How Long Does American Cheese Last? Will It Spoil?

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While cheese aficionados look down on American cheese, it is still a hugely popular cheese variety in the USA. American cheese is considered processed cheese as it is made by combining different kinds of cheese, cheddar, and Colby most popularly, and therefore is not considered “cheese” but has to be referred to as processed cheese or American slice. 

None of these factors have affected the popularity of American cheese though. It is still the most favored topping in sandwiches and burgers. Nowadays American cheese is made using milk, cream, protein concentrate, whey, and others, but because it is processed so much it is often termed pasteurized, processed American cheese. 

American cheese is sold as individually wrapped slices, sliced stacks, or blocks. Due to their soft, creamy texture and salty taste, they are ideal for sandwiches and any other recipe that calls for sliced cheese. But as they melt really quickly and easily, they can be good additives to soups and casseroles too.

How Long Does American Cheese Last?

Despite it being processed and pasteurized American cheese can and will go bad if not stored properly. American cheese like most cheese comes with a sell-by date, which is the date the product reaches peak quality. After that date, the quality of the product declines but it will still be good. The date does not indicate spoilage. Depending on storage conditions, American cheese will be good 2-3 weeks after the best-by or sell-by date

If the cheese is left outside on the counter or pantry on a hot day, that pretty much decides its life span. American cheese should not be left outside as it is highly susceptible to bacteria. If you live someplace really cold, then the cheese will be fine overnight or a maximum of a day. Beyond that, it will turn rancid. 

Individually wrapped American cheese slices can be left as is in the fridge and it will last for about 1-2 weeks if opened or 5-6 months if not opened. The best indicator of the cheese will be the date printed on its packaging. 

Stacks of American cheese slices have a similar shelf life, but it needs more care while storing. As this type doesn’t come with individual wrapping, you have to ensure that it is tightly wrapped in foil or plastic wrap, else its shelf life will reduce drastically. Blocks of American cheese will also need extra precaution during storage as they can dry out or spoil if left exposed and not tightly wrapped. For both stacked slices of cheese and the block of cheese, it is best to go by the date printed on the label. This is because the cheese gets constantly exposed to the elements every time we open the fridge to use some of it. 

You do have the option of freezing the cheese to make it last for an even longer time. Well-wrapped and stored American cheese will be good in the freezer for up to 10 months. 

Below you will find a simple table that gives you a ready estimate of how long you can expect your cheese to last under various circumstances. This is just an estimate, do consider other factors like the date of manufacturing, storage conditions, and average temperatures.

American CheesePantryFridgeFreezer
Slice, stack, or block (opened)Overnight or 1 day in a cold placeBest-by date + 2-3 weeks10 months
Slice, stack, or block (unopened)Overnight or 1 day 5 – 6 months10 months to 1 year

How To Best Store American Cheese?

With any and all food products, however fresh or organic or processed, there is a general expiry date. The product, like your cheese, is going to spoil. But there are a few ways to get the most out of your American cheese that may even extend its shelf life so that you can enjoy it longer. 

  • Cheese has to be refrigerated. Most cheeses, especially soft cheeses, have to be stored away in the fridge as soon as you get them home. This is because warm temperature makes cheese a breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Individually wrapped American cheese slices can be stored in the fridge as is. Since they are already tightly wrapped, they don’t need to be stored in an airtight container. These will last comfortably for close to 6 months.
  • Cheese slices that are stacked that do not come in individually wrapped covers have to be tightly wrapped in aluminum foil or plastic wrap. This is the best way to store them as it keeps out air and moisture. If the cheese is not wrapped tightly or entirely, you will notice that the bits of cheese that were exposed to air would have darkened and hardened. They haven’t spoiled yet, but they will not taste good, and the texture will be chewy and unappetizing.
  • If you want to store your stacked cheese in an airtight container for extra protection, first wrap it in foil and then place it in the container. You do not want any contaminants from the container spoiling your cheese.
  • Similarly, for blocks of American cheese, wrap it tightly in foil or plastic wrap and either place it in an airtight container or directly in the fridge.
  • You can never leave cheese open in the fridge, as not only will the cheese harden, but it will also absorb the smell of the fridge, while everything in the fridge will begin to smell like cheese.
  • If you want your American cheese to last a really long time, freezing it is a good option. 
  • It is recommended that if you are freezing a block of American cheese, slice it or portion it out and then wrap it in foil and place it in a freezer-safe bag or box. This will ensure that you are using what you need so that you don’t have to thaw the whole block.
  • For stacked cheese slices, wrap each slice separately so that you can use only the slices you need. It is difficult to take out frozen slices of cheese.
  • Once you thaw your cheese, it will last in the fridge for about 3-4 days. Do not refreeze thawed cheese.
  • Also do keep in mind that frozen and thawed cheese will have a more crumbly texture than the soft American cheese you are used to. Rest assured it has not spoiled, but the freezing and thawing have changed its texture, which is why you should not refreeze. 
  • While American cheese slices are perfect for sandwiches, burgers, and the like, thawed cheese works well in soups, casseroles, and stews.

How To Tell If Your American Cheese Has Turned?

There is no mistaking spoiled cheese, but before we get into how to spot cheese that has turned, keep in mind that you should not eat rancid cheese. Consuming spoiled cheese will give you a number of stomach-related issues including diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, and more. 

  1. The first indication of spoiled American cheese is its smell. Cheese already has a distinct smell, and spoiled cheese will have an overwhelmingly sour smell. As soon as you open the cheese you will get that “off” smell.
  2. Look for discoloration. The most obvious are green or black spots on the cheese. Mold on the cheese means you have to throw it out.
  3. While eating spoiled cheese is not recommended, if you are not sure if your cheese is still good then you can take a small nibble. Spoiled cheese will be very sour and have a very pungent taste and smell. 

Cheese is as beloved as it is ubiquitous. American cheese is found in most homes around the world in some form or another. To enjoy your cheese for as long as you want, follow the above easy storage tips and tricks.

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