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How Long Can Cheese Be Left Out?

Posted in Food Safety on December 31, 2021

Whether you are using cheese as an appetizer, or maybe you left it on the countertop by accident, you may be wondering how long it can sit out. Each cheese will vary based on the type and storage, but here are some general guidelines.

Will Cheese Spoil If Left Out?

Soft cheeses have a relatively high moisture content, which encourages bacterial growth. As a result, the higher a cheese’s moisture content, the sooner it must be refrigerated. Two hours is the typical standard for perishable food to be safely left out. Soft cheeses include products such as Brie, Camembert, cream cheese, cottage cheese, Queso Fresco, fresh mozzarella, etc. Any soft cheeses such as these that are left out past the two-hour mark should be discarded.

How Do You Tell if Soft Cheese is Spoiled?

Soft cheese that has gone bad will typically have blue or green mold. Once you see mold, throw away the entire product, unlike hard cheese, which you can cut out the mold and keep the rest. Some molds can be harmless, but others produce dangerous toxins. The cheese having a strange smell or if the edges have darkened or hardened are also signs that it has spoiled.

Soft Cheese Storage Timetable

Unopened Fridge Freezer
Past Printed Date Past Printed Date
Brie Cheese 1 Week
Mozzarella Cheese 1-2 Weeks 6 Months
Feta Cheese 1 Week
Monterey Jack Cheese  1-2 Weeks 6 Months
Muenster Cheese 1-2 Weeks
Havarti Cheese 1-2 Weeks 6 Months
Gorgonzola Cheese 1-2 Weeks

Are There Types of Cheese That Can Be Left Out?

In most cases, there would not be a safety issue with consuming a hard cheese that was left out overnight; however, it may impact the quality. Hard cheeses like cheddar and Parmesan have lower moisture content, making them safe to sit out for a longer period—up to 8 hours at room temperature. Pasteurized processed cheeses, such as American, also fall into this category due to their heat treatment and blend of ingredients.

After four to five hours at room temperature, a hard cheese may start to dry out and decline in appearance. From a quality point of view, it’s a good idea to put any leftover cheese back in the fridge as soon as you’re finished eating it.

Signs Your Hard Cheese Has Gone Bad

Mold will be the most obvious sign, but as previously mentioned, with hard cheese, you can cut the moldy parts out plus an extra inch and keep the rest. If you have grated or shredded hard cheese that has mold, then throw out the entire bag. As hard cheese spoils, it will become drier and darker. It doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad to eat, but the quality and taste will not be as good as it once was.

If you or a loved one became sick from ingesting contaminated or bad cheese from a restaurant or manufacturer, contact our food safety attorney to explore your legal options for compensation.

Hard Cheese Storage Timetable

Unopened Fridge Freezer
Past Printed Date Past Printed Date
Hard Cheese (Parmesan, Romano, Asiago) 2-4 Months 6-8 Months
Shredded Hard Cheese 1-2 Months 6-8 Months
Semi-Hard Cheese (Swiss, Cheddar) 1 Month 6-8 Months
Opened Fridge Freezer
Hard Cheese Chunk (Parmesan, Romano, Asiago) 3-6 Weeks 6-8 Months
Shredded Hard Cheese 3-4 Weeks 6-8 Months
Semi-Hard Cheese Chunk 3-6 Weeks 6-8 Months
Sliced Semi-Hard Cheese 2 Weeks 6-8 Months