How to store cream cheese

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Learn to Store Cream Cheese correctly to make it last longer. Cream cheese is a versatile ingredient, enhancing the flavors of both savory and sweet dishes. Nevertheless, its moisture levels make it susceptible to spoilage when not stored properly. To maximize the freshness of your cream cheese, it’s essential to grasp the appropriate storage techniques, whether handling an unopened package or one that has been opened.

A white plate on a wooden table with cream cheese.

How to Store Cream Cheese

Cream cheese is a perishable dairy product, and improper storage can lead to bacterial growth, including harmful bacteria like salmonella and listeria. Mold growth, indicated by visible mold, and spoilage, evident through an off smell, taste, or the presence of liquid on the surface, are signs that the cream cheese has gone bad. Adhering to food safety practices such as proper refrigeration and handling is crucial to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold.

Cream Cheese Composition:

Choosing the right cream cheese is crucial for enjoying its full flavor while ensuring safety. Different types of cream cheese vary in fat and moisture content, impacting taste and shelf life.

  • Standard Cream Cheese: Typically contains at least 33% milk fat with a moisture content of less than 55%.
  • Whipped Cream Cheese: Lighter and more spreadable due to the incorporation of air.
  • Flavored Cream Cheese: Infused with ingredients like herbs, fruits, or salmon for additional flavors.
  • Reduced-Fat/Low-Fat Cream Cheese: Lower fat content, often substituting milk fat with stabilizers and preservatives.

The composition of cream cheese plays a pivotal role in its quality and shelf life. Milk fat contributes to its creamy texture, while high moisture, though conducive to spreadability, can accelerate spoilage. The quality also depends on the source of the milk and the manufacturing process. Stabilizers and preservatives are used, especially in low-fat varieties, to maintain consistency and extend shelf life.

Purchasing Cream Cheese:

This one is a no-brainer. Buy cream cheese with the furthest-out expiration date to ensure maximum shelf life. Upon bringing it home, store unopened cream cheese in the refrigerator at a consistent temperature. Typically, this is in the dairy compartment. Unopened cream cheese can last several weeks if refrigerated, but always check the expiration date for quality assurance.

Prevent Spoilage: Store Unopened Cream Cheese

Proper storage of unopened cream cheese is vital to maintaining freshness and extending shelf life. Considerations include storage temperature and the integrity of the packaging.

  • Cream cheese should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. Bacterial growth can occur quickly, so proper storage is essential.
  • Refrigerate unopened cream cheese at a stable temperature of 40°F (4°C) or below to prevent spoilage.
  • Place the cream cheese in the main compartment, away from the door, to ensure a consistent temperature and protect it from fluctuations.
  • Unopened cream cheese can typically last up to two months beyond the printed “sell-by” date if stored properly. Always check the packaging for specific recommendations and expiration dates.

A piece of cheese wrapped in plastic on a plate.

Storing Opened Cream Cheese

After opening, appropriate storage is key to retaining flavor and texture while ensuring cream cheese remains safe.

Always use clean utensils to handle the cream cheese and avoid introducing bacteria to prevent mold and contamination.

Place opened cream cheese in an airtight container to protect it from absorbing odors and flavors from other foods and to maintain moisture levels. If an airtight container is unavailable, wrap the cream cheese tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, minimizing exposure to air. Store the air-tight container of cream cheese towards the back of the fridge where the temperature stays most constant at or below 40°F (4°C).

Store Cream Cheese: Freezing

Extending Shelf Life: To extend the shelf life of opened cream cheese beyond the typical two-week refrigeration period, freezing is an option, although it may slightly alter the texture, making it more crumbly when thawed. To freeze, wrap the cream cheese in plastic wrap and then in an additional layer of aluminum foil or place it inside a freezer bag.

  1. Double-wrap the cream cheese to protect against freezer burn.
  2. Label the package with the current date to track how long it has been stored.
  3. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight when ready to use.

By following these methods, your opened cream cheese will be well-protected, preserving its flavor and texture for your enjoyment.

Thawing Methods: Read How to soften cream cheese. As well, to defrost frozen cream cheese, transfer it to the refrigerator for gradual thawing over several hours or overnight. For a quicker method, thaw cream cheese at room temperature for a short period or use a microwave on the defrost setting. Thawing too rapidly or at too high a temperature can lead to a grainy texture and separation.

Store Cream Cheese, a white plate with three pieces of creram cheese on it.

Shop baking equipment needed at Walmart below. Click on the item to open the product.

Cooking with Cream Cheese

Here are reader-favorite recipes with cream cheese that you’ll enjoy, too!

  1. Cream cheese adds a dense, creamy texture when baked into products or incorporated into hot sauces.
  2. When baking, it enhances cheesecakes and serves as a rich filling for pastries.
  3. Use cream cheese at room temperature to ensure smooth blending with other ingredients and to avoid lumps.

Blending and Texture Adjustment:

When incorporating cream cheese into recipes for texture adjustment, aim for full integration to achieve a uniform texture. Whipping cream cheese creates a light and fluffy texture, ideal for spreads or lighter frostings. It can also be used to thicken sauces, providing a luxurious feel. Thoroughly blend cream cheese, especially when mixing with liquids or semi-liquids, to prevent separation and ensure a smooth texture throughout the dish.

Maintaining Quality and Flavor:

Preserving the quality and flavor of cream cheese is crucial, especially after opening. Store cream cheese in a tightly sealed container at a consistent temperature to minimize exposure to air and potential contaminants.

  • Temperature Range: Keep cream cheese in the fridge at 35°F to 40°F (1.7°C to 4.4°C) to prevent spoilage and food waste.
  • Opened Package Shelf Life: An opened package of cream cheese will stay fresh for up to two weeks when properly stored. To extend its shelf life, consider covering the surface with plastic wrap before placing it in a container.
  • Minimizing Food Waste: Cut cream cheese into portions to minimize food waste. Only take what you intend to use, promptly returning the rest to the fridge.
  • Odor Prevention: Put cream cheese away from strongly scented foods in the fridge. Some prefer adding a thin layer of oil on the cut surface to create a barrier against air.

Remember, quality and flavor go hand in hand, and proper storage practices are crucial for retaining the intended experience of cream cheese.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your cream cheese stays fresh, flavorful, and safe for consumption.

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