Cheese is best enjoyed fresh to maximize its flavor and texture, but sometimes it’s not feasible to use large amounts of it within the use-by date.
Freezing is an ancient food preservation method that has been used for over 3,000 years.
It’s an effective way to increase the shelf life of foods, reduce waste, and save money.
This article tells you all you need to know about freezing cheese.
How freezing and thawing affects cheese
Cheeses with a higher water content freeze at higher temperatures than those with a lower water content. For example, cottage cheese freezes at 29.8℉ (-1.2℃), but cheddar freezes at 8.8℉ (-12.9℃) (1).
When cheese is frozen, small ice crystals form on the inside, disrupting the internal structure of the cheese. When it’s thawed, water is released, causing the product to dry out, become crumbly, and potentially develop a mealy texture (1, 5).
Frozen cheeses may also be less meltable when they’re stored for a longer time. For example, mozzarella that has been frozen for 4 weeks melts to a lesser extent than mozzarella that has been frozen for 1 week (5, 6, 7).
In cases of ripened cheeses like blue cheese and Camembert, live mold and bacteria populations are deliberately added to give these varieties distinctive textures and flavors.
As freezing damages these microbes, it can stop these cheeses from ripening properly when thawed, potentially decreasing their overall sensory quality.
Freezing cheese causes ice crystals to develop, disrupting the cheese’s structure. This may affect the texture and make it drier, more crumbly, and mealy. It can also halt the ripening process of cheeses with beneficial, active mold populations.
Best and worst cheeses to freeze
Any cheese can technically be frozen, but some varieties respond to freezing better than others.
Here are some of the best and worst cheeses to freeze (1):
|Best cheeses to freeze||Worst cheeses to freeze|
Best cheeses to freeze
As a general rule, it’s best to freeze cheeses that are designed to be used in cooked dishes rather than eaten fresh.
Hard and semi-hard cheeses like cheddar, Swiss, brick cheese, and blue cheese can be frozen, but their texture will often become crumbly and mealy. They will also be harder to slice.
Mozzarella and pizza cheese are generally suitable for freezing as well, particularly shredded pizza cheese. Still, its texture and melting properties may be negatively affected (6).
Plus, cream cheese can be frozen but may separate upon thawing. However, you can then whip it to improve its texture (10).
Worst cheeses to freeze
Grated hard cheeses like Parmesan and Romano can be frozen, but it’s more sensible to keep them in the refrigerator, where they will keep for up to 12 months. That way, you won’t experience the loss in quality that comes with freezing.
In general, hand-crafted cheeses with delicate flavors and aromas don’t freeze well and are best bought in smaller portions and eaten fresh.
Freezing is also not recommended for fresh curd cheeses like cottage cheese, ricotta, and quark due to their high moisture content.
Similarly, soft, ripened cheeses, such as brie, Camembert, fontina, or Muenster, are best eaten fresh and can be ripened in the refrigerator.
Likewise, while blue cheese can be frozen, low temperatures can damage the molds that are essential to the ripening process. Therefore, these cheeses are better enjoyed fresh.
Lastly, processed cheeses and cheese spreads are unsuitable for freezing.
Hard and semi-hard cheeses with lower moisture and higher fat contents are best suited for freezing. Delicate, hand-crafted cheeses, processed varieties, and most soft cheeses are generally unsuited for this preservation method.
How to freeze cheese
If you decide to freeze your cheese, there are several steps you can take to ensure the least loss of quality.
First, properly prepare the cheese for storage.
Portion it into quantities you’re likely to use in one go. For large block cheese like cheddar, don’t freeze more than 1 pound (500 grams) per portion. Cheese can also be grated or sliced before freezing.
The product can be stored in its original packaging or wrapped in foil or cheese paper. Sliced cheese should be separated with parchment paper.
The wrapped cheese should then be placed in an airtight ziplock bag or container. This is essential to prevent dry air from getting into the cheese and causing freezer burn.
Freeze the cheese as rapidly as possible to at least -9 °F (-23 °C) to prevent the formation of large, disruptive ice crystals. Use the quick freeze function on your freezer if it’s available (2, 11).
Cheese can be kept frozen indefinitely, but for best quality, use the cheese within 6–9 months.
Frozen cheese should be thawed in the refrigerator at 32–34 °F (0–1°C) for 7–8 hours per 1 pound (500 grams) of cheese. Shredded cheese for pizza toppings or cooking can be added straight out of the bag without thawing.
Additionally, the quality can be improved by tempering the cheese in the refrigerator after thawing. This means leaving it in the refrigerator for a few days to several weeks, depending on the type, to let it ripen a little (5, 12).
Keep in mind that like any food, cheese that has been frozen and thawed should not be re-frozen.
Cheese that has been frozen is best suited for cooked dishes in which changes to texture are less noticeable, such as in sauces or on pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches.
To freeze cheese, portion, wrap, and pack it in an airtight container before rapidly freezing it. Use it within 6–9 months. Frozen cheese should be thawed in the refrigerator and is best used in cooked dishes.
The bottom line
Freezing cheese can reduce waste and prolong shelf life.
Still, it may cause the product to become drier, more crumbly, and mealy.
Higher-fat, industrially produced cheeses like cheddar are better suited for freezing than soft cheeses and delicate, handcrafted varieties.
Overall, cheese is best enjoyed fresh for maximal flavor and texture, though freezing can be a convenient way to keep some cheeses on hand for use in cooking.