Can You Freeze Shredded Parmesan Cheese? [Best Practices]

Rich, nutty, crumbly and tangy. Parmesan cheese is a classic and complex Italian ingredient. It can be the perfect accent to a signature dish or the feature item in your recipe! However, depending on its appearance, the shelf life can be quite short.

Can you freeze shredded parmesan cheese? We grate down the details!

It is best to freeze any cheese varieties in block or wedge form. Despite this fact, it can also be safely stored in the freezer when shredded or sliced.

However, oxidation rates are greater with this type of product due to the higher surface area of the cheese. Therefore, it is best to use grated parmesan cheese within three to six months of freezing. 

Parmesan Cheese Storage — Block, Shredded & Sliced

Deemed the “King of Cheeses” in Italy, Parmigiano Reggiano is an extremely popular product across the globe. In fact, “Parmigiano Reggiano hit new records in 2018, starting with a turnover of 1.4 billion in production and 2.4 billion in consumption.” 

With almost 21 million pounds of this hard cheese being imported into the country that year, it should come as no surprise that people want to store it for later use. Thankfully, the low water content of this dairy product elongates the time you can safely keep it in the fridge and freezer.

Best Practices For The Fridge and Freezer

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “as a general rule, hard cheeses such as cheddar, processed cheeses (American), and both block and grated Parmesan do not require refrigeration for safety, but they will last longer if kept refrigerated.” 

In the refrigerator, hard cheeses can last approximately six months in block or wedge form when they remain in the original packaging. Once open, this decreases to three to four weeks. Conversely, once you open your shredded cheese, it will last up to one month.

If you want to elongate your parmesan’s shelf life, freezing is the best option. This will allow it to last for up to six months. 

It is important to note that while you can easily store parmesan at room temperatures for short periods of time or in the freezer for half a year, both options will change the texture, flavor and aromatic qualities of this distinct cheese.

University of Florida’s food experts note that “after freezing, cheese may become crumbly and mealy, but it will retain its flavor.”

Why Changes Occur When You Freeze Shredded Parmesan Cheese 

Parmesan cheese is lower on the pH scale (5.1 to 5.4). This means that it is more acidic than its more water heavy counterparts. This compares to mozzarella and cheddar, but is less acidic than soft cheeses like cottage cheese and feta.

This characteristic makes it harder for this cheese to melt. It also makes it a less desirable cheese to freeze. The main factor that plays a role in conserving the texture and flavor components of this product is the speed that you conduct freezing and defrosting. 

Scientists at the Center For Dairy Research (CDR) have determined that “the general rule of thumb for freezing cheese is to freeze the cheese as quickly as possible and thaw the cheese as slowly as possible.

Ideally, thawing takes place under refrigeration and best to allow around a week to allow the moisture in the cheese to re-equilibrate back into the cheese matrix (although some companies only allow a couple of days).”

The reason you need a flash freeze shredded parmesan cheese is to control the size of the ice crystals that form on the product. “One of the dangers of [slowly] freezing [the] cheese is the formation of large ice crystals, which can result in damage to the cheese texture and ultimately impact functionality and sensory acceptance.”

In contrast, a quick temperature drop allows for small crystals and less of a worry about these detrimental changes.

Studies Show Super-Chilling Is Best For Shredded Cheese

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has determined that “food that is properly handled and stored in the freezer at 0° F (-18° C) will remain safe. While freezing does not kill most bacteria, it does stop bacteria from growing. Though food will be safe indefinitely at 0° F, quality will decrease the longer the food is in the freezer.”

However, recent studies have found that storage of hard cheeses in temperatures between 28 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal for converted cheeses. 

“Research at CDR has demonstrated that holding cheese at temperatures around 30-32°F results in the cheese almost being in suspended animation and having very slow body breakdown. Low temperature storage technique also works well for shredded or sliced cheeses.

Storing cheese at ultra-low, but non-freezing temperatures, may be a superior method for extending the shelf life of many cheese varieties and forms of cheese, from bulk to chunks to shreds to slices.”

This will not halt all bacteria growth. Nonetheless, when stored properly, parmesan cheese can stay safe and ready to eat for the aforementioned times. Thankfully, if handled properly from the moment of purchase, bacteria becomes less of an issue. 

How To Flash Freeze Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Cramming a two pound bag of parmesan cheese in the freezer will get the job done. However, it is not practical and will not last nearly as long. That is due to the fact that the outer layer of cheese will freeze quickly.

Conversely, the inner portions will likely accumulate those large ice crystals that you want to avoid. Moreover, when it comes time for use, it will take an exorbinate amount of time for this large container of cheese to thaw out.

Therefore, it is imperative that you take a few extra steps to better guarantee the longevity of your product. 

First, line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Then, take your fresh grated parmesan cheese and place a thin layer on the tray. Slide it in the freezer. Finely grated parmesan cheese will freeze quickly with this method (usually less than an hour).

Once the cheese is frozen, store individual or family sized portions in freezer safe containers. Then, put them back in the freezer.

Packaging For Freezing Cheeses

You can freeze store bought grated parmesan cheese safely in the original packaging. Just make sure to freeze it prior to the ‘Best By’ date. However, once the package is opened, it is always best to vacuum seal the products to ensure freshness.

Remember that oxidation is not your friend when it comes to food. Therefore, the less air, the better. 

If you do not have this type of machine on hand, your best bet is to place the finely grated Parm cheese into a freezer safe ziplock bag. Make sure to squeeze out as much air as possible. Do not forget to put a date on the packages. This will ensure that you use the cheese in a timely fashion.

How To Freeze Blocks Parmesan Cheese

Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson from North Dakota State University advises that you “freeze cheese in small pieces — no more than ½ pound per chunk. Seal it in foil, freezer wrap, plastic film or bag.”

Just like with the shredded cheese, this allows for a more rapid temperature decrease. Conversely, a large block of cheese would take much longer to reach freezing temperatures, leading to texture changes. 

While not as convenient as pre-shredded cheese, you can always let it thaw out and then shred it after freezing for safe storage. 

Using Frozen Parmesan Cheese

When it comes time for use, consider what you are making first. This can help you to determine if you need to thaw out the cheese. Obviously, if you are preparing a Cesar salad, you need to defrost your cheese.

Therefore, place it in the freezer a few days before use to allow for that slow warming of the cheese. This will help the texture and flavor stay intact. In contrast, if you intent is to cook with this ingredient, there is no need to defrost it, if you have taken the time to portion it out prior to freezing. 

Most importantly, once you have defrosted your parmesan cheese, use it promptly. Moreover, never re-freeze it. This fluctuation in temperatures can lead to bacteria growth and spoilage of the product. This is one of the main reasons why it is so important to take the time to package individual portions.

Final Thoughts 

No matter if you buy Kraft grated parmesan cheese or you make it fresh, remember to store it properly and freeze large quantities in individual containers to prevent food waste. Additionally, failures can occur, even with the best intentions and efforts being made. 

Thus, if the cheese has changed in color or flavor, throw it out. Minor changes in texture are normal, even with optimal storage. However, if there is a drastic alteration, always err on the side of caution.

Finally, all food can technically last forever in temperatures below zero. Unfortunately, staying in these conditions for longer than recommended will drastically change how, the food looks, tastes and smells. Therefore, make the best of your Parm and use it in a reasonable time frame!

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