Who doesn’t love a tasty chicken parmesan or yummy spaghetti carbonara? When buying ingredients for this, you may pause and wonder if your parmesan cheese belongs in the fridge or your cupboard.
Cheese goes in the fridge, but parmesan cheese in a shaker bottle seems like more of a pantry item to some.
The definitive answer is that parmesan cheese belongs in your fridge. All dairy products should be kept in your refrigerator.
Parmesan cheese is a bit more complicated with heavily-preserved options for sale, and you may not feel the need to put it in the fridge. But you should not risk it when it comes to any cheese, so play it safe and store it in your fridge.
The Shelf Life of Parmesan Cheese
The shelf life of parmesan cheese can vary from just a few days to the better part of a year. It depends on how fresh the cheese is and how you store it. If you have parmesan cheese in your refrigerator, you can expect it to be edible, safe, and tasty for up to a month.
Parmesan is a hard cheese. The harder the cheese, the longer the shelf-life. Cheeses like Asiago, Romano, and cheddar are all hard cheese and will outlast soft cheese by a lot.
Soft cheeses include goat cheese, camembert, brie, ricotta, and cottage cheese. These super soft cheeses can’t survive more than a week once opened, sometimes spoiling after just 48 hours.
But the shelf life of parmesan is more complex because it is sold and consumed in such a wide range of forms.
Grated vs. Shaved vs. Block Cheese
Parmesan cheese comes in varying forms, from the powdery, grated cheese in plastic shaker bottles to gently shaved parmesan flakes to solid blocks of parmesan.
Believe it or not, the form of parmesan cheese that you buy affects how long it can sit out and the best way to refrigerate it.
While grated cheese is the most likely to spoil, this is not always the case. If you have freshly grated cheese, it is more likely to spoil because so much of the cheese is exposed to air. Air is what causes dairy to spoil.
On the other hand, there is the grated cheese that many people buy in plastic containers, often by Kraft. This cheese is convenient and affordable compared with a block of or wheel of parmesan cheese.
It can also sit out longer because there are added preservatives. These preservatives include potato starch and natamycin, which keep the grated cheese safe for up to six months without being refrigerated.
There have been rumors that this kind of grated parmesan cheese in the signature green bottle may contain filler ingredients, such as sawdust or paper material.
So when discussing the shelf-life of these bottles of parmesan, the story changes.
If you grated cheese yourself, this cheese will reach the end of its life after only a few days. Stored well and refrigerated, your freshly grated cheese will last between three and seven days before it’s time to toss it in the trash.
Shredded is a similar story to grated cheese. You can buy pre-shredded cheese that comes in a plastic bag. This cheese features preservatives that will extend the shelf-life.
When you purchase pre-shredded cheese, it should last you up to two months when refrigerated.
If you shred the parmesan cheese yourself, it will not feature these preservatives and spoil sooner. You can expect shredded cheese from home to last around a month when well stored in the fridge.
Blocks of wheels of cheese are the best because they will last the longest. They are also more straightforward as there are no preservatives in block cheeses, so you get a better quality product that will last longer.
A block of parmesan cheese should last up to four months when stored in your fridge. And it can last up to eight months if stored in your freezer.
Having a whole block of cheese means you should shred or grate the needed cheese for every meal. This process is more effortful but will yield a tastier dish and keep your parmesan safe for longer.
How to Tell If Parmesan Cheese Is Spoiled
Three signs will let you know if your parmesan cheese is not suitable for human consumption. If you don’t see any of these signs when you look at your cheese, then it is safe to eat.
Mold Spores and Spots
Most healthy human adults know that the green fuzzy stuff that appears on cheese is a big no in food safety.
If you see any mold spots on your cheese, you can cut away the mold, and the rest of the cheese should be edible. If there are mold spots all over your cheese, it’s best to play it safe and throw it away.
Related: Can you refreeze spaghetti sauce (and how-to)?
If your parmesan cheese was a pale yellow color, but has turned a dark yellow and feels much harder from the outside, it may not be safe to eat.
You will have to use your best judgment on how discolored the cheese is. Just a slight color change is normal, but if it’s drastic it likely is not healthy.
Once again, you can cut away the discolored part if the rest of the cheese block looks good to eat.
Smelling a pungent and moldy odor when you open the plastic bag or container is a sure sign you should throw it away. Cheese can sometimes smell funny in general. To be sure it has gone bad, it should be a strong smell.
Like when you open the bag, this smell should hit you in the face immediately and be very unpleasant. If this is not the case and you see no mold of drastic discoloration, then the cheese is good to go!
What Happens If You Eat Moldy Cheese?
Eating moldy cheese can make any healthy adult very sick. Mold can carry poisonous bacterias such as E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella, and Brucella. These bacteria can lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain.
If you eat moldy cheese, you risk suffering from acute food poisoning, immune deficiency, and even cancer. The mycotoxins in the mold are harmful to humans, and you should avoid consuming them.
Best Ways to Store Parmesan Cheese
The best containers for storing cheese are always airtight and watertight containers. Below are the best items to use to store your cheese so it will last as long as possible.
- Airtight container or Tupperware
- Original plastic container or shaker bottle
- Wax paper
- Aluminum foil
- Plastic wrap or plastic bag
To cover any other cheese-related questions you may have and how to keep your food safe and consumable, read a few frequently asked questions below.
Does all cheese need to be refrigerated?
Yes, all cheese needs to be refrigerated. As mentioned, Kraft grated cheese can sit outside of the fridge, but only because of the plethora of preservatives and fillers they add to it.
What kind of cheese can sit out the longest?
Parmesan is the cheese that can sit out longest! And second to parmesan is sharp cheddar cheese. These can remain unrefrigerated and still be safe for between 10 and 24 hours depending on the climate.
Where should I store cheese in my fridge?
The best place to store any cheese is in the last compartment of your fridge. The last compartment refers to the bottom drawers in your fridge. The lower down you store your cheese, the less likely it will absorb odors of flavors from other food in your fridge.
Do not store it along with fresh vegetables or products. It’s best to only store cheese alongside other dairy products.
What temperature should you store cheese at?
Always store cheese at 35 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. If you store your cheese below 30 degrees you run the risk of it freezing, which will dull the flavor making for a less tasty chicken parmesan or whatever dish you’re making.
And of course, if you store it in too warm of a climate, the cheese will spoil.
Why is blue cheese okay to eat?
Blue cheese is safe to eat because it is cultured using a mold called Penicillium. Penicillium does not contain the mycotoxins that make certain molds poisonous to humans.
Despite the presence of mold, blue cheese is one of the healthiest charities of cheese!
Next time you’re putting your bottle shaker of parmesan cheese away, don’t second guess popping it in your fridge. All cheese and dairy must be stored at cold temperatures to get the most out of their shelf-life.
Parmesan is simply too good of an ingredient to let it go to waste, so follow all of these tips for storing and using parmesan cheese, so you never have to throw away a moldy cheese wheel again!
But most importantly, you’ll never accidentally consume cheese that could result in adverse effects like a queasy stomach, or more!