American cheese product, or processed cheese, is actually a combination of several cheeses, which are melted and blended together to give them a smooth, uniform texture and flavor. While some processed cheese products don't require refrigeration until after they are opened, individually sliced American cheese does require refrigeration both before and after being opened.
Keeping It Tasty (and Fresh)
American cheese is pasteurized and thus doesn't age like other types of cheese, including the cheeses that it's made from, such as Colby and cheddar. Canned, squeezable and some sealed loaves of processed cheese don't require refrigeration until after they are opened. Processed cheese slices and cheese food, including American cheese, do require refrigeration. Refrigeration between 35 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit keeps your cheese slices, whether individually wrapped or not, fresh and free of mold and bacteria.
American cheese is considered a semi-hard cheese and does eventually expire. If unopened, it lasts up to one month after its printed expiration date; it lasts two weeks if opened. If you notice any change in your American cheese slices' texture, odor or flavor, throw them away. Visible mold is also a sign of spoilage; you need to discard any moldy slices. Freezing your cheese at 0 F can extend its shelf life to around three months, but will change its flavor and texture, making it more appropriate for cooking than use by itself.
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How to Store Cheese
- Still Tasty: Dairy & Eggs -- American Cheese: Opened
- Still Tasty: Dairy & Eggs -- American Cheese: Unopened
- EatByDate: Shelf Life of Hard or Semi-Hard Cheese
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Handling of Cheese for Safety & Quality
- Southern Utah University: Cheese
- The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences: Refrigerator Storage
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.