grated hard cheeses, the rules are a bit more strict. If any mold appears, throw out the entire package. The same thing for all noticeable changes noted above, especially changes in texture. Last but not least, if you have the shredded or grated cheese that’s not one of those super-long-lasting ones sold unrefrigerated, throw it out if it’s opened for more than 10 days.

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Whether it’s piled on a cutting board surrounded by charcuterie or stirred into creamy risotto, cheese is the ultimate comfort food. To make sure we’re prepared for unexpected guests or prepped to make our favorite recipes, we like to keep our fridge stocked with a few kinds at all times. The only downside is some cheeses don’t last that long. So we’re here to help you plan accordingly.

Each cheese will vary based on where it’s from and how it’s stored; however, the following tips are general guidelines on how long certain types of cheeses will last.

Hard cheeses

Some of our favorite cheeses in this category include Parmesan, Asiago, Romano, and cheddar. When stored properly in the fridge, an unopened package can last between two and four months. An opened package of Parmesan or block of cheddar, however, is good for about six weeks in the fridge. If you’re getting close to the limit, use your blocks in recipes such as this chicken-apple sausage mac and cheese or this three-cheese sausage and kale calzone.

If you want to save the cheese for another time, you can also pop it in the freezer where it will be OK for up to eight months. But keep in mind, cheese that’s been frozen will have a slightly different taste than fresh. Pro tip: Pop those Parmesan rinds in the freezer to use later for flavoring soups and stews.

Mac, mac, L’Oréal, yep cause I’m worth it. (You need this fall mac and cheese, recipe on @tastingtable)

A post shared by Jake Cohen (@jakecohen) on Nov 2, 2016 at 11:27am PDT

Semihard to semisoft cheeses

It’s safe to keep that opened chunk of Gouda and block of Gruyère in the fridge for about two to three weeks, and in the freezer for up to two months. For the best storage, keep unopened cheese in its original package and put any leftovers wrapped loosely in a piece of parchment inside a Ziploc bag so air can circulate without the cheese drying out. Looking for ways to cook with Gruyère? Try our recipe for cheddar and Gruyère grilled cheese sandwiches.

Soft cheeses

Soft cheeses, such as cream cheese, Brie, mozzarella, feta, Gorgonzola, and Camembert, contain more moisture than hard cheeses, meaning they won’t last as long and should be consumed within one to two weeks of living in the fridge. Although you technically can store cheeses like mozzarella in the freezer, they will lose their fluffy, cheesy texture once defrosted. For the best results, keep soft cheeses in their unopened packaging until you are ready to use them. And if you don’t use that mozz all at once for prosciutto-mozzarella panini with fig jam or all that Brie for topping burnt carrots, then put your leftovers in a tightly sealed container in the fridge.

A post shared by Gabrielle Pellerin (@gabepllrn) on Aug 3, 2017 at 8:02am PDT

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When it comes to storing cheese, we recently discovered that the best way to store leftover cheese is to grate it and place it in a freezer bag in the freezer. But how long can you store different types of cheese, such as brie or camembert?

According to food website Tasting Table, cheese has a much longer shelf life than is generally thought. So many of us will chuck away cheese before its time is up and therefore waste some good, edible food.

The food experts revealed how long different types of cheese actually last when stored in the fridge or freezer…

Hard cheese

Cheeses like cheddar and parmesan can keep for up to four months in the fridge and eight months in the freezer, if unopened. Once opened hard cheese is safe to eat for six weeks.

Medium cheese

The types of cheese, such as gruyere and gouda, that fall between the hard and soft categories, can be kept in a fridge for two to three weeks after they have been opened. In the freezer, this type of cheese can last for two months if the packet is still intact.

ARBGetty Images

Soft cheese

These are the cheeses that go off the quickest as they contain the most moisture, such as brie, feta and camembert. Once opened, the cheese must be munched within a fortnight.

What about mouldy cheese?

It is safe to cut mould from hard cheese. Due to its low moisture content, mould doesn’t spread quickly. However, with soft cheeses, mould can spread much faster, meaning they are riskier if out of date than hard cheeses.

This all sounds like good news to us as it means we’ve got more time to enjoy our favourite cheese!

  • How long does sliced cheddar deli cheese last? The exact answer to that question depends to a large extent on storage conditions – after purchasing from the deli, keep sliced cheddar deli cheese refrigerated at all times.
  • How long does sliced cheddar deli cheese last after the sell-by date? After sliced cheddar deli cheese is purchased from the deli, it may be refrigerated for 3 to 4 weeks – the “sell-by” date on the package may expire during that storage period, but the cheese will remain safe to use after the sell by date if it has been properly stored.
  • Unopened sliced cheddar deli cheese may be kept in its original store deli packaging when refrigerating; to maximize the shelf life of the cheese, do not open the package until ready to use.
  • To further extend the shelf life of sliced cheddar deli cheese, freeze; when freezing, place the cheese in the freezer before the number of days shown for refrigerator storage has elapsed.
  • You can maximize the shelf life of sliced cheddar deli cheese in the freezer by wrapping the sliced cheese tightly in heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap or place in heavy-duty freezer bags.
  • How long does sliced cheddar deli cheese last in the freezer? Properly stored, it will maintain best quality for 3 months, but will remain safe beyond that time.
  • The freezer time shown is for best quality only – cheddar deli cheese that has been kept constantly frozen at 0° F will keep safe indefinitely.
  • How long does sliced cheddar deli cheese last after being frozen and thawed? Sliced cheddar deli cheese that has been defrosted can be kept for an additional 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator before using; for best results, thaw cheese in the refrigerator.
  • Frozen cheese may become crumbly and lose some of its flavor; the thawed slice cheddar deli cheese will be best suited to cooked dishes, such as sauces, soups and casseroles.
  • How can you tell if sliced cheddar deli cheese is bad or spoiled? The best way is to smell and look at the cheese: if cheese develops an off odor, flavor or appearance, it should be discarded; if mold appears, discard all of the sliced cheddar deli cheese.

Sources: For details about data sources used for food storage information, please