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Cheese is most of the most important staples of a majority of the world’s cuisines. It’s easy to make, versatile, and delicious. It can tricky to know just how long packaged soft cheeses can be left out for, though, as hard cheeses have a long shelf life.
Cheese sticks should be refrigerated. However, if they are still in their air-sealed packaging and in temperatures that aren’t too hot, they can be left out of the fridge for about a few days and still be safe to eat. It is best never to leave them out if they are not in their packaging.
If kept out for too long, in the heat, or out of their protective packaging, they can quickly become dried out, slimy, moldy, and no longer fresh and safe to eat. Keep scrolling to see just how long you can keep your cheese sticks for and what you can do to extend that life, or make a delicious meal today that will save them from the trash.
How Long Do Cheese Sticks Last?
Outside of the fridge, cheese sticks don’t last very long. It’s best to not leave them out over 2 hours to ensure safety. If they are left out in the sun, they will last even a shorter amount of time than that.
Cheese sticks are meant to be able to last for months while packaged securely and left in a cool fridge. This is due to how they were created, with a long-life in mind, and also how cheese, in general, was invented in a time when refrigeration didn’t exist.
Before modern conveniences, people were pretty creative when it came to storing their food. They added salt to meat to help preserve it from decomposition and left vegetables in cool underground cellars to keep them from going bad. While hard cheeses can be kept at room temperature to help age them, soft cheese was kept in a cool room in cheese paper or parchment paper that allowed it to breathe.
Today, factories do the same thing with plastic that has been made under very high heat. This way any bacteria on the plastic has been killed and the only thing in your cheese stick is the healthy bacteria that cheese is made of.
Keeping it airtight is an easy way of keeping all the necessary moisture inside.
This means under the right conditions the softest of cheese like string cheese, which is made out of mozzarella, can last in your fridge for months beyond its sell-by-date.
What Happens to Cheese Sticks that have Been Left Out
As a general rule, string cheese will no longer have that creamy smell that fresh cheese has when it’s been left out of the fridge for too long (2 hours or more). It will, when left out for long enough, begin to have a layer of slime on the surface or bloating of the package, and at some point, it will begin to have a moldy appearance.
In that case, you should immediately throw out your cheese and go buy some fresh ones.
Since cheese sticks are pretty affordable to begin with, there’s no point in risking getting yourself or your family members sick by eating cheese sticks that have been left out for more than a few hours. If left out at all, just be sure to thoroughly look over the surface of the stick and smell it to be sure that it wasn’t left in high heat and is unsafe to eat.
How to Properly Store Cheese Sticks
The absolute best way to store your cheese sticks, seeing as they are considered soft cheese, is by putting them in a fridge to be preserved by the cool temperature. This way they can retain their original flavor and texture and last for months beyond what you would imagine.
But some of you may want your cheese sticks to last longer than that. If you’re like a lot of people, you’re constantly on a budget, and every penny counts.
Maybe you have a large truckload of cheese and need to find a way of saving as much of it as possible. A way of making cheese sticks last is by freezing them. Do keep in mind if you want to use this option, you need to be careful about how long you freeze it for and how to unthaw it.
A lot of people also state that their string cheese can end up more crumbly and less stringy after being frozen, which can be a problem for some foodies.
If you just want to save your cheese and don’t really care what the end result tastes like, then go right ahead and throw it in that freezer. This is also a great option for when you need cheese sticks that you can melt.
To successfully freeze your cheese, seal it in a heavy-duty freezer bag, squeezing as much air out of it as you can, to prevent any freezer burn. This can be kept in your freezer safely for up to 8 months, if the temperature of the freezer is consistently at around 0°F.
Take them out the night before you want to eat them and put them in the fridge to slowly defrost. If you just want one or two simply just throw them into individual freezer backs that you can portion out.
Can You Salvage Cheese Sticks?
If you don’t want to freeze your cheese stick but you also don’t really like the fact that you might have left it out of the fridge for a few hours (or days,) there’s a few ways to help you feel safer about eating your cheese stick. And they are pretty delicious.
Your first option is to microwave your cheese in order to kill any bad bacteria on it. It’s not likely that leaving your string cheese out for less than a few hours will lead it to grow anything unhealthy on it, but if you want to be safe, just heat it up for a few seconds. This is also just a recommended practice as some people feel that heat really brings out the flavor and texture of true mozzarella and is a necessity.
A second option is to smoke your mozzarella to give it a little extra kick of flavor. When doing this, just remember to let it sit unprotected outside in order to develop a thin skin that will help it to keep its moisture inside. Then wrap it in a cheesecloth when smoking.
Another way to salvage your cheese sticks is by creating delicious meals with them using heat. A popular way of doing this is by breading them and deep frying or air frying them. Add a little marinara sauce and you’ll be everyone’s favorite cook.
Just remember, the FDA recommends not eating food that has been left out for more than a few hours. If you want to risk it, it’s up to you.