Last Updated on June 29, 2023 by Aaron
Unsure about the freshness of your Provolone cheese? A cheeseboard without the rich, robust flavor of provolone is akin to a symphony missing its key instrument.
This distinctive Italian cheese is a favorite in many households around the world, enhancing everything from sandwiches to gourmet dishes with its unique taste.
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Yes, of course, provolone can go bad.
Provolone cheese, like most cheeses, has a varying shelf life depending on how it’s stored.
Generally, a block of Provolone cheese lasts about 3 to 4 weeks after it’s opened if kept in the refrigerator. If it’s unopened, it can typically last for 2 to 3 months in the refrigerator.
Once opened, it’s important to store your cheese properly to maximize its shelf life. Wrapping it in parchment or wax paper, and then loosely in plastic wrap or placing it in a sealable plastic bag can help keep it fresher for longer. Cheese should be kept in the coolest part of your refrigerator, which is typically the drawer marked for cheese and vegetables.
As for the smell, Provolone has a slightly pungent aroma, but it shouldn’t be overly strong or unpleasant. If the cheese develops an off smell, it might be a sign of spoilage. In addition to smell, look for other signs of spoilage such as mold, discoloration, or a slimy texture.
The smartest and recommended way of course is to adhere to the expiration date on the packaging and if you have any doubts about the freshness of the cheese, it’s safer to discard it.
Is Provolone supposed to be stinky?
Provolone cheese is not generally considered a “stinky” cheese. It does have a distinct smell, but it should be mild and not overly pungent or unpleasant. The aroma of provolone can be described as somewhat nutty and savory, but not overpowering.
However, keep in mind that the intensity of aroma can vary depending on the type of Provolone cheese. For instance, Provolone Piccante, which is aged for more than four months, has a stronger smell than Provolone Dolce, which is aged for 2-3 months.
If your Provolone cheese has a strong, off-putting smell, it could be a sign of spoilage. Always check for other signs of spoilage as well, we discuss more about that in the section below.
Can Provolone be left out? and how long.
Cheese, including provolone, should generally not be left out at room temperature for long periods of time. The USDA recommends that soft cheeses, and even hard cheeses, should not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours.
After two hours, the risk of harmful bacteria growth increases significantly. If the cheese has been left out in temperatures above 90°F (32°C), that time frame shortens to just one hour.
While some cheeses are safe to leave out for longer periods (like hard, aged cheeses), Provolone, which is a semi-hard cheese, is not one of them. It’s best to keep it refrigerated and only take out what you plan to use immediately.
That being said, cheese is often served at room temperature as it can enhance the flavors. If you are planning to serve provolone cheese, take it out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving to let it come to room temperature for optimal flavor. Then, return the leftovers to the fridge promptly.
Sliced or shredded provolone doesn’t last as long
Sliced or shredded Provolone cheese doesn’t last as long as a whole block, simply because it has more surface area exposed to the air, making it more susceptible to spoilage.
Once sliced or shredded, Provolone cheese can last for around 1-2 weeks in the fridge if it is stored properly. It’s best to use it within a week for the freshest taste. Store it in an airtight container or zip-top bag to keep it from drying out and absorbing odors from other foods in your fridge.
As always, if you notice an off smell, discoloration, or mold, it’s safer to discard the cheese.
If you need to store sliced or shredded cheese for a longer period, you can freeze it, where it can last for months. However, please note that freezing may change the texture of the cheese, making it more crumbly when thawed. Frozen cheese is best used in cooked dishes.
Signs of Spoilage
Identifying signs of spoilage in Provolone is essential to food safety. Here are the key signs to look for:
- Off-putting smell: Provolone should have a mild, slightly nutty aroma. If it smells strong, sour, feet-like, or simply off, it might have spoiled.
- Change in color: Cheese that has become discolored or has spots of different colors could be a sign of spoilage. Provolone is typically a pale yellow color, so if you notice patches of blue, green, or black, that’s likely mold.
- Change in texture: Fresh Provolone cheese has a smooth, semi-hard texture. If it feels slimy, excessively hard, or if it crumbles easily when it should not, it might be spoiled.
- Visible Mold: While some cheeses are made with edible mold, Provolone is not one of them. If you see mold on the surface or inside the cheese, it’s a clear sign of spoilage, like in these pictures.
- Change in taste: If the cheese tastes sour, overly bitter, or simply off in any way, it might be spoiled.
If your cheese exhibits any of these signs, it’s better to stay on the side of caution and discard it. Foodborne illnesses can be severe, so it’s not worth the risk of consuming spoiled cheese.
How to Store Provolone Cheese
Storing Provolone cheese properly can ensure its longevity and maintain its best flavor. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Avoid Plastic Wrap: Plastic wrap isn’t ideal for cheese because it prevents it from breathing, which can accelerate spoilage. Instead, consider using cheese paper, wax paper, or parchment paper, which will allow the cheese to breathe while maintaining its moisture.
- Consider a Cheese Bag or Box: There are special cheese storage bags and boxes on the market that maintain the right level of humidity for cheese storage. They’re not necessary, but they can help extend the life of your cheese.
- Seal and Store: After wrapping in paper, you can put the cheese in a sealable plastic bag or airtight container. Don’t seal the bag completely – leave a small opening for air to escape. You could also loosely wrap the paper-covered cheese in a layer of aluminum foil.
- Refrigerate Properly: Store the cheese in the vegetable crisper of your fridge, where the temperature is more consistent. Avoid storing it in the door, where temperature fluctuations are greater.
- Check Regularly: Regularly check your cheese for signs of spoilage. If you spot mold, cut off at least an inch around and below the moldy spot. However, if the cheese is shredded, crumbled, or sliced, and there’s mold, it’s better to discard the whole thing.
Remember, even when stored properly, cheese won’t last forever. Use your senses to check for signs of spoilage and always pay attention to the ‘use by’ date on the packaging.
4 Tips to Extend the shelf life Further
Extending the shelf life of Provolone cheese involves proper storage and handling methods from the moment you bring it home. Here’s how to increase the shelf life of your Provolone:
- Buy Whole If Possible: Whole blocks of cheese last longer than sliced, shredded, or cubed cheese. That’s because they have less surface area exposed to bacteria in the air and also lesser post-processing involved. If you only eat cheese occasionally, buying whole blocks can extend its life.
- Avoid Cross-Contamination: Each time you handle the cheese, make sure your hands, cutting boards, and utensils are clean. Cross-contamination can introduce bacteria that accelerate spoilage.
- Freeze If Needed: If you have more cheese than you can consume before it spoils, consider freezing it. Provolone can be frozen for up to 6 months, but keep in mind the texture may change slightly upon thawing. It’s best to grate or slice the cheese before freezing so you can use portions as needed without having to thaw the whole block. Here we discussed some of the tips and steps on how to do it.
- Use Wax or Cheese Coating: Some cheesemakers use cheese wax or coating to create a protective barrier around the cheese, which helps prevent mold and drying out. You can also do this at home, especially if you buy cheese in large quantities.
Remember, even with these precautions, cheese is a perishable product and can’t last indefinitely. Always check for signs of spoilage before consuming.