Food & Drink

The Fridge Life of Basically Every Cheese Ever

Variety of delicious cheese
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"Really, the best advice I have is to eat your cheese as soon as you buy it -- that way you can be sure it's always fresh," said cheesemonger Rachel Freier, who works at New York's pretty much world-famous Murray's Cheese Bar. But for those of us who like preplanning, sometimes we need to store our cheese in the fridge. 

Though Freier's own ethos is "buy small [quantities], and frequently," as opposed to bulk purchases, she also has some insight on how long almost every variety of cheese will last in your icebox -- and how to tell if it's past the point of no return. The cheeses are split into three pertinent categories that should cover everything out there. Yes, even those seemingly invincible American cheese slices.  

Really Hard Cheese
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Hard cheeses

Examples: Asiago, Parmesan, Beaufort, pecorino Romano, Cheddar

What's the fridge life? "Harder, aged cheeses will last the longest in the fridge out of any cheese," said Freier. "Most can last four to six months in your fridge, if you store it correctly. All cheese will lose moisture and change over time -- though harder cheeses have less internal moisture than most anyway, so they will be the least affected." Though the cheese will last and still be "good," Freier noted that any cheese, when frozen, will taste a little differently. 

How to store it: "What I do, is use what I call the 'egg drawer' (NOTE: Not the vegetable drawer -- though that can be used in a pinch) and wrap the cheese in cheese cloth, parchment paper, or butcher paper," she said, while advising all cheese lovers to stay away from wrapping it, skin-tight, in cellophane. "The cheese needs to breathe -- this will help it last longer than if it's suffocated." 

How to tell if it's gone bad: "With harder cheeses, you can definitely cut a little mold off, should some pop up," she said. "Just chop off the problem area, and you should be good to go." Though Freier noted to pay attention to the mold you see, before slicing it off and digging in. "If the mold is white, or blue/green -- that's natural. If you are seeing red or black mold, it could be another issue and you should throw the cheese out, honestly."

Semi Hard Cheeses
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Semi-hard to semi-soft cheeses

Examples: Emmental, Gruyère, havarti, Muenster, Port Salut, Gouda, Edam, Jarlsberg, Cantal, cașcaval

What's the fridge life? "For semi-hard and semi-soft cheeses -- the middle ground -- your time frame is a little less than harder cheeses. There's more moisture present in the cheeses, so they aren't going to keep as long. I'd say two to four weeks after the expiration date is the basic time frame. Again, you have to be able to also use your judgment to see if it's still good," she noted.

How to store it: Freier often wraps her cheese in breathable parchment-type paper, then places it inside a Ziploc bag. "This may be the best method to keep your cheese tasting fresh -- the Ziploc bag allows air flow, but a limited air flow. This will also keep the cheesy smell off the rest of the food in your fridge, and vice versa."

How to tell if it's gone bad: "When you buy your cheese and open it up -- you have to get to know it. Taste it. Smell it. Really acknowledge it. Honestly, if you are trying to see if a cheese has gone bad past that approximate time frame, your senses are your friends. Like with the super-hard cheeses, you can definitely cut off mold and still eat it, as long as it is not completely covered -- I mean, mold is totally natural. Just look for any weird molds, and make sure it tastes the same -- relatively! -- as it did when you bought it."

Really soft cheese on a piece of paper
Eugenia Lucasenco/Shutterstock

Soft cheeses

Examples: Cottage cheese, cream cheese, ricotta, Brie, mozzarella, Neufchâtel, feta, Gorgonzola, Camembert 

What's the fridge life? "Soft, less-mature cheeses will go bad much more quickly than the hard or semi-hards," Freier said. "I would be very careful eating them even one to two weeks after their expiration date. These cheeses have so much moisture inside them, they are kind of like ticking time bombs. So you should eat them quickly!"

How to store it: "You can store your soft cheeses much like the semi-hards and hards. One easy way to seal it off from a lot of airflow -- but keep a little bit -- is to put your soft cheeses in a little Tupperware container or plastic jar."

How to tell if it's gone bad: "With these soft cheeses, you really don't want any mold at all. This is where they are different from the other cheeses. Any sign of mold, and you probably want to toss the whole thing, just to be safe. So, don't try to cut it off. Just accept it." But obviously the mold test is not applicable to soft blues. Just use your judgment.

mike mozart
Olga Miltsova/Shutterstock

Processed American cheese slices

Example: Kraft American Singles

What's the fridge life? "Look, I'm not a snob about this. I grew up with American cheese slices on my burgers. But, um, actually -- I'm not sure I've ever seen mold on a slice of American cheese. Has anyone? I'm not sure these ever go bad."

That's... a damn good point, Rachel.

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Wil Fulton is a staff writer for Thrillist. He challenges anyone to show him pre-packaged, sliced American cheese with mold on it. Follow him: @wilfulton.