Can you freeze cheese? Many people have asked this question because maybe their cheese is about to expire or there is a killer deal where you want to stock up on favorite cheese. In general, it is a difficult question to answer because there are just so many different types of cheese available. There are hard cheeses, soft cheeses, spreadable cheeses, and you get the point. In reality, you can freeze just about any food, but how that food will taste when thawed is the big question. Not all foods are the same as they were prior to being frozen, but how about cheese?
How Cheese Changes After Freezing
No matter what type of cheese product you choose to freeze, there will always be a loss of quality when the cheese is consumed after thawing. Inside all cheeses, there is a certain amount of moisture. As we all know, when moisture or water freezes it turns into ice. The ice inside frozen cheese alters the original structure because of expansion from the ice crystals. The longer cheese sits in the freezer, the greater the chance of freezer burn and a dried out cheese from evaporated moisture.
Best Cheeses To Freeze
Soft cheeses like cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, and cream cheese are not ideal products to freeze because of their high moisture content. The thawed texture of cottage cheese or ricotta will likely be watery or separated. Cream cheese will tend not be spreadable and may turn grainy. If you must freeze a soft cheese, limit the time to a month or two at maximum to salvage somewhat of the original texture. It may be best to use thawed soft cheese in a recipe with other ingredients because of the likely texture change.
The semi-hard to hard cheeses are best to freeze because they lack the moisture for freezing to alter the texture to a great degree. These cheeses include Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, Parmesan, Gruyere, and others. The most common texture complaint is that a thaw hard cheese becomes crumbly. However, much of the flavor is maintained within the product with a freezing time of 6 months or less.
Preparing Cheese To Freeze
It is very important to properly bag and seal cheese prior to being placed in the freezer to avoid drying out the product or freezer burn. Cheese in a container like cottage cheese or ricotta can be left in its original sealed packaging. Alternately, you can store it in a freezer-safe container. Block cheeses can be left in their unopen original packaging as long as the blocks are small (1/2 to 1 lb maximum). We are assuming most original packaging is a sealed (airtight) plastic wrapper. If not, it is best to transfer the cheese to a plastic freezer bag. Additionally, shredded cheese can also be left in its original plastic bag or transferred to a freezer bag.
Freezing Times & Thawing
Most cheeses can stay in the freezer up to 6 months. The higher moisture cheeses like ricotta and cottage cheese should have a limited freezer time of 1 to 2 months, especially if you are venturing to eat them by themselves. All thawing should be done in the refrigerator with consumption within a couple days of the thaw.
Cheese snobs will likely tell you never to freeze cheese. They are right if you are looking to preserve its intended flavor. However, the reality is that you may not always have the opportunity to use a certain cheese prior to expiration. Use your best judgment if you have to freeze cheese. You probably don’t want to freeze an expensive cheese and you should think twice about freezing a soft cheese for the reasons stated above. Your common grocery store hard block cheese or a bag of shredded should do relatively well in the freezer assuming it is packaged properly and consumed within a few months. In short, can you freeze cheese? The answer is yes. Should you freeze cheese? Not unless you have to and it depends on the type.