Parmigiano Reggiano is one of the most renowned Italian cheeses. With its granular texture, nutty and savory flavor, and long aging process, it’s no wonder why many cheese enthusiasts prize this hard cheese.
Like any cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano is perishable. However, when stored properly, it can last much longer than fresh cheeses. So how long does Parmigiano Reggiano really last in the fridge after you open it?
Here are some quick answers to common questions about Parmigiano Reggiano’s fridge life:
- Unopened Parmigiano Reggiano lasts at an optimum quality for 1-2 years past the printed date.
- Once opened, Parmigiano Reggiano lasts 3-4 months in the fridge.
- Properly wrap Parmigiano Reggiano in parchment paper, then aluminum foil or plastic wrap for max freshness.
- Look for mold, dryness, or odd textures/smells to indicate Parmigiano Reggiano has gone bad.
- Grate and freeze excess Parmigiano Reggiano to prolong its shelf life.
How is Parmigiano Reggiano made?
To better understand Parmigiano Reggiano’s longevity, it helps to first look at how it’s produced:
- It’s made from raw, partially skimmed cow’s milk.
- The milk comes from cows fed a regulated diet in certain provinces of Italy.
- Cheesemakers add whey from the previous day’s production to the milk.
- It gets stirred and partially skimmed then put into copper vats.
- Next, calf rennet is added to separate the curds and whey.
- The curd is broken up into little pieces and cooked at a low temperature.
- Cheesemakers press the curd into molds, then submerge wheels in brine for 3 weeks.
- Wheels age for 12-36+ months in temperature and humidity-regulated rooms.
Parmigiano Reggiano’s lengthy, meticulous production impacts its shelf life. The aging breaks down proteins and fats, creating signature crystalline flecks and complex, nutty flavors. It also makes the cheese drier and more shelf-stable.
How long does unopened Parmigiano Reggiano last at optimal quality?
An unopened wedge or wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano has excellent shelf life. With proper storage, it stays fresh well past the “best by” date printed on the rind.
At optimum quality, Parmigiano Reggiano lasts:
- 1-2 years past the printed date when stored in the refrigerator.
- 6+ months in the pantry.
- Several weeks in the freezer (though freezing can impact texture).
The key is regulating temperature. Cold fridge temperatures (35°F / 2°C) slow aging and deterioration, extending shelf life.
Yet, even when stored at room temperature, Parmigiano Reggiano’s low moisture content and dense texture give it longevity. Just keep the cheese away from heat sources or direct sunlight.
What’s the shelf life of opened Parmigiano Reggiano?
Once opened, Parmigiano Reggiano doesn’t last nearly as long. But properly stored, it still has a respectable fridge life of 3-4 months.
Exposure to air and handling speeds the cheese’s drying. Without the rind’s protection, it also risks absorbing fridge odors, attracting mold, and deteriorating in quality.
Follow these tips for maximizing opened Parmigiano Reggiano’s shelf life:
- Wrap tightly in parchment paper, then aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
- Only unwrap Parmigiano Reggiano when ready to use, then rewrap immediately.
- Keep away from high-moisture produce like leafy greens.
- Store in the coldest section of the fridge, not the door.
With this method, you can enjoy Parmigiano Reggiano for months without it drying out or spoiling. Just be diligent about sealing it airtight.
How to tell if Parmigiano Reggiano has gone bad
Using your eyes, nose, and hands helps determine if your wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano is still good to eat:
It looks moldy
Mold is one of the most obvious signs Parmigiano Reggiano has spoiled. You may see fuzzy spots or dry patches of green, white, or blue mold. Discard molded cheese.
It’s dried out
Parmigiano Reggiano dries with age, but it shouldn’t be brittle or excessively dry when still good. If a wedge feels dried out, tastes overly salty, or crumbles easily, it’s time to throw it away.
Odd textures or spots
Your cheese should still feel hard and smooth. Watch for odd textures like sliminess, stickiness, or mealiness. Also discard Parmigiano Reggiano if you see dark or discolored spots.
Fresh Parmigiano Reggiano has a strong, complex aroma. Foul or “off” odors like ammonia, sourness, or rot indicate spoilage. Trust your nose.
