How Long Can Cheese Be Left Out (And Why)?

Exact Answer: Up To Two Hours

Cheese is a staple in many households and can be left out for a long time before going bad. However, certain types of cheese don’t have the same shelf life as others.

It can be not easy to know how long to keep a specific cheese outside the refrigerator. The answer is not always straightforward and depends on several factors, including the type and size of cheese and the temperature outside. 

Cheddar, Parmesan, Swiss – all cheese can be left out for two hours. However, one must discard the soft while hard cheese can be refrigerated again.

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How Long Can Cheese Be Left Out?

Cheese at room temperature2 hours
Cheese in refrigerator6 weeks

Cheese is a dairy product that contains high levels of lactose and moisture. These factors, combined with the fact that cheese is left unrefrigerated, make it an ideal environment for bacteria growth. Cheeses high in moisture content, such as brie and feta, tend to spoil more quickly than hard cheeses like cheddar or Parmesan.

Cheese left out on a plate will be fine for about two hours or so, but refrigerated cheese can stay good for up to two weeks. However, the quality of the cheese diminishes the longer it stays out.

As soon as one is done serving cheese, store it in the refrigerator to ensure that one enjoys the cheese at its best. According to the USDA, one should store cheese in either the refrigerator or freezer. 

Freezing is good if one is not eating it for a while–one can maintain its quality for months according to their guidelines.

It would take about 3-6 months of storage at the right temperature or below before noticing signs like mold growth and flavor changes that shift to sour notes; 10-12 weeks before behavioral changes like softer texture; and 6-8 weeks before salt breaks down. 

Most types of cheese will start to develop a sour smell and taste after 2-4 days at room temperature. If one notices any signs of spoilage, it is best to discard the cheese immediately. One can also freeze the cheese for up to 6 to 9 months.

Overall, cheese can be left out for a short period, but it is not recommended. 

Why Would Cheese Be Left Out For So Long?

The cheese will spoil if it is left out for an extended period, making the cheese unsafe to eat. One should store cheese in the fridge to stay fresh for a longer period.

There are a few potential reasons why cheese might be left out for an extended period. The first possibility is that the cheese may have spoiled and the person forgot about it. 

Another possibility is that the person who left the cheese out was not going to eat it and was waiting until it went bad to dispose of it properly. 

Lastly, it’s possible that the person who left the cheese out did not have a fridge or storage container to put it in and had to leave it out on the counter.

An example would be that the cheese might have been exposed to high temperatures, which would make it inedible. Additionally, if the cheese is not stored in a cold environment, it will spoil more quickly. Finally, if too much moisture is present in the environment where the cheese is stored, it will also spoil more quickly.

As cheese ages, it develops a stronger flavor and a harder texture. Due to this reason, most people prefer to eat younger cheeses. However, if left out for an extended period, cheese can go bad and develop unpleasant flavors or even dangerous bacteria.

Therefore, it’s important to store cheese in a cool, dry place and discard any cheese that has expired or developed an off-flavor.


Cheese is a high-fat, high-calorie food and should be eaten in moderation. It packs a lot of protein, calcium, and vitamin B12. It also contains some zinc and magnesium. 

Overall, people leave cheese outside because the cheese is no longer edible and needs to be disposed of. Another reason could be that the person who was supposed to remove the cheese from the fridge forgot about it and it spoiled. 

Cheese can last for a while outside of the fridge, but it will spoil if it is left out for too long. When cheese spoils, it will start to smell bad and become moldy.



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Hi! I'm Nidhi.

Here at the EHL, it's all about delicious, easy recipes for casual entertaining. So come and join me at the beach, relax and enjoy the food.

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