As a hard cheese, parmesan is a great grating cheese that can add a burst of flavor to a variety of dishes. One question that often arises is whether or not parmesan cheese can be (or should be) frozen.
The short answer is yes! Parmesan cheese can be frozen for up to six months without significant changes in quality, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
In this post, we will explore the suitability of parmesan cheese for freezing compared to other cheeses, the impact of freezing on the quality of the cheese, and the best methods for freezing and thawing parmesan. We will also touch on the Parmigiano Reggiano.
Will Freezing Affects Parmesan Quality?
Moisture content is the key factor when it comes to freezing. As cheese ages, it naturally loses some of its moisture — as parmesan cheese is a longer-aged hard cheese with low moisture in it (32% or less), which means that it is less likely to lose its texture when frozen. This is in contrast to soft cheeses (50-65% water on average), such as brie or camembert, which do not freeze well and can become mushy when thawed. Hard cheeses, like parmesan, tend to hold up better in the freezer and do not clump together.
Also, most of the store-bought pre-shredded parmesan will have anti-caking agents such as cellulose powder or modified food starch added to prevent clumping. These will also keep the frozen cheese dry making it easier to measure and sprinkle over dishes after thawing.
However, freezing can still cause slight changes in the texture (mealy) and flavor of parmesan cheese. When cheese is frozen, the water in the cheese crystallizes, and thawing later can cause the water to release and disrupt the structure — where the cheese will become slightly crumbly or dry but it can still be used in cooking.
Additionally, the cold temperatures of the freezer can cause the fats in the cheese to solidify, which can affect the texture and mouthfeel of the cheese. The flavor of the cheese can become muted or altered when it is frozen. This is why it’s not recommended to freeze parmesan cheese as it’s best enjoyed fresh.
One of the main differences between regular parmesan and Parmigiano Reggiano is the moisture content. Read Parmesan vs. Parmigiano Reggiano article. Due to the longer aging period, Parmigiano Reggiano tends to have a lower moisture content compared to Parmesan, which contributes to its granular texture and a more concentrated flavor.
When it comes to freezing, the same principles apply to Parmigiano Reggiano as it does to Parmesan. Freezing can affect the texture and flavor of the cheese, making it crumbly and less intense or complex. However, the lower moisture content in Parmigiano Reggiano can also contribute to fewer ice crystals formation and thus a lower change in the texture of the cheese upon thawing.
How to Freeze (and thaw) Parmesan?
If you do decide to freeze parmesan cheese, it is best to do so in grated or shredded form. The smaller the pieces, the faster they will freeze — and also more evenly. This will make it easier to use in cooking and will also reduce the amount of texture and flavor change that occurs when the cheese is thawed.
To freeze Parmesan cheese, first make sure it is tightly wrapped in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn. Next, place it in an airtight container or a heavy-duty freezer bag and press out as much air as possible, and put it in the freezer. Parmesan can be frozen for up to six months.
When you are ready to use the frozen parmesan (for large blocks), it is important to slow-thaw it properly to minimize texture and flavor changes. The best way to thaw parmesan is to place it in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours. Do not thaw parmesan at room temperature, as this can easily cause the cheese to become crumbly or dry.
The easier way is to shred the cheese before freezing them. Grated or shredded parmesan cheese, can be used directly from the freezer without thawing. This way, you don’t need to thaw parmesan before using it.
It is generally not recommended to re-freeze parmesan cheese once it has been thawed.
When cheese is frozen and thawed, the texture and quality of the cheese can be affected. Freezing can cause the cheese to become dry and crumbly, and thawing can cause it to become wet and rubbery. Refreezing the cheese can further degrade the texture and quality of the cheese.
It’s best to use the thawed parmesan cheese within a few days and if you can’t use it all, it’s better to throw it away. If you have pre-shredded parmesan cheese, just take as much as you need and reseal the package tightly to keep it fresh for future use.
Avoid opening the package multiple times. Remember to always check the expiration date on the package before using it, and discard any cheese that has been opened for an extended period of time or has an off-odor or appearance.
You can also consider portioning out the pre-shredded parmesan cheese in smaller bags or containers, so that you can take out just as much as you need for a particular recipe and store the rest for later.
Uses of Frozen Parmesan
Frozen parmesan cheese can be used in a variety of ways, especially for hot dishes. Here are a few ideas:
- Grating or Shaving: You can grate or shave the frozen parmesan directly onto soups, salads, pasta dishes, or pizzas. The texture may be slightly crumbly, but the flavor will still be intact.
- Cooking: Frozen parmesan cheese can be added to casseroles, quiches, and other baked dishes without thawing. It will melt and add a delicious nutty flavor to the dish.
- Sauces: Frozen parmesan cheese can be added to sauces, such as alfredo or pesto, to thicken them and add flavor. Simply add small chunks of the frozen cheese to the sauce and stir until it has melted.
- Snacks: It can be enjoyed as a snack. Simply take small chunks of the frozen cheese and let it thaw in your mouth for a delicious, savory treat.
It’s important to keep in mind that the texture of the cheese may be slightly crumbly when grating or shaving it from frozen, but it will still be perfectly safe to eat.