How long can cream cheese sit out? This is a good question because people often leave cream cheese sit out at room temperature to soften or in a prepared dish for something like an appetizer. It is very easy to let time slip away to leave you wondering if the cream cheese is still safe to eat.
Does Cream Cheese Go Bad
If you routinely examine labels, you probably know that the first listed ingredient on a cream cheese container is usually milk. Cream cheese is a dairy product and like milk, it will spoil. An unopened cream cheese will last about one month after the ‘sell by’ date on the packaging or approximately 10 to 14 days after opened. However, these spoilage times greatly depend on the cream cheese being stored at refrigeration temperatures of 40 °F or below in a sealed container. If cream cheese is exposed to temperatures above 40 °F for an extended period, it can spoil quickly.
How Long Can Cream Cheese Sit Out?
The amount of time cream cheese can sit at room temperature depends on the room temperature. Foodsafety.gov, recommends to discard cream cheese after two hours of being at temperatures above 40 °F. At temperatures above 90 °F, the recommendation is to discard the product after one hour. Obviously, baking temperatures are Okay. During a power outage, cream cheese will be safe up to four hours if it remains in the refrigerator and the door remains shut.
As we mentioned in our article about yogurt left at room temperature, the above government recommendations are conservative to some. Some people live by four-hour rule and claim that they have not had any problems. Others state that they have had no problems with cream cheese being left out overnight.
No matter how long you choose to leave your cream cheese at room temperature, be sure to always factor in room temperature and be sure the product is sealed so it is not exposed to possible contaminants.
Signs of Cream Cheese Spoilage
Mold is an obvious visual sign of spoilage. Look for green, black, or yellow discoloration. It is advised to discard the cream cheese when mold appears and not simply scoop or cut it away. Depending on the type of mold it is, it can be harmful to the entire product and not just the visible moldy areas.
The taste of rotten cream cheese will be sour. You can sometimes pick up a sour smell if you smell it up close.
Remember, food spoilage can not always be detected by your senses. You should take all potential factors that would cause spoilage into consideration. It is always better to be out the small cost of cream cheese than risk serious illness. Freezing cream cheese is always an option if you know you cannot eat it before expiration.
Photo Credit: Justin Smith