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Does Parmesan Cheese Go Bad If Not Refrigerated? (SIGNS)

Cheese is a well-loved food and culinary ingredient around the world. There are so many cheese choices and flavor profiles, it’s hard to know what type you want based on taste and shelf life.

Not all cheeses are of equal quality, and how much they cost sometimes sways your purchase decision. Quality Parmesan’s retail price ranges from $12-$24 per pound.

Why?

  • It takes between 1-3 years to make Parmesan cheese, and it’s derived from milk that comes only from a small region in Northern Italy.
  • Parmesan is not a “snacking” cheese. Instead, it adds depth to pasta dishes, meaning there’s a narrower, focused market.

When you spend more on quality cheese, you naturally want it to last a long time in the refrigerator.

So, does Parmesan cheese go bad?

We’re happy to report that while Parmigiano Reggiano can mold, it has a long shelf life. This is especially true if you cover it in plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and/or a freezer bag stored properly in the refrigerator.

Hard Cheese Perishability

See, Parmesan Cheese is part of a group called hard cheeses, which includes Cheddar. This edible ages longer, giving it a lower moisture content that neatly allays mold growth. (*)

How long does Parmesan cheese last? Here are our basic guidelines for Parmesan’s shelf life:

  • A whole, well-wrapped block of Parmesan cheese stored in the fridge easily lasts three to six months, the average being four.
  • Open Parmesan cheese is good for about 6 weeks; you keep it refrigerated
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese (freshly made) is suitable for 3-4 weeks after making
  • Grated Parmesan cheese is shelf-stable, lasting approximately 7 days past its expiration date or use by date.

Consider this when you’re shopping. Get the package you know you will use over a set period of time. Of all the forms, grated Parmesan lasts the longest.

Bear in mind, once you open any whole, grated, or shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, it will degrade faster. This is true of any hard grated cheese.

Mainly, the normally rich taste and texture suffer. Differences can be observed in as little as five days after opening.

In this article, we’ll give you some great tips and tricks for storing Parmesan cheese to preserve its quality.

What is Parmesan Cheese?

Parmesan cheese begins its life in the Po Valley of Italy, a protected region for cheese production. Here, the Italian cows graze on “gourmet” grasses to insure the milk production desired.

The beauty of Parmesan Reggiano is its simplicity. There are three ingredients:

  • Cows’ milk
  • Rennet
  • Salt

These go into a vat, creating tiny curds. The size of the curd helps keep Parmesan low moisture, improving shelf life.

The region produces approximately 10,000 wheels annually, sent around the world. (*)

Buyer Beware

Take a close look at the package of blocks of Parmesan cheese or a store-bagged grated parmesan. An Italian flag isn’t a sure-fire indicator of its authenticity.

How do you tell if you have the real deal?

Ask to see the rind of the cheese wheel. It should have pin markings spelling out Parmesan Reggiano followed by four digits, then the month and date of production.

Note the months are abbreviated Italian (like Lug for Lugio, which is July). The year is only the last two digits.

You want a cheese that’s at least 1 year old.

Storing Parmesan

In answering your question, does Parmesan cheese go bad? A large part of the answer boils down to storage. You want it safe to eat and at its best quality.

You can make Parmesan cheese last the longest by following this basic guidance:

At Room Temperature

A Parmesan cheese package is safe to eat, stored at room temperature for a few days. However, refrigeration is always the best choice. (*)

The exception to this rule is grated Parmesan cheese, which has an extended best by date.

Refrigeration

How long does Parmesan cheese last? Refrigeration is certainly important.

If the cheese block is fresh from the market and unopened, put it right in the cheese tray.

Once you open it, give the cheese a long shelf life by wrapping it in plastic wrap or wax paper, followed by the second covering of aluminum foil. (*) This allows the cheese to stay fresh longer and keeps it from picking up unwanted refrigerator aromas.

Fresh grated or shredded Parmesan cheese loses its quality a week after opening. Toss it out.

Freezer

We consulted the experts, and you can absolutely freeze Parmesan cheese. In this form, the cheese can last about 18 months. (*)

Make sure it’s airtight. You can wrap the cheese cover as before and add a freezer bag with the air pushed out, thereby preserving the best quality.

Plastic Storage Containers

Good food storage containers can help with the question of how long does Parmesan last. In fact, they are great helpmates whether you are talking shredded cheese, grated cheese, or specifically grated Parmesan.

We still recommend wrapping blocks or bagging shredded Parmesan before you put it inside and doing so carefully before reaching the best by date.

Always remember to use a clean slicing knife or another utensil with Parmesan cheese, thus avoiding cross-contamination possibilities. (*)

Signs Parmesan Cheese has Gone Bad

Hard cheeses like Parmesan can last a long time before they become useless. So when you first grab Parmesan out from the fridge, you may not even think to check for mold or other signs of spoilage.

There are several things you can check:

  • The expiration date. This is more a measure of quality, but it gives you a good feel for whether or not you should be concerned. (*)
  • Aroma: If you close your eyes and smell a good-quality Parmesan, it has fruity notes. When the cheese smells pungent, bacteria has entered the equation making the cheese go bad.

If you imagine scrunching up your nose at the smell of Limburger, you get the idea.

  • Color: Parmesan is distinctively off-white. If your cheese is dark beige, it’s unusable.
  • Taste: It may taste moldy or sour.

Can You Get Sick from Eating Expired Parmesan Cheese?

As mentioned earlier in this article, the expiration date on your cheese isn’t the best indicator of spoilage. Parmesan cheese generally has a shelf life beyond that date.

However, if you consume rancid Parmesan, you might get an upset stomach. People with mold allergies may respond more seriously.

Parmesan Cheese FAQs

Why do Parmesan and other hard cheese last longer than soft cheese? 

Hard cheese has less moisture than soft cheese. Bacteria can’t grow as readily in a dry environment.

What is the best refrigeration temperature for Parmesan cheese? 

Whether it’s opened or unopened, your target temperature is between 39 degrees F and 50 degrees F.

Is it good for me?

All cheese is high in saturated fat. Some cheese is also high in sodium.

Having said that, Parmesan also includes nutrients like:

  • Calcium
  • Protein
  • Vitamins A and B12

Basically, follow the golden eating rule: all things in moderation!

Conclusion

Parmesan cheese is a Keto-friendly food (if you don’t mind forgoing pasta). (*)

Unopened, you can store Parmesan cheese for months in the refrigerator. You also have the option of freezing the cheese.

Enjoy it however you wish-sliced, grated, or shredded on salads, pizza, casseroles, and of course spaghetti.

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Up Next: Does Pancake Mix Go Bad After Expiration Date? How To Tell

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