The Cheeses You Can Freeze (and the Ones You Shouldn’t)

The Cheeses You Can Freeze (and the Ones You Shouldn’t)

One of my favorite ways to diminish food waste in my kitchen is to make frequent use of the freezer. An incredible number of the foods you might accidentally let spoil on the counter or in the fridge can be easily preserved with this fantastic ice box. You probably know about extending the life of meats and breads in the freezer, but don’t forget the final member of the holy trinity: cheese. However, some freeze better than others. Here are the cheeses you can freeze and the ones that you’ll just have to eat faster.

Why freezing cheese works… sometimes.

Freezing dairy is a tricky business. More accurately, it’s the thawing that can be disappointing. But other than making your own cheese cave, the freezer is a viable option for extending the life of some cheese. Dairy products, like cheese, milk, sour cream, or yogurt, are emulsions of fat, water, protein, and acid. Depending on the ratio of water to the other elements, the dairy will be liquid like milk, semi-solid like yogurt, semi-firm like cheddar, or firm like parmesan. 

Freezing will change the composition of anything with water in it. As you likely know, water expands when it freezes, which means if there are tiny water droplets dispersed in a dairy emulsion, they’ll push the other elements out of the way as they expand and freeze. When the item thaws, the water changes back into liquid, but the proteins and fats have been pushed into a new space and separated from the water, leaving behind a bigger, use-to-be-ice pocket. These cheeses will still be edible, but their texture will have suffered and this will likely alter how the flavor reads to your taste buds.

Cheeses you can freeze (and those you shouldn’t)

Don’t worry, you don’t have to memorize a list of specific cheese names to ensure you freeze the right kind. Since water is the biggest victim of change in the freezer, you should only freeze cheeses with a lower water content. Consider freezing hard, aged cheeses, like parmesan, manchego, Iberico, or sharp cheddar. These products will experience less disruption to texture and flavor.

Cheeses that have a higher water content will likely experience some separation of water and fat and may look broken or grainy once thawed. So stay away from freezing cheeses that are spreadable and soft like brie, camembert, burrata, or blue cheese.

Some unexpected cheeses can live in your freezer too. I’ve found that anything shredded performs very well in the freezer. I never hesitate to toss a bag of shredded cheddar, provolone, or mozzarella into the freezer. Blocks of low moisture mozzarella also fare well in the freezer.

To thaw, simply leave the cheese in the fridge overnight and it’ll be usable for slicing the next day. Use shredded cheeses straight out of the freezer and sprinkle them into dishes; those fine pieces have no problem thawing and melting into hot foods within seconds. Enjoy the extended lifetime of your aged cheeses; as for your soft, spreadable cheeses, you now have an excuse to finish off them off before it gets weird in the fridge. 


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