- Why Freeze Cheese
- What Happens When You Freeze
- Best Cheeses for Freezing
- Worst Cheeses for Freezing
- How to Safely Freeze Cheese
- How Long It Lasts
- How to Thaw
- What Types of Dishes to Make
- Frozen vs Fresh
Why would you freeze cheese?
We’ve all been there before: You have a big block of cheese you won’t be able to use by the use-by date, but you don’t want to throw it away. If you find yourself asking, “Can you freeze cheese?,” the answer is yes. But it’s not always the best option. Hard or semi-hard cheeses can be frozen, but softer cheeses like cream cheese and ricotta cheese don't freeze well.
Cheese is best when stored in the refrigerator and eaten fresh. But you might choose to freeze your cheese for the following reasons:
- You want to cut back on food waste. If you have a large amount of cheese that you won’t be able to eat by its use-by date, freezing it is a good alternative. Freezing any extra cheese you have will extend its shelf life so you can use it whenever you need it.
- You want to save money. Perhaps you want to stock up on cheese while it’s on sale even though you know you won’t be able to use it all at once. Freezing it allows you to save some for later and stretch your money.
- It’s more convenient. If your freezer is well-stocked with staple ingredients like cheese, you’ll be better equipped to cook whatever kinds of dishes you want with minimal preparation or shopping. Eliminating extra trips to the grocery store will also save you time.
What happens when you freeze cheese?
Cheese generally keeps best in the refrigerator, but freezing it is a great way to preserve it for longer if you’re in a pinch. Depending on the type of cheese you want to freeze, the results you get will be different.
Although research indicates that freezing cheese doesn’t alter its nutritional content, its texture and flavor may change. When frozen, any moisture in the cheese becomes frost crystals. Then, once you thaw it, the water is released and the cheese dries out. Previously frozen cheese is often more crumbly and can sometimes have an unpleasant, mealy texture.
Cheeses that contain more moisture also freeze at a higher temperature than those with less moisture. For example, cottage cheese has an overall moisture content of 78.7% and freezes at 29.8 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas cheddar cheese has a 33.8% moisture content and freezes at 8.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
Freezing certain types of cheese with active mold populations, like brie and Camembert, can make the microbes (tiny, microscopic organisms) inactive, which may affect their ripening process. But once thawed, the microorganisms can become active again.
What are the best cheeses for freezing?
The type of cheese plays a significant role in how well it fares in the freezer. Although you can technically freeze any cheese, hard and semi-hard cheese varieties are ideal for freezing due to their low moisture content. Examples of cheeses that are good for freezing include:
- Monterrey Jack
Some semi-soft cheeses, like goat cheese, may also freeze well.
Although you can technically freeze hard cheese like Swiss and parmesan, it may make more sense to just leave them in the refrigerator in some instances. If the packaging is unopened, you can safely store them in the refrigerator for up to 6 months and then for another 3 to 4 weeks after opening them.
Any cheese stored in the freezer should remain at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
What are the worst cheeses for freezing?
Not all cheeses are well suited for freezing. In general, it’s not a good idea to freeze handcrafted, soft, and moisture-rich cheeses. Instead, it’s better to buy small quantities of these cheeses and eat them while they’re fresh.
Some of the worst cheeses to freeze include:
- Blue cheese
- Cottage cheese
- Cream cheese
- Processed cheese slices and spreads
- Queso fresco
If you need to freeze cream cheese, you can mix it with some heavy cream and store it in the freezer. Or you can whip it after thawing it to improve its texture. With these additional steps, it should do well in dips or icing after it’s thawed.
How to safely freeze cheese and store it
If you decide to freeze your cheese, follow these steps to do it safely and get the best possible results:
- If the cheese is still in its original packaging, leave it unopened. Otherwise, portion the cheese into 1/2- or 1-pound blocks. You can also grate it or cut it into slices.
- Wrap the cheese in foil or cheese paper and separate slices with parchment paper.
- Place the wrapped cheese in an airtight plastic freezer bag or container. You can also use a kitchen vacuum sealer to prevent freezer burn. Label the container so you know when you initially froze it.
- Freeze the cheese as rapidly as possible to maintain its quality. This will help prevent large ice crystals from forming, which will make it taste drier when it thaws.
How long does frozen cheese last after the expiration date?
Whether the cheese is sliced or shredded, it should last at least 6 months past its expiration date if you properly store it in the freezer.