Has holes or pits
Small holes or pits can form in Parmigiano Reggiano as part of the aging process. However, extensive tunneling and holes point to excessive drying or spoilage.
Remember, certain changes are normal for this cheese. Slight darkening, more granularity, or white calcium crystal formation are typical with age. When in doubt, cut a small piece to taste – rancidity means it’s gone bad.
Can you freeze Parmigiano Reggiano?
Freezing offers another strategy for extending the shelf life of Parmigiano Reggiano. While freezing can alter Parmigiano Reggiano’s signature crumbly, dense texture, it’s very effective for long-term storage.
Here are some freezing tips for freshness:
- Cut the wedge into smaller portions or grate beforehand.
- Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil or airtight bags.
- Freeze for up to 6 months.
- Thaw overnight in the fridge before using.
Properly frozen, pre-grated Parmigiano Reggiano lasts 4-6 months in the freezer. For wedges, freeze up to 6 months for peak freshness.
Mostly, avoid freeze-thaw cycles. Thaw cheese in the fridge, then use immediately. Don’t refreeze thawed cheese.
How to store Parmigiano Reggiano for maximum freshness
Proper storage preserves Parmigiano Reggiano’s quality and extends its shelf life after opening. Here are some top storage tips:
Use parchment and foil or plastic wrap
Wrap cut pieces in parchment paper to protect the cheese. Then overwrap with aluminum foil or plastic wrap for an airtight seal.
Store in coldest fridge area
Keep opened Parmigiano Reggiano in the fridge’s coldest zone, away from the door. Consistent cool temperatures are key.
Rinse and dry wedge after using
After removing cheese for use, rinse the cut wedge under cool water. Pat dry with paper towels before rewrapping.
Keep away from moisture and odors
Don’t store Parmigiano Reggiano near fresh produce, leftovers, or smelly foods. High moisture and odors can ruin the cheese.
Mark date opened on wrapping
Use a marker to note when you first opened the cheese. This helps monitor freshness and use within a recommended window.
Cut off moldy parts
If you spot slight mold growth, you can simply cut off the moldy portion about 1 inch around it. Just ensure no mold remains on the cheese.
Shelf life summary
|Parmigiano Reggiano Type
|1-2 years past printed date
|About 6 months
|Several weeks (quality declines)
|Up to 6 months when grated
How long does Parmigiano Reggiano last after the expiration date?
Properly stored, Parmigiano Reggiano lasts 1-2 years past the printed “best by” or “use by” date on the rind. The expiration date is more of a guide than a hard rule. Trust your eyes and nose to determine if unopened Parmigiano Reggiano is still good.
Can you eat Parmigiano Reggiano that is over 10 years old?
Extra-aged Parmigiano Reggiano (over 3 years) offers more intensely nutty, savory flavors. Cheese aged 5, 10 or even 20+ years won’t make you sick if it hasn’t spoiled. However, texture and moisture content can decline. Judge very aged wedges based on aroma, appearance, and flavor.
How long is Parmigiano Reggiano good for after cutting?
Once cut, Parmigiano Reggiano lasts 3-4 months in the fridge. To maximize its shelf life, wrap cheese tightly, store in the coldest part of the fridge, and keep humidity low. Avoid contamination and freeze excess grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
Can you freeze and unfreeze Parmigiano Reggiano?
It’s best to freeze Parmigiano Reggiano just once for optimum texture and quality. Freeze wedges or grated cheese in airtight packaging for 2-6 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.
How do you know when Parmigiano Reggiano goes bad?
Signs that Parmigiano Reggiano has gone bad include mold, excessive drying, odd textures, foul odors, discoloration, sliminess, tunneling from insects, or a rancid taste. When in doubt, cut a small piece to check for deterioration before using or discarding cheese.
The bottom line
With proper storage and handling, Parmigiano Reggiano has a remarkably long fridge shelf life. Keep opened wedges well wrapped, the cheese cold, and moisture low. Grate and freeze any excess you can’t eat within 4 months.
Trust your eyes, nose, and common sense to determine if your Parmigiano Reggiano wedge has spoiled. This prized cheese deserves care, so handle with integrity and savor its complex flavors.