Is Freezing Cheese a Bad Idea?
Cheese is a dairy product with an ever-expanding list of types and varieties. One of the things we may know about dairy is that it can be somewhat precarious in terms of cooking and conservation. Some cheese seems like it can last forever in the fridge, while others seem to go bad in what seems like an instant. This due to many factors, not least the fact that cheese can be made from cow, milk, goat or other types of milk. Each country has their own cultures and processes for cheese making, but they all have some key characteristics we need to consider when we think about how to best conserve cheese.
At oneHOWTO, we ask is freezing cheese a bad idea? By looking at how to freeze cheese, we can know the best way to make cheese last as long as possible.
Can cheese be frozen?
In principle, any variety of cheese can be frozen. This doesn't necessarily mean every type of cheese should be frozen, as some will fare better in as freezer than others. Although the cheese may be edible once thawed, the freezing process can affect the texture, aroma or even taste of certain types of cheese. For this reason, you will need to take into account the following:
- High-moisture cheese: the composition of each cheese must be taken into account, especially in regard to its water and fat content. In some case, this can make it inadvisable. This is the case in cheeses with a high liquid content such as cottage cheese and mozzarella. This is because the ice crystals of the frozen liquid can change the basic structure of the product. Flavor can also be affected, especially if left in for a long time and not properly sealed.
- High-fat soft cheese: the same applies to cheese with a very high fat content as the freezing process can negatively affect its molecular structure.
- Lean soft cheeses: cheeses with a fat content that ranges between 10 and 29.9% tend to withstand freezing well. This is also the case with some semi-cured cheeses. These include some blue cheeses, Brie, Gouda or Edam. These cheeses generally do not harden, but rather retain that point the same consistency they had before they were frozen. Their flavor usually also remains unchanged.
- Hard cheese: hard cheeses are among the best types of cheese for freezing. This can include famous cheeses such as Manchego, Parmesan and Cheddar. When they are very aged, they might be brittle to begin with. Freezing can make them even more brittle, but it doesn't usually affect their overall integrity or flavor.
- Cream cheese: it is possible for the water, fat and rennet to separate during the freezing process. However, if you agitate by stirring once it has thawed, you should find it regains a texture very similar to what it had before.
- Grated cheese: many people wonder if you can freeze grated cheese, but it is actually one of the most freezable types of cheese. To be grated in the first place, the cheese needs to be quite hard. For this reason, it should freeze well. This can be seen in the fact that frozen pizzas are so popular.
How to freeze cheese
As we have seen, most cheeses can be frozen with good results, but there are certain considerations to make if we want to maintain the best quality of cheese. They include:
- When freezing a cheese, check that it is in perfect condition for consumption and that it has not started to go bad. Freezing a cheese that is already going bad is pointless, although some may be saved if we remove parts that have gone moldy.
- Try to store the cheese in smaller potions. It is best to calculate how much you need per serving and then freeze them in batches which can be tawed individually. If you freeze a big block of cheese, you will have to defrost the entire block and it is not a good idea to freeze it again once you have done so.
- The most important thing for optimal freezing is that the cheese is perfectly protected from direct contact with extreme cold. This will best prevent it from drying out. To do so, lean cheeses can be wrapped in several layers of plastic wrap and then put in a plastic container with a sealable lid. Hard cheeses are best stored wrapped in plastic wrap within a hermetically sealed container. Vacuum packing is the best way to conserve any cheese, but this is not always available.
- If you are going to freeze fresh cheese, make sure to remove as much water as possible. You can do this by pressing lightly with absorbent paper. In general, it is not a good idea to freeze fresh cheeses.
How to thaw cheese
After the cheese has been in the freezer, you will want to defrost it properly. Once you have removed it from the freezer drawer, you should check to make sure it looks good and hasn't been damaged during its time inside.
Do not thaw a frozen cheese at room temperature directly from the freezer. It is best to defrost cheese in the refrigerator. This is best done in the coldest part, which is usually at the bottom of the fridge. Keep it there for between 3 to 6 hours, depending on the size and type of cheese. Once thawed until no longer frozen, you can then finish the process at room temperature if that is how you want to serve or cook it. Never defrost cheese in the microwave.
How to preserve cheese
Some cheeses must always be kept in the refrigerator. This is the case with fresh and creamy cheeses. We should never leave them in the fridge naked. They must be kept tightly covered, really in plastic wrap or similar. The temperature should be between 3-7 ºC (37.4-44.6 ºF). Semi-cured and slightly harder cheese an be kept up to 12 ºC (53.6 ºF) in the fridge.
The driest and hardest types of cheese do not necessarily need to be kept in the refrigerator, but it is usually better if they are. If they are kept outside the fridge, it needs to be in a cool dry place. They will not survive a hot afternoon in sunlight. Ideally keep them in a specific container designed to keep cheese outside of the fridge. This may or may not include a cheesecloth.
learn more about storing similar products with our articles on how to freeze cauliflower cheese and how to freeze bread properly.
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