If mold has developed on your hard cheese before you freeze it, all you have to do is remove the moldy part. The rest is still safe to eat and freeze. As long as a hard or semi-hard cheese doesn’t smell or taste sour, it’s okay to eat.
Foods stored at a constant temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below are always safe, including cheese. The low temperature prevents the growth of microbes that can spoil your food or cause foodborne illness.
However, the quality of your cheese can suffer if it’s left in the freezer for an extended time. This means that it’s generally best to thaw and eat your cheese within 6 months of freezing it for optimal taste and texture.
How do you thaw frozen cheese?
Properly thawing the cheese is essential for your health and safety. Anything method that allows it to sit at room temperature for more than 2 hours — like leaving it on the kitchen counter or outside on the porch — can result in harmful bacteria growth.
Instead, plan ahead and let your cheese slowly but safely thaw in the refrigerator. Depending on the quantity of cheese, it may defrost overnight or require a day or two to thaw completely. As it thaws, the moisture will gradually go back into the cheese, although it may still be drier than it was before freezing it.
If you need to defrost your cheese more quickly, you can place it in a leak-proof plastic bag and submerge it in cold water. Just make sure the bag doesn’t leak. Otherwise, harmful bacteria could make their way into the cheese. It may also be tempting to increase the temperature of the water to speed up the defrosting process. Avoid doing this, because it can increase bacterial growth and make the cheese unsafe to eat.
Alternatively, if you’re really in a rush, you can use the microwave to defrost your cheese. This typically isn’t the preferred method because it can make the cheese oily and wet, and it may melt. But, if you plan to melt the cheese anyway, that might not matter to you.
To use the microwave defrosting method, remove the cheese from its packaging first. Place it in a microwave-safe container and microwave it in increments of 30 seconds on the lowest power possible. The center of the cheese is most likely to remain frozen the longest, so you may have to cut into it to make sure it’s completely thawed.
If you have a bag of frozen, shredded cheese, you can cook with it straight out of the bag without thawing it first.
Once you pull cheese from the freezer and thaw it, don’t refreeze it. It’s best to use it as quickly as possible.
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What types of dishes are best for previously frozen cheese?
Previously frozen cheese works best for cooking — as opposed to eating it on its own — due to the texture changes. Consider grating, crumbling, or melting it for best results. However, if a cheese has been in the freezer for several weeks, it may not melt as well as when it was fresh.
Some of the best ways to use previously frozen cheese in dishes are:
- Add it to casseroles
- Melt it over broccoli and other vegetables
- Use it to top pizzas, baked potatoes, or oven-baked nachos
- Stuff it into omelets
- Melt it into creamy soups
- Put it in mini quiches
- Use it to make a grilled cheese sandwich
- Sprinkle it onto pasta dishes
- Make macaroni and cheese
- Melt slices of cheese over burgers
Thawed, previously frozen cheese typically isn’t great if you plan to serve it on a cheese platter. Opt for fresh cheese instead of previously-frozen varieties for dishes requiring cheese with a more creamy texture.
As long as you’re okay with a change in texture, it’s fine to freeze cheese. Doing so may save you money in the long run by making the cheese last longer and reducing your overall waste.
Although you can technically freeze any kind of cheese, the better varieties for freezing are hard or semi-hard cheeses like cheddar, low-moisture mozzarella, and provolone. For the best flavor and texture, opt for fresh cheese whenever possible.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Dairy Association North East: "Keeping Dairy Foods Safe."
Fundamentals of Food Freezing: "Freezing of Dairy Products."
Journal of Dairy Science: "Effect of Frozen Storage on Physical Properties of Pasta Filata and Nonpasta Filata Mozzarella Cheeses," "Effect of Frozen Storage on the Proteolytic and Rheological Properties of Soft Caprine Milk Cheese," "Freezing Qualities of Cheddar-Type Cheeses Containing Varied Percentages of Fat, Moisture, and Salt."
Journal of Food Protection: "Effects of Freezing and Storage on Microorganisms in Frozen Foods: A Review."
Journal of Food Science: "Effect of Freezing and Frozen Storage on Chemical and Microbiological Characteristics in Sheep Milk Cheese."
National Center for Home Food Preservation: "Freezing Cheese."
Undeniably Dairy: "Can You Freeze Cheese?"
U.S. Department of Agriculture: "The Big Thaw — Safe Defrosting Methods," "Freezing and Food Safety," "How long can you keep dairy products like yogurt, milk, and cheese in the refrigerator?," "Molds on Food: Are They Dangerous?"
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources: "Freezing Milk and Cheese."
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