You either love or hate American Cheese.
From Kraft Singles to Velveeta, the iconic slices of white cheese in a thin plastic casing and the grilled cheese sandwiches made with it, it’s one of the most-divisive cheeses.
Many even scoff that it shouldn’t even be considered a cheese because it’s not made from milk as cheeses have been historically made. Unsurprisingly, American cheese is processed; created from a mixture of other cheeses.
How Long Does American Cheese Last?
The good thing about American cheese being processed is that the shelf life is improved when compared to other cheeses. The shelf life of American cheese depends on several factors:
How long you’ve had it: The longer you have had American cheese in your refrigerator or freezer, the shorter its shelf life will be.
Temperature: If you keep your refrigerator above 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius), it will last longer than if it was held at cooler temperatures.
Opened or Unopened: This is key. When the cheese is exposed to oxygen it begins to lose quality until it becomes inedible. American cheese will last longer if you keep it in its original packaging and away from other foods than if you cut off pieces.
Proper Storage: Whether opened or unopened, the cheese should be stored properly to ensure it lasts as long we possible. Typically that means store them separately, placed in different containers or wrapped in foil or paper towels (which absorb moisture).
The average shelf life of American cheese is as follows:
Unopened American Cheese
Unopened American cheese will keep in the refrigerator for up to six months before it begins to spoil. Once opened, you should use it within one week at most. If the package is unopened, store the cheese in the coldest part of the refrigerator (the back of the bottom shelf).
Opened American Cheese
Opened packages of American cheese should be transferred to an airtight container as soon as possible after opening. If you’re not going to use it immediately, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place wax paper on top of it to prevent other foods from getting contaminated by any bacteria present in the opened package.
The refrigerated version should last about one week if wrapped this way; however, if you notice any signs of spoilage, such as mold growing on the edges or inside the package, throw it out immediately.
How To Tell if American Cheese Is Bad
If you want to know how to tell if American cheese is bad, here are some signs to look for:
- American Cheese Smell
The smell of American cheese can indicate whether it has gone bad. If the cheese smells sour or unpleasant, it has probably gone bad. It may be time to throw away the cheese if the smell is not bad but still different from what it should be. When in doubt, throw it out.
- American Cheese Color and Texture
It is possible to tell if American cheese has gone bad by looking at its color and texture. The cheese should appear bright white with no discoloration or mold. If your cheese slices have brown or blue spots, they may have been exposed to air for too long after being opened.
The texture may also change slightly when you touch it — becoming softer than usual — which can mean that your slice of American cheese has gone bad.
To answer the question, it doesn’t matter if you buy prepackaged American cheese at the store or how long it says on the label, either three months or up to one year. Prepared American cheese will last for about six months in the fridge—a little longer if you don’t open packages. But remember: refrigeration isn’t needed to keep this cheese preserved. Just eat prepackaged American cheese within those six months (or less), and enjoy.