Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
If you think your freezer is the almighty savior of everything—from rapidly browning bananas to a fridge full of food the night before a weeklong vacation, to three pounds of Thanksgiving leftovers—think again. Not all foods exit the freezer in the same shape they went in.
Cheese is one of these food items.
Often creamy in texture, cheese can become crumbly after a stay in the freezer.
Ice crystals form inside the cheese because of its natural moisture. Particles inside the cheese’s dense structure expand as they freeze and contract when thawed out, leaving you with holes that weaken the structure.
The result: crumbles instead of a smooth and sliceable block.
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Another quality lost is flavor. The ice crystals affect the complexity of a cheese’s flavor, and in some varieties, can even leave behind a burnt or metallic taste. Basically, the artisanal cheese you picked at the farmers market is worth eating before you're ever tempted to extend its shelf life with a deep freeze.
However, while it's not ideal for more nuanced cheeses, there are ways to freeze some types of cheese with satisfactory results.
Any cheese you know for a fact you will shred, crumble, or melt on future recipes is fine for the freezer. Feta crumbled into a salad or shredded mozzarella melted in a fluffy omelet will still provide the flavors you love. (After all, think of frozen pizza!) Mixed with other ingredients, no one will suspect a thing.
Semi-hard cheeses like aged cheddar and Gouda can really stand up to the cold, although the aging process stops as soon as they reach freezing temps. As a standard rule, semi-hard cheeses like Swiss and provolone can last up to three or four months. Parmesan is even more impressive—up to six months for optimal shelf life. Unfortunately, Brie, cream cheese, and other soft cheeses won’t make it through the long winter and shouldn’t be frozen at all.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when freezing cheese:
- Try to think ahead and plan how you’ll use the cheese in the future. If you need it in slices, slice before freezing and separate with parchment. Keep in mind, cheese freezes better in smaller portions or shreds.
- If you haven’t opened the original packaging yet, don’t. Exposure to air will diminish the quality of the cheese, and the airtight seal your cheese came in is difficult to re-create.
- Cover the cheese tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to keep moisture in and air out. Seal the wrapped cheese up with a Ziplock bag or a vacuum sealer if you’ve got one. If not, using a rolling pin can help you get every bit of air out.
- Store the cheese for one to six months depending on its type.
- When you’re ready to use it, thaw the cheese in the fridge for about two hours and use within three days.
So, can you freeze cheese? Most of the time. Safely. But for ultimate quality in creamy, buttery richness … enjoy it before the need to freeze strikes. Trust me—it’s not that difficult.