Who does not relish mac and cheese? Mac and Cheese are known for their rich texture and delicious taste that literally melts in your mouth. But have you ever wondered that does mac and cheese go bad?
Mac and Cheese, rather, is an easily perishable dish with many rich ingredients like cream cheese, milk, mayonnaise, etc. Although these sauces are rich in preservatives, they can still go bad and cause food poisoning. If kept at room temperature, bacteria can easily grow in food items containing moisture and rich ingredients.
Therefore, if you are an ardent fan of mac and cheese and wish to make it store and last longer, this article is for you.!! We guide you through identifying if your mac and cheese have gone bad and how you can store it easier to prevent it from spoiling faster.
Read on to find out!!
Does Mac and Cheese Go Bad?
Yes, mac and cheese do go bad. As we all know, mac and cheese are available in different forms, each with its shelf life. They all come with a best-before date provided by the manufacturer, after which it is rendered “not good” for consumption.
The good news is; it does not go bad right after the best-before date, and you can still store it for longer. But, the longer you store it, the more the quality of the mac and cheese deteriorates.
Therefore, our article is a must-read for all those mac and cheese lovers who wish to relish their favorite dish for longer without hampering its safety and quality.
How long do mac and cheese last?
Truth be told, mac and cheese can last for a fairly long time. Whether dried, cooked, and ready-to-eat or frozen mac and cheese, each has its shelf life.
If you check the mac and cheese packaging, it usually comes with a “best before” or “use by” date provided by the manufacturer. This means that if you cook and consume it before the given date, it is totally safe and edible.
However, it does not entirely expire after the best-before date has passed. You can still use the mac and cheese, but it may not taste that great, and the quality may deteriorate. Whether you would still want to consume the mac and cheese ultimately depends on your judgment and preference.
On a safer note, we would not advise consuming it after the “expiry date” or “best before” date.
Below is a table that will help you give an approximate shelf life of mac and cheese in different forms:
|Lifespan in Pantry||Lifespan in Refrigerator||Life Span in Freezer|
|Dry/Powdered Mac and Cheese||Up to best before date and/or additional 3 months (if conditions favor)||Up to 6 months||Up to 1-year|
|Cooked Mac and Cheese||Not recommended||3 – 4 days||2-3 months|
|Frozen Mac and Cheese||Not recommended||Not recommended||Best before date and/or additional 2-4 months (if conditions favor)|
Mac and Cheese – Best Buy and Use Before Date Difference (mention here)
Different types of mac and cheese
How to tell if Mac and Cheese have gone bad?
One of the easiest ways to determine if your mac and cheese have gone bad is through smell and sight. If it smells awful, has an off-color, or has developed molds or fungus, it’s time to throw the mac and cheese away. Be it cooked or powdered or frozen mac and cheese, the quality eventually deteriorates once it has passed its best-before date.
But if you still want to give it a try, then here are some tips for identifying if it has really gone bad or if it is safe to consume:
Dried Mac and Cheese
In the case of dried mac and cheese, the dried cheese powder comes in a separate packet, and the pasta comes in a separate packet. So for the dried versions, you should treat both these components separately and check each item individually.
First comes the powdered and dried cheese. Once you open the packet, the powder is spoilt and not fit for use if you get an off-and-rancid smell. It is difficult to describe what rancid items smell, but it is not pleasant, indicating that you need to discard the powder immediately.
Secondly, if the powder appears clumpy and is stuck together, it has caught moisture and is not to be used anymore.
The other way of checking is through color. Cheese powder ideally appears to be bright orange. If the color appears slightly darker or the powder has black/brown/green granules, it has developed molds or fungus and is unsafe for use.
After checking the cheese powder, it’s time to turn your attention to the dried pasta. The good part is, dried pasta has a much longer shelf life. If stored correctly, it can last for more than 2+ years. The signs of spoilage are not very obvious, but they may start smelling too old and off. It can also start developing molds and fungus if stored in a high moisture area.
Dried pasta, if stored longer, can lose excessive moisture and become brittle. This is not exactly a sign of spoilage, but the cooked version may not look appealing, and the pasta won’t retain its shape and texture, making it appear mushy.
Cooked Mac and Cheese
Cooked mac and cheese is highly likely to get spoilt unless appropriately stored. It already has high moisture content with the amount of cheese, milk, and cream, which are easily perishable. To check, the best way is through smell and sight.
Commonly, mac and cheese are supposed to have a very rich and creamy smell. If it is nothing like normal, you must immediately discard it. Also, since it is prone to developing molds and fungus due to high moisture, if you see an off-whitish color or green spots on the dish’s surface, you must discard it!
Frozen Mac and Cheese
Frozen mac and cheese, if stored correctly, has the slightest chance of getting spoilt. However, it can get spoilt quickly if you cannot maintain the freezer conditions, like temperature, or if it is frequently removed from the freezer.
