Parmigiano-Reggiano is one of the most renowned Italian cheeses along with Mozzarella. It’s commonly called “Parmesan” in English, though technically its place of origin extends beyond Parma and comprises 4 provinces in Northern Italy, including Reggio Emilia, Bologna, and Modena. Unbeknownst to many people, there are actual differences between Parmesan and Parmigiano-Reggiano that go beyond pure naming conventions. Although Parmesan could be said to be Parmigiano-Reggiano made abroad, it’s not designated as such by Italian authorities, since proper Parmigiano-Reggiano is protected by designation of origin requirements that need to be met with regards to the area of production and cattle diet, among others. Parmesan cheese made in places other than those regions will never achieve the same quality as the one made in its proper place of origin and this is what makes the original Parmigiano cheese so valuable!
A common trait of this cheese is its ability to last much longer than regular fresh cheese. The reason for this is that it contains far less moisture, so bacteria have less incentive to grow. Unfortunately, Parmesan cheese doesn’t last forever. If you have stacked a sizable amount of Parmesan cheese and are worried that it may go to waste soon, you may be starting to think about these questions. Does Parmesan cheese go bad? Can you freeze Parmesan cheese? How long does Parmesan cheese last in the fridge?
Yes, you can definitely freeze Parmesan cheese. Its low water content ensures that it will freeze quite well, compared to most other types of cheese such as Ricotta cheese and dairy products, and it will last indefinitely as long as you stored it in the freezer before it is spoiled.
There are various ways to freeze it.
You can freeze the whole Parmesan cheese block or ball in the fridge. Just pack the whole cheese block or ball in a single airtight freezer bag. But unless you are going to use the entire block when you defrost it, it will be better to cut it into smaller portion-sized blocks and put them into separate bags to avoid a need to refreeze unused portions.
You can also freeze Parmesan cheese grated. For storing grated Parmesan cheese, try to use a utensil that grates the cheese relatively evenly, as this helps the grated cheese to freeze correctly.
In any of those forms, the cheese has to be stored in airtight bags or wraps, otherwise, your cheese will be damaged due to freezer burn. If possible, it’s recommended that you wrap the blocks and, additionally, place them in airtight Ziploc or freezer bags. This way, the cheese is not affected by the odor of other items stored in the freezer.
While it’s true that Parmesan cheese fares better in the freezer in comparison to other types of cheese, it will still be affected, as the texture will be a little crumblier than usual. Being a dairy product, it’s normal for it to have some negative reaction to freezing. Still, this small decrease in quality should be bearable to most people.
Technically you can refreeze it, provided you have not left it sitting at room temperature for longer than 2 hours and that it has not gotten to a temperature above 40º F. However, the texture and taste quality of partially thawed and refrozen cheese will degrade each time. In general, it’s not recommended to refreeze Parmesan even when the above conditions are met, but if you are aware of the effects of refreezing and can cope with them, then go ahead.
An unopened pack of Parmesan cheese is able to last whopping 4 months in the fridge, while an opened one can still hold its own decently for 5-6 weeks.
In the freezer at 0º F or below, according to the USDA, Parmesan cheese can remain in relatively optimal conditions for a period of 6 months, although some sources claim it can endure up to 18 months, after which the quality will start to degrade. It will not spoil as long as it remains frozen since the bacterial activity is paused in this state.
You may discern whether Parmesan cheese has gone bad when you notice a harder-than-usual texture, darkened color, presence of mold, and, of course, a really strong and unpleasant odor.
Virtually the only safe way to thaw Parmesan cheese is by letting it sit in the fridge overnight. I would not recommend using a microwave to thaw it (in fact, I personally hate how cheese gets when microwaved). It’s recommended to thaw it mainly if you need to grate it or to add it to cold recipes.
Luckily, in most circumstances, you don’t even need to thaw it. You can pull the pack out of the freezer, unpack the cheese and toss it into whatever recipe you’re making, whether it’s baked, boiled, or fried, it doesn’t really matter very much. However, cooking times might be longer than with thawed cheese.