Cheese is a dairy product made from milk, it’s made with coagulation of the milk protein called casein. Cheese can be made from various types of milk: cow, sheep, goat, buffalo, and many others.
There are so many types of cheese available on the market. They vary in texture, flavor, color, and even form!
Cheese exists in virtually every country and culture, all over the world. It’s so ingrained in some cultures, that almost all their recipes call for some cheese!
The US is no different than those. It seems like we have at least two or three types of cheese in the fridge at all times. Come on, be honest, you like to hoard cheese too, and we can’t say that we blame you. We do it all the time, too!
When one sees some cheese on sale, the first instinct is to buy, buy, buy. When reality sets in, the thought of throwing out cheese that wasn’t finished in time hits.
Before you add the cheese to your cart, you ask yourself: how long does cheese last?
But, you have no idea exactly how long you have. Luckily, we do – so continue reading to find out!
Does Cheese Go Bad?
This may sound like a redundant question, but we assure you it isn’t. Some so many people aren’t aware of the fact that cheese does expire.
Some types of cheese don’t even have long before they do. On the other hand, some cheeses can last a good while, longer than you think.
The shelf life is affected by several things. First, it’s affected by the type of cheese. Then, it’s affected by storage and the strain of bacteria used to make the cheese.
All in all, if you want to get the most out of your block of cheese, follow the advice we gave you below. Abiding by the manufacturer’s storage recommendations ensures that your cheese doesn’t go bad before its time!
How Is Cheese Made?
We already mentioned that cheese is made with coagulation of the milk protein – casein. But how, exactly?
When the cheese is being made, certain compounds are added to acidify the milk. Acidified milk is mixed with bacterial or enzymes of rennet, which cause the milk proteins to coagulate.
Then, the solids start to separate, or curd from the liquid – called whey. After curding, the cheese is pressed into its final form. Some cheeses have mold throughout, or on the outer layer, to add some extra flavor.
Since cheese exists in every part of the world, each country produces a cheese a little different from the rest. Every country has developed a certain style.
Some aspects of flavor depend on the origin of milk. Other aspects of flavor are impacted by:
- The texture
- Whether the cheese has been pasteurized
- Butterfat content
- Type of bacteria used
- Herbs, spices, and smoke
- Processing of the cheese
- Length of the aging period.
Fun fact, did you know why is cheddar mostly orange? Sure, you’ve seen some white or yellowish cheddars. However, it’s often orange – how?
Well, let us tell you the secret. Cheddar, and some other cheeses, are orange due to annatto, a flavorless plant!
How Long Does Cheese Last?
This is, by far, the most important section of this article. Knowing how long cheese lasts is crucial information to know whether you should stock up on cheese.
If it doesn’t last very long, you may be out for a nasty surprise. Imagine buying a huge block of cheese to find out it’s gone bad all of a sudden?
Imagine that happening to that expensive French cheese? We know it’s horrible, but we hope we made a point of how important it is.
When we’re talking about the shelf life of cheese, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment in the future when it will go bad. The cheese doesn’t stop fermenting once it’s packaged and shipped off. The fermentation process is continued until the bacteria make the cheese go bad.
We talked about how different types of cheese have different flavors. With different flavors, come differences in the shelf life. So, we’ll cover the most important types of cheese and their shelf life. If you’re wondering how long does Velveeta last, read our article to find out!
The best rule of thumb is: the harder the cheese is, the longer it stays fresh. So, the hardest cheeses have a pretty long shelf life, whereas soft cheeses don’t last very long.
The reason behind that is that bacteria grow the best in a moist environment. Hard cheeses are very dry, making them less susceptible to bacteria growth.
Soft cheeses usually come with a use-by date. That date is the manufacturer’s guarantee that the food in question will stay safe for consumption up to the printed date.
Afterward, the cheese may lose quality or become bad. All in all might be best to abide by the use-by date, with a few days of wiggle room. Soft cheeses don’t stay fresh for more than four weeks post-production opened or unopened, so be careful to use them in time!
Hard and semi-hard cheeses don’t come with a use-by date, they usually have a best-by or a best-before date printed on the label. This date doesn’t mean that the food in question will go bad – it will lose some quality or remain unchanged past that date.
The best-by date is simply the manufacturer’s guarantee that your cheese will remain at peak quality, up to the date on the label. Semi-hard cheeses last for at least a month past the best-by date.
Once you open the semi-hard cheese, you have two weeks to finish it up. The situation is a little better when it comes to hard cheeses. They can be eaten safely in two to four months past the best-by date.
Can You Freeze Cheese?
Actually, yes! Freezing cheese is a great idea if you aren’t able to use it up in a given time.
Freezer extends the shelf life to at least half a year. The cheese can be used in up to eight months, which is good enough if the only other option is throwing it out.
Do note that this only applies to semi-hard and hard cheeses. Freezing soft cheese is never a good idea. Soft cheese will change the texture at freezing temperatures. So, the shelf life maybe longer, but it won’t give you satisfying results.
How To Store Cheese?
Well, this may sound like an easy one. However, we assure you it’s not as simple as it sounds – improper storage can make your cheese dry out.
We advise you to transfer it into an airtight container or a ziplock bag. This way, you’ll keep the air out and your cheese will be fresh when you need it.
Make sure to close it tightly each time, because the cold, dry air in the fridge will do its thing and ruin your fave block of cheese.
When you’re freezing cheese, we have a few tips to reveal to you. Number one, pick a freezer-safe container or bag to put the cheese in.
Next, wrap the cheese in aluminum foil, and if you plan to store it away for a few months, double wrap it. The foil will prevent freezer burn or drying out.
Did Your Cheese Go Bad? How To Check The State Of It?
Some foods don’t give away sure signs that they spoiled. That’s not the case with cheese.
Soft cheese will develop a funky smell and mold if it’s bad. Hard and semi-hard cheeses are less likely to grow mold, but if they do – toss them out.
You may notice that your cheese dried out. You may be tempted to toss it out – but you don’t have to. It’s perfectly fine to use, we assure you.
If it’s too dry and it seems unappetizing on a cheese platter, it’s not a reason to toss it. You can always use it in meals where you require some melted cheese.
If the cheese just doesn’t smell right, or it developed a sour taste, it has likely spoiled. Throw it out – it’s better to be safe than sorry!
How Long Does Cheese Last? – Conclusion
To conclude, cheese doesn’t have very long before it expires – it’s usually just a few weeks. Soft cheese has a shorter shelf life because of the moisture present.
Hard cheeses are mostly dry, so they don’t have the perfect surroundings for bacteria and mold growth. They are usually good for at least a month past the best-by date.
Luckily, spotting a sour cheese is super easy. The appearance, the smell, and lastly, the taste are all sure signs that the cheese has gone bad!
If the cheese seems suspicious to you on any count, please, don’t eat it! You could suffer from an upset stomach or even give yourself food poisoning. It may have been an expensive block of imported cheese, but it’s not worth the trouble!