You were all set for a homemade pizza night. The dough was rising, the tomato sauce simmering, and then you remembered that old block of Parmesan tucked away at the back of the fridge.
You’ve been saving it for an occasion just like this! As you pull it out, you can’t help but wonder, “Does Parmesan cheese go bad?”
Whether it’s a cherished block from a local deli or a handy pack of pre-grated Parmesan for those busy evenings, understanding its longevity is key.
Does Parmesan Cheese Go Bad?
Yes, like all cheeses, Parmesan cheese can go bad. However, its shelf life largely depends on how you store and handle it. Proper storage can significantly extend its freshness, while neglect can lead to mold and spoilage.
How Long Does Parmesan Cheese Last?
Parmesan cheese can have varying lifespans based on its maturation. Properly stored and cared for, this cheese can grace your meals with its distinct taste for a surprisingly long time.
Lifespan of a Block of Parmesan
Parmesan is recognized for its durability, thanks to its hard cheese nature. When unopened, a block of Parmesan can last between 7 to 9 months.
Once you’ve opened the package, it retains its best quality for approximately 1 to 2 months. However, Parmesan is robust, and in some cases, can retain its freshness for up to 6 months or more after opening.
Lifespan of Grated and Shredded Parmesan
Grated Parmesan comes in various forms. The type that’s sold refrigerated has a relatively short life after its package is opened. For the best quality, you’ll want to use it within 3 to 5 days, but it might remain okay for up to 7 days.
On the other hand, grated Parmesan that’s packaged in unrefrigerated canisters (typically found in the regular aisles of grocery stores) boasts a longer shelf life. Unopened, this can last about a year or even more. Once opened, it should remain good for at least a couple of months.
Meanwhile, shredded Parmesan that’s stored in the fridge (and unopened) can maintain its goodness for approximately 8 months.
Maturation and Lifespan of Parmigiano Reggiano
Italy’s Parmigiano Reggiano is the real deal in parmesan cheese. While other countries make similar cheeses, the Italian one is special. It ages for about two years, giving it a rich flavor and grainy texture. Only this cheese from certain parts of Italy can officially be called “parmesan.”
‘Giovane’ cheese, aged between 14-18 months, can be kept for approximately 15 days post-opening due to its higher moisture content.
‘Vecchio’, which matures from 18 months to two years, and ‘stravecchio’, aged between two to three years, both fall under the category of Parmigiano Reggiano that can be preserved for about a month once opened.
The extra-mature ‘stravecchione’, aged from three to four years, also shares a similar lifespan.
Vacuum-packed Parmigiano Reggiano can be stored in the refrigerator for several months. Packagers often provide a “best before” date to guide consumers about its peak quality duration.
|Type of Cheese
|Block of Parmesan (Unopened)
|7 to 9 months
|Block of Parmesan (Opened, best quality)
|1 to 2 months
|Block of Parmesan (Opened, still good)
|Up to 6 months or more
|Grated Parmesan (Refrigerated, after opening)
|3 to 5 days (best), up to 7 days (okay)
|Grated Parmesan (Unrefrigerated, unopened)
|Up to 1 year or more
|Grated Parmesan (Unrefrigerated, after opening)
|A couple of months
|Shredded Parmesan (Refrigerated, unopened)
|Parmigiano Reggiano ‘Giovane’ (14-18 months aged)
|About 15 days after opening
|Parmigiano Reggiano ‘Vecchio’ and ‘stravecchio’
|About a month after opening
|Extra-mature Parmigiano Reggiano ‘stravecchione’
|Similar lifespan to ‘Vecchio’ and ‘stravecchio’
|Vacuum-packed Parmigiano Reggiano
|Several months in the refrigerator
How to Store Parmesan Cheese
Parmesan cheese is a delightful treat that’s key to many mouth-watering dishes. Proper storage ensures its richness endures. Here’s how to keep it fresh and flavorful.
Storing a Block of Parmesan Cheese
As soon as you get home, pop that block of parmesan in the fridge, preferably in the vegetable crisper, known for its higher humidity. Keep it in its vacuum-sealed packaging until you’re ready to use it, maintaining its freshness.
When you do open it, you have several options. Wrapping it in aluminum foil, cheese paper, wax paper, or parchment paper are all good choices. However, research from Cook’s Illustrated suggests that placing the cheese in a sealed freezer bag provides outstanding results.
This method minimizes air exposure, maintaining the cheese’s integrity. For those seeking a longer shelf life, consider wrapping the cheese first in wax paper to retain some humidity, then in aluminum foil, and storing it at the bottom of the fridge.
Storing Grated and Shredded Parmesan
The market is flooded with a myriad of grated and shredded parmesan varieties. They might be refrigerated or unrefrigerated at purchase. Always store an unopened package the same way it was presented in the store.
Once you open the package, it’s essential to keep it chilled in the fridge. Retain its freshness by keeping it in the original, fully sealed container or a tight airtight container. When sprinkling it onto dishes, use a clean utensil to prevent contamination from other foods.
Note: Freezing parmesan is advisable only if it’s been pre-ground.
By following these guidelines, you ensure that your parmesan cheese remains a fresh and flavorful addition to your culinary creations.
Can You Freeze Parmesan Cheese?
Yes, you can freeze Parmesan cheese. Both blocks and grated versions of Parmesan can be stored in the freezer. If you choose to freeze a block of Parmesan, it’s a good idea to cut it into smaller portions first, making it easier to thaw only what you’ll use.
