Can you freeze cheese and more importantly, should you in order to cut down on waste? We delve into all the facts about the practice of freezing cheese, as well as exactly which types of cheese freeze best and a timeline of how long to leave it sitting in your freezer for. After all, freezing leftover or surplus food is a great way of extending its shelf life and helping to combat waste. If you don’t already have a freezer, you can check out our guide to the best freezers here and get the lowdown on all the best appliances to make your home more economical.
Perishable items such as cheese are often singled out for discarding as they reach their expiration date before they can be finished. The solution? Pop leftover cheese in the freezer until it’s needed. Read our guide to find out what – and what not – to do.
Can you freeze cheese?
The simple answer to the question ‘can you freeze cheese’ is ‘yes – under certain conditions’. Like most foods with a high fat content, cheese freezes well on the whole. Putting cheese in the freezer is a great way of avoiding waste and is really handy if you just need a small amount for cooking with. If you enjoy very strong cheese such as Stilton or Roquefort, then keeping it in the freezer will stop the refrigerator from smelling too. It’s also great if you’re trying to eat a little healthier and cheese is your downfall – you can’t eat it in a hurry if it’s frozen. Here’s our guide to what you should do in order to freeze cheese.
How to freeze cheese
Cheese should be frozen when it’s as fresh as possible. If you buy a block and know you’re not going to finish it, then divide it up and freeze it as soon as you can. Freezing drastically slows down bacterial growth, so do remember that blue cheese won’t continue to ripen in the freezer as it would in one of the best side-by-side refrigerators.
Always freeze cheese in the quantities you need for future use, as cutting a frozen block into smaller pieces is almost impossible! If you intend to use it for cooking, cut into it into small cubes and put them in a Ziplock bag. Try to make sure the cubes aren’t touching as much as possible or they’ll stick together. Squeeze the air out of the bag before you close it and write the type of cheese and date on the label. If you’re planning on grating the cheese, this is best done before freezing.
Lastly, do make sure that the bag is securely sealed, as this prevents the cheese getting tainted by other items in the freezer (or in the case of blue cheese, tainting everything else!).
Which types of cheese freeze well?
Most hard cheeses, including Swiss, Cheddar and blue cheese freeze well. Freezing can affect the texture though and they may become more crumbly when thawed. Semi-soft cheese like goats’ cheese freezes well, too. You can freeze cream cheese but it may look separated when thawed – whipping it up again with a fork normally solves this.
Cottage cheese does not normally freeze well due to the high moisture content. Ripe cheeses like brie and Camembert can lose some delicacy of flavor when thawed and are best kept for including within cooking afterwards, rather than eating on their own. Reduced fat cheese may not be suitable for freezing so check the label beforehand.
How to thaw cheese and how long to freeze cheese
Cheese is best thawed in the refrigerator. Put it on a plate to avoid drips and leave it on the bottom shelf overnight or for a couple of hours, depending on how big the pieces are. You can use grated cheese straight from frozen to top dishes but it may increase the cooking time a little.
When it comes to a general rule for how long to freeze cheese, for pre-packed cheese, check the label for the manufacturer’s recommendation. As a rule of thumb you can freeze cheese for three to six months. Rotate your stock by putting new bags at the bag of the drawer and using them in order.
Can you freeze milk?
The answer to this question is also ‘yes’, and if you’re a bit disorganized it’s both good and bad news! Milk freezes well and does not change its taste, but it can develop a lumpy texture so some people prefer to keep it for cooking rather than drinking. Keeping milk in the freezer isn’t an instant fix for running out, though, as it takes a long time to thaw. Here’s what to do.
If you’ve spotted a great two-for-one offer and come home with too much milk, then freezing the spare quart for later can be a great solution. If your milk is in a paper carton or glass bottle, neither of these is suitable to go into the freezer. (Paper is not airtight, glass may shatter.) Pour the milk into a plastic bottle with a well-fitting cap, and only fill it three quarters full as the liquid will expand. If you are laying the bottle down flat in the freezer, make sure that lid is on really tight! You can store milk in the freezer for up to three months.
To use it, place the bottle in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours (for a quart bottle). Shake the bottle well before you use the milk. If you’re really in a hurry you can also place the bottle in a sink of cold water, which will speed the process up.
Which foods aren’t suitable for freezing?
Now you’ve decided that the freezer is your new best friend, you may be tempted to throw everything in there! While the majority of foods can be frozen, there are a few exceptions. Anything that has previously been frozen should not be refrozen, for example.
Cooked egg white goes rubbery when frozen, so fried eggs or omelet are out (you can freeze raw eggs for cooking, though – just crack them into a container). Any vegetable with a high water content such as cucumber will go mushy once thawed. Egg-based sauces such as mayonnaise and hollandaise will separate on thawing.
What other preserving methods are there?
In addition to freezing surplus food, you could try canning, preserving, smoking, bottling, drying and fermentation. Different methods are suitable for different foods, so check recipes before you decide. Leftover vegetables and peel can go into a home compost heap, as well.