Freezing cheese alters its texture and can dull its flavor, which is why cheesemongers and professionals like myself so fervently warn against it. But, you absolutely can freeze bulk cheeses or anything you plan to cook with.
If you smuggle home a beautiful piece of raw milk Brie from Paris, you may be tempted to freeze some or all of it to extend your time with it. Unfortunately, doing so will make it mushy and unpleasant. Any cheese intended for a cheese board should not be frozen.
But, if you have a big bag of shredded cheddar or other cheese you know you’ll just use for cooking, freezing cheese is perfectly acceptable.
One thing to consider is that some cheeses may last longer in your fridge than you realize. We’ll cover the shelf life for various cheeses here, too.
Best cheeses to freeze
Cheese you plan to melt or cook with can be frozen without issue.
Will freezing cheese that you plan to cook with still compromise its flavor and texture? Yes. It’s not really that these cheeses freeze much better than other cheeses, but if they’re not intended as the main source of flavor or texture for your meal, it’s not a big deal. Also, the more processed a cheese is, the less noticeable the difference will be.
A few great cheeses to freeze:
- Anything you plan to cook with, from ricotta to cheddar shreds
- Pre-grated cheese
- Anything purchased in bulk
- Cheese rinds you’ll use for stock or flavoring stews, beans, or other dishes (Parmigiano Reggiano is the most classic here)
Quick tip: If you do opt to freeze your cheese, make sure you give it plenty of time to thaw in the fridge, rather than thawing on the counter or in the microwave. The more gently you thaw it, the better it will retain its texture and flavor.
Don’t freeze these cheeses
Don’t freeze anything you plan to eat plain.
Anything you plan to enjoy as a snack or serve on a cheeseboard. This could include but is not limited to brie-styles (which cheesemongers call “bloomy rinds”), blue cheese, cheddar, and other cheeses that you would buy in a wheel or block or wedge. Softer cheeses, especially, will suffer texturally if frozen.
How to freeze cheese
Thaw frozen cheese gently in the fridge to help preserve its texture.
So, you’ve come home from Costco with a big bag of shredded cheddar or several blocks of low-moisture mozzarella to freeze. Here’s what to do.
For shredded cheese:
- Portion your cheese. Separate shredded cheese into smaller baggies. Cut blocks into sizes you could eat in less than a week. How much cheese you put in each baggie is up to you based on how much you’ll need when you’re ready to thaw.
- Prevent clumping. Throw a pinch of cornstarch into each bag to absorb moisture and prevent clumpy cheese. Seal each bag and shake until evenly distributed.
- Label and date. Write the type of cheese and the date you packaged it in permanent marker. If possible, store the bags in the same area of your freezer so they’re easier to keep track of. Your cheese will last three to six months in the freezer.
For block cheese:
- Portion your cheese. If the block is larger than you’d usually consume within a week, cut it down into smaller blocks.
- Vacuum seal. Put each block in a baggie, carefully press all the air out, then seal. You can also wrap it in plastic wrap, but the cheese won’t be quite as protected.
- Label and date. Write the type of cheese and the date you packaged it in permanent marker.
How long does cheese last in the refrigerator?
Certain styles of cheese last long enough in the fridge, there’s really no need to freeze them at all.
The rule of thumb is: The more moisture in your cheese, the faster it will go bad.
Something like fresh ricotta will last in your fridge three to five days. On the flip side, a hunk of hard cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano could last for as long as you need it to and never go moldy. Brie-styles will generally last seven to 14 days, and anything semi-firm will last 10 to14 days in your fridge. Hard cheeses aged eight to 10 months may last up to 21 days. A full wedge of unwrapped cheese will also generally last longer than smaller pieces that have been unwrapped and rewrapped.
The exact shelf life depends on how fresh the cheese was when you bought it, though, so always check the best-buy date (and look for information on when the cheese was cut if you’re buying wedges from your cheese counter). Cheesemongers recommend buying smaller amounts more frequently rather than taking fewer trips where you buy more.
Can you eat moldy cheese?
Blue cheese is moldy by design, but most cheeses can still be eaten if you cut any mold off.
If you’ve chosen not to freeze your cheese, and you don’t eat it quickly enough, eventually the inevitable will occur. It will start to grow mold. The good news is that most cheese is fine to eat, even if there’s a bit of mold on it. Just don’t eat the moldy part.
Very soft cheeses like ricotta, chevre, or fresh balls of mozzarella are the exception. They should not be eaten if they have mold on them. These styles should smell fresh and milky, and will usually start smelling yeasty or sour when they’re bad, even if they don’t have mold.
For all other styles, a bit of mold is okay. If you see green, white, grey, and blue molds, just slice off the mold and continue to enjoy your cheese. If red or black mold grows on your cheese, throw the cheese out and give your fridge a good scrub with disinfectant. You don’t want to mess around with that stuff.
Freezing bulk cheese can be a great way to extend its usefulness. Feel free to freeze any cheese you intend to cook with. It will last three to six months when properly packed and frozen. Thawing it slowly in the fridge rather than on the counter or in the microwave will help minimize changes in texture and flavor. Don’t freeze cheese that you plan on enjoying with wine or crackers, but instead buy smaller amounts more often.
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