Can You Freeze Cheese?
Say your supermarket is running a sale on your favorite cheese but you know you can't use it all before it expires. Should you buy the cheese and freeze it? Maybe. You can freeze cheese; however, how well it holds up in chilly temperatures depends on the variety, how you wrap it and how you plan to use it. Read on for which cheeses do best in the freezer, plus wrapping and thawing tips for maximizing the results.
What Happens When You Freeze Cheese?
Water expands when it freezes and contracts when it thaws. This process breaks down the molecular structure of the cheese and while some can take the (ahem) cold, others turn watery, gritty or crumbly. As a general rule, the more processed a cheese, the better it freezes, which means a block of supermarket Cheddar will likely do just fine, but your favorite local farmstead cheese will be far too delicate for the freezer. Also, cheeses you plan to shred, grate, crumble, melt or cook in some way are better candidates for freezing because the textural changes won't be as noticeable.
Cheese You Can Freeze
Hard and aged cheeses, including Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano and aged Cheddar, are more durable and can stand up to the freezing and defrosting process. Sometimes they develop a slightly metallic or burnt flavor but, if well wrapped, they should be fine. Keep in mind that these cheeses have a long shelf life in the fridge, so freezing may not be necessary.
Gouda, provolone, part-skim mozzarella (the kind you buy in blocks to top pizza), string cheese and other semi-hard cheeses like feta are sturdy enough for freezing. Note that cheeses with holes, such as Swiss, may suffer a bit more, because those holes exacerbate the changes created by freezing and thawing.
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Shredded, Grated & Sliced Cheese
Frozen pizza is topped with frozen mozzarella, so it comes as little surprise that packaged, preshredded mozzarella fares well in the freezer. The same is true for other preshredded or grated cheese like Mexican blends used for nachos and quesadillas. Ditto for most sliced cheese, whether packaged or from the deli counter.
Cheese You Can Freeze (with Some Caveats)
Ricotta & Cottage Cheese
These soft cheeses tend to turn grainy during freezing and defrosting, but if you plan to use them in a baked dish like lasagna or eggplant rollatini, you likely won't notice.
It may lose some of its signature creaminess, but blue cheese can be frozen. Once thawed, it does best crumbled or in cooked dishes.
Cheeses You Should Avoid Freezing
The freezing process is a bit of a textural nightmare for soft cheeses like Brie, Camembert and goat cheese, which tend to separate when frozen, turning watery and grainy. So, buy only what you need and stick to refrigerator storage.
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This dense and creamy spread contains a lot of water, which makes it more sensitive to the freezing and defrosting process. While you may be able get away with using a small amount in baking, frozen cream cheese will never satisfy as a bagel topping, and grainy cream cheese will produce grainy cheesecake, so it's not worth the trouble.
Fresh cheeses like mozzarella and burrata are beloved for their delicate creaminess, but that also makes them more fragile and they simply won't survive freezing.
What's the Best Way to Freeze & Defrost Cheese?
If you're going to freeze cheese, take the time to store it properly. Keep packaged cheese, including presliced, grated or shredded, in its original packaging—unless you have a vacuum sealer, it's hard to mimic that kind of airtight seal—and place it in a freezer bag. For deli-counter slices, it's best to put parchment between the slices before wrapping. If you grate or shred cheese yourself, place it in a freezer bag. All other cheese should be tightly wrapped either in foil, plastic wrap or freezer paper then placed in a freezer bag for extra protection. And remember: always squeeze out as much air as possible when storing cheese in the freezer to avoid freezer burn.
How long you can freeze cheese depends on the type, but keep in mind that the longer cheese is frozen, the more its texture will suffer. Two to three months should be fine for most freezer-friendly varieties, with harder, sturdier cheeses being OK for up to six months. As with most frozen foods, thawing in the refrigerator is the best option. It's best to use defrosted cheese as soon as possible, or within three days from when you take it out of the freezer.