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For many cheese lovers, choosing the right cheese to enjoy with a glass of wine can be the easy bit. How long you can keep tucking into your favourite treat once you've brought it home or after you've opened it can be trickier to work out.
This blog answers the all-important question, 'How long does cheese last in the fridge?'.
Knowing the right ways to store cheese means you can keep even speciality cheeses in their best condition as long as possible. No more chucking out cheese because you're confused if it's still good to eat.
We'll demystify 'best before' dates for cheese and explain how to spot tell-tale signs of cheese going bad. And you'll be able to tell, at a glance, which types of cheese last for months and which need to be eaten in a few weeks. Our guide gives you the confidence that you'll be able to enjoy every cheese you choose to the very last mouthful.
Let's start with the basics: how long do different types of cheese last? The first thing to note is that 'best by' or 'sell by' dates on cheese are a guideline for quality, not safety. Cheese often remains safe to eat beyond these dates if it's stored in the right way.
Shelf life varies depending on the type of cheese. Here are some general guidelines for storing cheeses that are still unopened:
Cheddar is the most popular cheese in the UK, so it's worth being familiar with how long it lasts. The shelf life will vary depending on whether it's unopened or opened.
Unopened Cheddar cheese can last for several months to even a year or more past its 'best by' date when stored in the fridge. Waxed cheeses like our Black Bob Extra Mature Cheddar should be stored in the fridge to avoid the cheese swelling and cracking the wax.
Once you open Cheddar cheese, exposure to air and potential bacterial contamination means the shelf life will decline considerably. When stored in the refrigerator in a wrapper or airtight manner, opened Cheddar cheese can last for a few weeks to a couple of months.
The length of time that cheeses last in the fridge after opening depends largely on the type of cheese. Soft varieties spoil more quickly than hard varieties. As a rule, soft cheeses should last seven days in the fridge after opening, while hard cheeses should last three to four weeks.
Here is a guide to some of the more popular types of cheeses, and how long they typically last in the fridge after they've been opened:
Hard cheeses Opened hard cheeses like Cheddar, Gouda and Parmesan can last for a few weeks to a couple of months in the refrigerator. Store them in an airtight container or wrapped tightly in the coldest part of the fridge. Semi-hard cheeses like Swiss cheese, and blue cheeses like Stilton should also last for several weeks in the refrigerator.
Soft cheeses Opened soft cheeses like Brie, goat's cheese, mozzarella and feta are more perishable and typically last for a week to a few weeks in the refrigerator. Opened fresh cheeses like ricotta and cottage cheese have an even shorter shelf life and are best consumed within a week or two of opening.
Inspect hard cheeses that have been stored for any length of time for mould before eating, and cut off any spots. But discard soft cheeses and crumbled, shredded, or sliced cheeses (whether hard or soft) if you see signs of mould.
Now that you know how long cheese should last, it's good to know the tell-tale signs of cheese that's gone bad. While 'best by' dates are guidelines for quality rather than safety if the cheese is past this date and exhibits signs of spoilage like the ones below, it's best to err on the side of caution and not consume it.
Smell Cheese should typically have a characteristic smell related to its type, but if it smells sour, rancid, or like ammonia, it's a sign of spoilage.
Mould Visible mould on cheese is a sign that it has spoiled. For blue cheeses, the presence of blue mould is intentional and safe to eat. However, other types of mould on cheeses like Cheddar or Swiss are not safe. The affected portion should be cut off and thrown away.
Texture Cheese that has gone bad may exhibit changes in texture, becoming overly dry, crumbly, or slimy.
Discolouration: Significant changes in colour, such as yellowing or browning, can indicate spoilage.
Taste Try a small amount of the cheese. If it has an off or sour flavour, it's likely spoiled and should not be consumed.
It's important to note that white specks or crystallized patches on certain aged hard cheeses like Cheddar, Parmesan, and Gouda are normal and safe to eat. These spots are most likely not mould but calcium lactate crystals, which form when the lactic acid in cheese combines with calcium.
Cheese comes with a 'best before' date, which is a guideline for quality, not safety. At the Cheshire Cheese Company, all our waxed cheeses typically have between one and six months as best before dates. These are guides only, and the lifetime of the cheese is much greater.
So whether or not expired cheese can be safely eaten depends on several factors, including the type of cheese, how it has been stored, and the degree of spoilage.
Hard cheeses like Cheddar, Parmesan and Gouda are more likely to be safe to eat past their expiration date if they are properly stored and show no signs of spoilage. Soft and fresh cheeses have a shorter shelf life and are more perishable. Look at the cheese before eating for signs of mould, off colours or unusual textures.
Some people are more sensitive to spoiled food than others. If you have a compromised immune system, are pregnant, elderly, or have certain health conditions, it's generally advisable to be more cautious and avoid consuming foods that show signs of spoilage.
In summary, if cheese is past its 'best by' date and you are unsure it's still good to eat, it's essential to use your best judgment. Consider the type of cheese and assess its appearance, odour and taste before deciding. If in doubt, it's probably safer not to eat it.
You can find more information about our own cheeses and how long they last on our website.