Picture it. You start building your crowd-pleasing cheese board, or you start to gather the ingredients for that awesome recipe featuring your favorite cheese only to discover your coveted cheese covered in mold. The good news is you can avoid this frustrating situation when you understand the basics of cheese shelf life and follow some simple steps for ensuring your cheese stays deliciously fresh for as long as possible.
How long does cheese last?
Having a well-stocked supply of fresh cheese is always a great idea whether you love to cook, to entertain, or you are a serious snacker. Once you bring your cheese home from the store, just follow these tips to extend your cheese’s shelf life.
The first step is to know that the shelf life of cheese depends largely on its texture. The harder the cheese, the longer it will last when properly stored.
Semi-Hard and Hard Cheeses
Semi-hard and hard cheeses have lower moisture content due to their longer aging process, and this lower moisture content lends to a longer shelf life than other types of cheese. These cheeses can last anywhere from two to four months unopened and properly refrigerated. Once opened, these cheeses can last about four to six weeks in the refrigerator if stored properly. After that, you can still freeze your favorites and make them last even longer.
Examples of long-lasting semi-hard and hard cheeses are:
Soft Cheeses and Semi-Soft Cheeses
A good rule of thumb is that the softer the cheese is, the shorter its shelf life. The soft cheeses listed below will have the shortest shelf life of all cheeses. It’s wise to check for an expiration date on the packaging and adhere to it whenever possible. But, once opened these cheeses will last about one to two weeks.
Unlike other cheese textures, soft cheeses also don’t freeze well. So when you purchase these cheeses, make sure you have a short-term plan for using them when they are at their freshest.
- Blue cheese
Semi-soft cheeses fare a bit longer when properly stored in the refrigerator. These cheeses can last about one to three weeks under the best circumstances.
How should I store cheese in the refrigerator?
Until you’re ready to use cheese, it should be kept in its original packaging. That’s because all cheese kept in its original packaging will last longer than cheese that’s been opened. If the cheese has been opened, it can still stay fresh as long as you properly store it in your refrigerator. You will need to make sure you have the following items to maximize its shelf life:
- Parchment, wax, or cheese paper
- Plastic wrap
- Storage container
Now you’re ready to follow these steps to properly store opened cheese:
- With clean hands, take the cheese and wrap well in parchment or cheese paper. If you have neither, a sheet of wax paper will also work as a first layer in storing the cheese.
- Next, take some plastic wrap and wrap a bit looser over the first layer of wrapped cheese. A small amount of air in the wrapping allows the cheese to breathe and maintain its desired texture longer.
- Label the cheese with the date and type.
- You may want to place this wrapped cheese in a larger zip lock plastic bag, reusable food storage bag or a container.
- Place in a high humidity bin in your refrigerator at a temperature between 35 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit,
When does cheese go bad?
Even after taking the proper precautions for storing cheese, it can still go bad. Contracting a foodborne illness is nothing to risk, so you should always avoid eating any food that has spoiled and gone bad.
The expiration date, also listed sometimes as a ‘sell by’ or ‘best by’ date, should be a guide. The date ensures the product will be at its peak quality until this time. As with any food, you should always inspect it closely before eating. Some cheeses can be used for a short period after these dates, but remember the quality may be not as good as if the cheese were fresh.
The first telltale sign cheese is no longer fresh is the appearance of mold. While mold is harmless on some cheese varieties (like blue cheese), many molds emit toxins that can cause illness when consumed.
Another way to check the freshness of cheese is to inspect it for hard spots or changes in texture, discoloration, and the undeniable indicator that cheese has passed its peak —a bad odor.
If you find your cheese is approaching the last days of its precious shelf life, you don’t have to simply throw it away. You can always try your hand at freezing the cheese, or get creative with the cheese and use it some of these ways:
- Top a salad, side dish or entree
- Add to a sauce for a creamy finish
- Make an impromptu cheese board
When you know the basics of storing cheese, you will always have your favorite cheese fresh and ready to enjoy. For more information on how to make the most of your cheese explore some of these versatile recipes or try our Cello Cheese Chat and learn all you need to cheese confidently.