We all love hard cheese and for good reason – it’s aromatic, delicious, and can turn any meal into a delightful treat. But most of the hard cheeses come in huge blocks and if you don’t use yours frequently, there are times you may find yourself wondering if the dairy is still good to eat. So we have prepared this post to help you figure it out. Read on!
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Does Hard Cheese Go Bad?
Yes, even though hard cheese lasts a long time, it eventually spoils. Its shelf life is highly dependent on how well the product is stored and cared for. If kept properly, hard cheese can stay good for a relatively long time beyond its best-by date.
To ensure your cheese retains its quality and serves you longer, make sure to store it away from heat and moisture.
There are many different types of hard cheeses including Parmesan, Cheddar, Edam, and Gouda. While each will have a different lifespan from the other, the majority will last for months past the marked date. The quality will deteriorate after this date but your cheese will still be safe to eat.
How Long Does Hard Cheese Last?
As stated, different cheeses will have different shelf lives, and the harder the cheese is, the longer it is likely to last. Essentially, hard cheeses will last about a month or two past the best-by date if kept unopened in the refrigerator. If you have shredded hard cheese, know that it doesn’t last very long. It will likely last seven days after the printed date.
Once the seal has been broken, hard cheese will stay good for about one or two months provided it is stored correctly. Meaning, it is wrapped in something breathable such as cheesecloth, wax paper, or parchment paper. The shredded variety should be consumed within one week of opening it.
If you want to significantly increase the life of your hard cheese, place it in the freezer. Here, it can stay fresh for about seven to eight months regardless of whether it is opened or not.
Hard cheeses freeze well because they have low moisture content. You could even go ahead and grate it before storage. The good news is that shredded cheese lasts longer in the freezer. If stored properly, it will last as long as the larger blocks.
Below is a chart that summarizes the lifespan of hard cheese to help you enjoy it while its quality is still intact.
|Type of Hard Cheese||Lifespan|
|Unopened hard cheese chunk||Best-by date + 1 to 2 months||7 to 8 months|
|Opened hard cheese chunk||1 to 2 months||7 to 8 months|
|Unopened shredded hard cheese||Best-by date + 7 days||7 to 8 months|
|Opened shredded hard cheese||7 days||7 to 8 months|
3 Tips to Tell if Hard Cheese Has Gone Bad
As with many dairy products, you can easily differentiate between good cheese and one that is spoiled. When it comes to hard cheese, here are some of the signs to look out for.
If you see mold on a block of hard cheese, that is an indication that something is wrong. Inspect the cheese to find out the extent of the damage.
You don’t need to get rid of the whole block if only a small section is moldy. Simply grab a sharp knife and cut out the offending part. Just make sure the knife is not touching the mold so it doesn’t contaminate the rest of the cheese.
For shredded hard cheese, however, getting rid of a moldy section can be a little difficult. If there is mold on such cheese, you will have to toss out the entire container.
2. Drying Out
Hard cheese may dry out after some time especially if it is not stored correctly. While you may still be able to eat your cheese, you will notice a significant change in quality. But if you are like most people, you will likely not mind the quality change. Just cut off and discard the hardened part and you’re good to go.
3. Awful Smell and Taste
While the scent and taste of hard cheese may vary from brand to brand, most hard cheese will have strong notes of savory hazelnut and sauteed butter. If yours smells or tastes strange, throw it out.
How About Cheese Crystals?
Contrary to what many people think, the presence of cheese crystals (the white spots you see on some hard cheese) does not mean your cheese has gone bad. You can still safely consume the dairy, but make sure to do so quickly.
Crystals are a sign that the cheese is aging or moisture has sneaked into the package, and if you don’t consume the cheese right away, mold may start to form and you may not be able to use the product.
4 Tips to Store Hard Cheese
We cannot emphasize this enough – how you store your hard cheese will greatly affect its shelf life. Follow these tips to keep your cheese fresh the longest.
1. Do Not Store Hard Cheese in Its Original Wrap
This is especially important for cheese that comes vacuum-sealed in plastic wrap. The packaging suffocates the cheese and over time, it gives it a plastic flavor. Not just that; it can also breed bacteria.
Gently remove the cheese from the wrapping to store it. You may want to taste or give the cheese a sniff to find out if there is a chemical flavor. If so, scrape off the outer layer of the cheese before storage.
2. Store Your Cheese in a Breathable Wrap
Get a breathable material like cheesecloth, parchment paper, or wax paper and wrap the cheese with it before storage. It will wick away excess moisture and allow the cheese to breathe, which will enable it to maintain its quality longer.
Do not forget to put the cheese in a Ziplock or add an extra layer of plastic wrap. It will offer additional protection so the dairy does not soak up flavors from other food items in the refrigerator.
3. Always Store Hard Cheese in a Drawer
It can be tempting to place the cheese on the fridge shelves, as these are much easier to access. But that is not the best place to store hard cheese. Look for a spot in the drawers and put all your cheese in there. Drawers have higher humidity, which will help keep the cheese from drying out.
4. Do Not Store Hard Cheese at Room Temperature
The temperature in most kitchens and pantries keeps on fluctuating and that’s why hard cheese should not be left sitting out.
Okay, if your kitchen has a cool, constant temperature and you will be using your cheese right away, then you can go ahead and let the cheese sit out. But make sure to keep it covered. It will prevent it from being exposed to excess moisture and disease-causing microbes.
For more tips on how to properly store cheese, watch this video:
The Risk of Consuming Expired Hard Cheese
Ingesting hard cheese that is past its expiration date will not make you sick. However, if the cheese has mold, it can be unsafe to eat. But this will also depend on whether you are dealing with a block of cheese or the shredded variety. If it is the former, simply chop off the affected area and your cheese will be good to eat.
For shredded cheese, on the other hand, the mold will not be so easy to remove and the whole container will have to be discarded, as ingesting such cheese can cause food poisoning.
Moreover, keep in mind that even if your cheese isn’t moldy, if it is not stored properly, it can harbor bacteria that can upset your digestive system if you consume it.
Can You Freeze Hard Cheese?
Yes, hard cheese freezes well, and freezing will be a great option if you don’t want the product to degrade quickly.
Start by slicing the block into smaller chunks. That way, whenever you want to use the cheese, you can easily thaw only the amount you want to use instead of the whole block.
Once you have your pieces ready, wrap them in a breathable material, then place them in freezer bags. Be sure to squeeze excess air out of the bag before sealing. Then put the bags in the freezer.
When you are ready to use the cheese, place only the amount you intend to use in the refrigerator. Let it defrost overnight.
Remember you could also freeze grated hard cheese. Here’s how to go about it:
Hard cheese does indeed go bad. But as with many dairy products, consuming hard cheese after its best-by date will not make you sick. If the cheese is moldy, however, you may want to inspect the extent of the damage before you can decide whether you will use it or not. Discard the product if the mold is difficult to remove or if the smell or taste is off.