Typically, it may develop molds on the pasta surface and may start smelling off. Sometimes, excessive freezing can make the pasta too dry and brittle. You can still use it, but you won’t get the desired texture again.
If you see an off-color on the pasta or the cheese powder, discard it immediately. Even if the cheese powder has dark granules, it has developed molds and should be discarded immediately.
Risks of consuming spoilt mac and cheese (mention here)
Tips for handling and storing Mac and Cheese
Be it any form of mac and cheese, dried, cooked, or frozen; if stored correctly, it can stay well until its best-before date. In fact, you can use it even after that. Here are some tips you would want to follow to enjoy your mac and cheese guilt-free:
Store in a cool, dry place
This technique applies especially when it’s a dried form of mac and cheese. Storing in a cool, dry place ensures that the mac and cheese are away from moisture and molds. Most retail stores and supermarkets store them in a dry place to keep their shelf life intact.
If you have an open packet of dried mac and cheese to be reused, you can seal it and store it in a dry place like your store room, which is not humid or damp. You could also keep it in the refrigerator, where it will remain dry for quite some time.
Vacuum sealing is the best way to store dried mac and cheese. You will need airtight jars and a vacuum sealing machine. The investment is expensive but worthwhile because it works for many food items besides mac and cheese.
Just place the cheese powder and fill the airtight jar right up to the brim with pasta. Now place the lid on top and seal it using a vacuum sealer. This retains the quality of the pasta for a longer time and also locks out moisture and bugs in the jar.
If you plan to place the mac and cheese in your storeroom or kitchen cabinet, then vacuum sealing is one of the best ways out!
How to store Frozen mac and cheese?
If you have purchased frozen mac and cheese from the store, make sure to place it immediately in the freezer after getting home. That way, the contents do not hold excessive moisture and have fewer chances of getting spoilt faster.
Even if you want to cook or reheat only a specific quantity, remove the necessary amount and put the rest in the freezer immediately.
For safer storage inside your freezer, you could also use an airtight container to store your frozen mac and cheese. Even when the packet is opened and needs to be stored again, an airtight container always helps and does not allow unnecessary moisture, unwanted smells, and molds.
How to store cooked mac and cheese?
Cooked mac and cheese is subject to spoiling quickly. Therefore, it’s best to consume it as soon as possible. However, by storing it in a refrigerator, you can make it last for up to a week. Just toss the leftover mac and cheese into an airtight container and reheat it before consuming.
You can also toss it into the freezer if you want it to last a little longer.
Pro Tip: If you have excess cooked mac and cheese that needs to be stored, you can batch it into smaller portions and place them in airtight containers. That way, you can ensure that only the necessary amount is exposed to normal temperatures and that the whole batch of mac and cheese is not affected.
Reheating and cooking mac and cheese to ensure safety and quality. Food thermometer to check the temperature or for killing harmful bacteria.
Recommended cooking times for different types of mac and cheese
FAQs Mac & Cheese shelf life and storage
Can mac and cheese cause food poisoning?
Yes. Mac and cheese are made of rich ingredients like milk, cream, cheese, etc., all of which can quickly develop molds or bacteria, making them easily perishable. Especially if you leave it at room temperature, bacteria can rapidly multiply between temperatures of 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This can cause food poisoning or Salmonella infections.
How long is it safe to leave mac and cheese out?
Mac and cheese can sit at room temperature for up to 2 hours. After which it is dangerous to consume it as it can rapidly develop bacteria and molds. These bacteria thrive at high temperatures and multiply within food rendering it unfit for use.
Answer: If the surrounding temperature exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the mac and cheese should not be left out for longer than one hour.
Is it safe to eat expired mac and cheese?
Maybe. If you have consumed expired mac and cheese by mistake, small quantities are still ok and may not cause much harm. However, if you have eaten an entire bowl of expired mac and cheese, it can cause food poisoning ailments like gastroenteritis. This is characterized by diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, fever, and stomach pain.
To wrap up, we know that mac and cheese go bad. Luckily, there are some practical and easy ways of storing your mac and cheese.
First, you must identify if it has gone bad through smell and sight. If all seems well, you can store it using airtight containers, vacuum sealing, tossing it in a freezer or refrigerator, and relishing it for longer.
Different forms of mac and cheese can be stored in different ways. The powdered form is the easiest to store, and cooked mac and cheese is the most perishable form.
Read our article above and tell us which is your favorite type of mac and cheese and how you would prefer storing it to prevent it from going bad; in the comments section below.
Until then, stay cheesy, folks!!
Milburn Adler is a food enthusiast and connoisseur of wine. His area of expertise is food fusions and gourmet foods. He lives to experiment with new recipes every day and spends most of his day looking for fresh and exotic fruits and vegetables.