Take the 2-minute tour ×
Seasoned Advice is a question and answer site for professional and amateur chefs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I bought one of those blocks of Dubliner cheese (at Costco, sealed relatively well in wax paper) and left it in my car all afternoon and overnight by mistake.

Given that it is unopened and the weather is relatively cool, what are the chances that it is still good?

share|improve this question
add comment

3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The term "bad", when applied to cheese, can actually refer to a great many defects (p. 14), several of which are caused by improper or over-aging and only some of which are dangerous. The issues that you most likely need to worry about are:

  1. Moisture loss applies primarily to soft cheese and is probably the first negative effect you'll see. In a sealed package, it will "sweat" as Ivo points out, caused by water evaporating and then condensing again on the packaging, forming little droplets. Unsealed, it will simply dry out and become hard.

    This is not spoilage, and the cheese is still perfectly good to eat, it just might not have as pleasant a texture and might have a slightly flat flavour. You can just cut off any hardened edges.

  2. Oxidation gives a slightly metallic taste but more importantly leads to rancidity - discoloration and a sour smell/taste. This is caused by light and is why you should store cheese in a dark place. If you left it in the car during the afternoon, it may have been exposed to a good deal of light. However, proper packaging greatly slows oxidation and wax paper in particular is an oxidation inhibitor (that's why cheese is often wrapped in it!). Light exposure also would have been minimal at night. You're probably fine in this respect, but use your nose. If it smells sour, don't eat it.

    The chemical process itself results in peroxides and free radicals, which are obviously not good to eat, although there seems to be some debate about just how dangerous they are (some say it raises the risk of cancer, although I'm unable to find an authoritative source, and this might just be an urban myth).

  3. Mold is the most obvious form of spoilage and usually also the last. Although most mold is technically aerobic, many strains are capable of growing with very little oxygen, and I personally have seen mold growing on an unopened package of cheddar that I'd forgotten about for several months. I'm sure I don't need to tell you that mold isn't safe to eat; however, by the time there's enough mold to be dangerous, you'll be able to see it.

    Contrary to what Ivo's post suggests, the mold you'll see growing on spoiled cheese is not the same as the mold that the cheese was made with - some cheeses, like parmesan, aren't made with any mold at all, although they can certainly grow mold later on. The molds used in cheese-making are typically some variety of penicillium, which is safe to eat. The mold that grows weeks later could be anything, and is not safe to eat. Ivo is also partially correct in saying that the packaging does not prevent mold growth; however, it does slow it down by restricting the available oxygen.

On the whole, I tend to agree with the other answers that your cheese will almost certainly still be good after only 1 day. Keep in mind that cheese is thought to have been popularized as a method for preserving milk before refrigeration existed - the whole idea is that it lasts a long while, usually well over 24 hours before food safety becomes an issue.

share|improve this answer
1  
Thanks for the detailed answer! –  Mike Nov 8 '10 at 18:00
    
Your absolutely right that the mold that makes cheese isn't the same as the ones that spoil it! Though the color and smell should already be an indication :-) –  Ivo Flipse Nov 8 '10 at 21:51
add comment

Like Ivo said, just wipe away the sweat and you'll be fine. Unless it's fresh cheese, cheese really takes a lot of abuse before going bad, and even if it does, you can always cut the bad part and still eat it. It's really a resilient food (apart from fresh cheese).

When fresh cheese goes 'off', you can try to dry it and make your own cured cheese. You have to drain it, keep it dry, out of the light, cool. See what happens. If it tastes bad, it doesn't have to be a health hazard.

share|improve this answer
4  
Note that this applies primarily to hard cheese. If you see mold growing on a soft cheese, there may be roots deeper inside and you should throw the whole thing out. –  Aaronut Nov 8 '10 at 15:11
add comment

Given the way cheese is made (with bacteria and molds) I don't really think the packaging is what keeps it safe.

However, if it hasn't heated too much, it should be fine.

The only that will have probably happened is that the cheese starts to 'sweat', as water in the cheese vaporizes, but is trapped in the packaging. But you can easily just dip this off and shouldn't really affect the cheese.

PS: I'm Dutch, so I know my share about cheese ;-)

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.