Grated Parmesan can be placed directly into a freezer-safe bag or container. Ensure that you pack the cheese tightly and remove as much air as possible to avoid freezer burn. When you’re ready to use the cheese, it’s best to let it thaw in the refrigerator to retain its texture and flavor.
How to Tell if Parmesan Cheese Has Gone Bad
Identifying spoiled Parmesan cheese is essential for both your culinary endeavors and your health. Here’s what to watch out for:
- Mold Growth: One of the most evident signs. If you see small patches of mold, especially blue, green, or black, it’s a clear indication.
- Unusual Odor: Fresh Parmesan has a distinct and pleasant smell. If your cheese starts to emit a sour or off-putting odor, it might be past its prime.
- Color Change: Parmesan cheese typically has a pale yellow hue. Any discoloration or darkening can signal spoilage.
- Texture: Parmesan is known for its hard texture, but if it becomes excessively dry or crumbly, or conversely, moist and slimy, it’s a red flag.
- Taste Test: If you’re still unsure, you can taste a tiny bit. Spoiled Parmesan will have a sour or off flavor that’s different from its normal tangy, nutty taste.
Is It Okay to Eat Parmesan Cheese with Mold?
Discovering mold on your Parmesan cheese can be disheartening. If it’s a small spot, you can safely cut away at least an inch around and below the mold spot (be sure the knife doesn’t touch the mold).
However, extensive mold growth is a sign that spores might have spread throughout the cheese. In such cases, it’s safer to discard the whole block to avoid potential health issues, as some molds can produce harmful toxins.
If you see mold on either grated or shredded Parmesan, it’s best to discard the entire container.
Extending the Shelf Life of Parmesan Cheese
Savoring the rich taste of Parmesan is a delight, and naturally, we want to prolong its quality. So, how can we ensure its longevity?
Tips to Keep Parmesan Fresh for Longer:
- Proper Storage: Always store Parmesan in a cool and dry place, ideally in the refrigerator. The cheese drawer, which maintains a consistent temperature, is the best spot.
- Rotate Your Cheese: Every couple of days, flip your cheese block. By doing so, you ensure even air circulation and moisture distribution, which can prevent early spoilage.
- Use Wax or Parchment Paper: Wrap your Parmesan in wax or parchment paper, which helps retain the cheese’s moisture while allowing it to breathe. This is especially important once the original packaging is opened.
- Airtight Containers: After wrapping the cheese, consider placing it in an airtight container to shield it from other odors in the fridge.
- Limit Exposure: Every time you take the cheese out, ensure you’re using clean hands or utensils. Minimize the cheese’s exposure to air by sealing it back promptly.
Can You Use Parmesan Cheese After Its Expiration Date?
Yes, you can often use Parmesan cheese past its expiration date. Expiration dates on cheese are more like guidelines rather than hard rules. As long as the Parmesan doesn’t show signs of spoilage such as mold, or emit an off or sour smell, it should be safe to eat.
Always trust your senses; if the cheese looks, smells, and tastes fine, it generally is. However, it’s crucial to note that as time goes on, the quality and flavor of the cheese might degrade, even if it’s still safe to consume. Always store it properly to extend its shelf life.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Parmesan cheese go bad? Let’s address some common questions you may have related to the topic.
How long does Parmesan cheese last in the fridge?
Block of Parmesan: When properly stored in the refrigerator, an unopened block of Parmesan cheese can last between 7 to 9 months. Once opened, it’s best consumed within 1 to 2 months, though it might remain safe and flavorful for up to 6 months or more with proper storage.
Grated and Shredded Parmesan: Refrigerated grated or shredded Parmesan cheese should be used within 3 to 5 days for the best quality, but it can last up to 7 days. If it’s packaged in unrefrigerated canisters, it can last about a year or even more unopened. Once opened, it should remain good for at least a couple of months if kept in the fridge.
Can I still use expired grated Parmesan cheese?
Parmesan cheese expiration dates are more like guidelines than strict rules. Always trust your senses: if the cheese looks, smells, and tastes fine without any signs of mold or off-odors, it should be okay to use. However, always prioritize safety and be cautious with any food past its expiration date.
How do you store Parmesan cheese once opened?
For a block of Parmesan, it’s best to wrap the cheese in cheese paper, wax paper, or parchment paper and then place it in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag. Keep it in the cheese drawer or another cool spot in the fridge. For grated or shredded Parmesan, ensure it’s stored in an airtight container or its original packaging, tightly sealed, and kept in the refrigerator.
Can Parmigiano Reggiano go bad?
Yes, like all cheeses, Parmigiano Reggiano can go bad. Proper storage is crucial to prolong its shelf life. Over time, it can develop mold, have an off smell, or change in texture and flavor. Always inspect the cheese before consumption, and if in doubt, it’s better to be safe and discard any suspicious-looking or smelling portions.
In the savory realm of cheese, Parmesan truly shines with its rich flavor and versatility. But the inevitable question many of us face is: does Parmesan cheese go bad?
The answer largely depends on how we store and handle it. By mastering proper storage techniques, spotting signs of spoilage, and understanding its expiration nuances, you can ensure that this delightful cheese remains a fresh and flavorful addition to your meals.
So, next time you reach for that block or sprinkle, remember the tips shared here. Enjoy every cheesy bite, knowing you’ve taken the best care of your Parmesan. Happy cheesing!
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