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How to Store and Freeze Leftover Cheese: What Works and What Doesn't

Updated on January 19, 2011

Extend the life of cheese with proper storage

Do you have leftover cheese?

If you are a lover of cheese, then you may be presented with the problem of what to do with the cheese you don't use in a recipe. You may even be a member of an ever-popular cheese of the month club. Many of the recipes in our shop dazzled with gourmet cheeses, such as feta, bleu and brie. But, we were able to share this ingredient among all of our customers (and buy it in bulk.) If you have invested in a block of cheese, then read on to learn how to deal with the leftovers. Whatever you do--don't throw it out.

Types of Cheese

There is an enormous variety of cheeses based upon the milk used and aging process (but that's another article altogether.) For purposes of this how-to, we will classify a particular type of cheese into one of the following categories because the storage and freezing recommendations will vary with the type of cheese.

Hard cheeses are aged cheeses that are easy to grate. Examples include Parmesan, Romano and Asiago cheese.

Semi-hard cheeses are harder blocks and include Cheddar, Colby and Gouda.

Semi-soft cheeses are made with whole milk and melt easily. Examples include Monterey Jack, Fontina and Havarti.

Soft and fresh cheeses have a high moisture content and include Ricotta, cottage cheese and cream cheese.

Soft-ripened cheeses have a soft body and include Brie and Camembert.

Processed cheeses are a blend of fresh and aged cheeses that have been processed.

These categories are provided by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Inc. In addition, they provide a category for Blue cheese (cheese that has harmless blue veins of mold) and Pasta Filata cheeses (cheeses such as Mozzarella and Provolone that have been heated and stretched.)

Try a Cheese of the Month Club

Cheese Storage

Follow these tips to maximize the shelf-life of cheese.

  • Refrigerate cheese as soon as possible at a temperature between 34 and 38 degrees F.
  • Store cheese away from items that have a strong odor (cheese easily absorbs odor.)
  • Tightly wrap hard cheese in plastic wrap.
  • Store fresh and soft cheeses in an airtight container.
  • Wrap semi-hard cheeses in plastic wrap and then in case in paper wrap, such as parchment paper.
  • Once cheese has been opened and used, quickly wrap it and refrigerate to minimize the loss of moisture.
  • Fresh and grated hard cheeses should last about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
  • Natural and processed cheeses should last about 4-8 weeks in the refrigerator.
  • As a rule of thumb, it is best to use cheese within a week of opening the packaging. If you have leftover cheese, follow the suggestions for freezing.
  • Always read and follow the instructions on the label for use and storage.
  • If mold develops on natural cheese, use a knife to cut it off. Cut an extra 1/4" to 1/2" beyond the mold. Consume or freeze the remaining cheese within a week.

Cut in small pieces or shred cheese before freezing

Can Cheese Be Frozen?

Of course! You can freeze just about anything. But, some cheeses freeze better than others. Note that freezing is a process that drastically reduces the growth of bacteria. But, it doesn't eliminate growth that occurred before the cheese is frozen. And, growth will continue as soon as it is defrosted. Follow these tips for the best results:

  • Semi-hard and hard cheeses freeze the best.
  • Soft and fresh cheeses do not freeze very well due to the high moisture content.
  • Freeze cheese in small portions, such as 1/4 cup or 1/2 cup portions or whatever quantity you would be likely to use the next time.
  • Cut in smaller pieces or grate cheese before it is packaged for the freezer.
  • Package in ziplock bags or airtight containers.
  • Freeze it rapidly.
  • Defrost cheese in the refrigerator and use it immediately. It usually takes no more than 24 hours to defrost a small block of cheese.
  • Soft cheeses don't freeze well as an ingredient. But, they will do just fine if they are part of a recipe that includes ingredients that freeze well.


More Tips on Using and Storing Cheese

  • Buy expensive or large quantities of cheese with a friend!
  • Or, share membership in a cheese of the month club with a friend--then you both can try some new cheeses.
  • Make ahead different recipes using the same ingredient. Some suggestions are listed in the Tips section below.
  • Pair cheese with wine or crackers for a sophisticated appetizer.
  • Make it a habit to label the date a package is opened with a permanent marker so you can easily determine the age of an item.


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      andesauntie 7 years ago

      Thanks so much for this info...I had often wondered about it!