Fresh mozzarella is incredibly good. In fact, it’s so good that my favorite way to eat it is ripped apart by hand and dipped in lemon juice and olive oil. It may not be very refined, but I promise it’s delicious!
But fresh mozzarella is one of the few cheeses that comes packed in water as standard, certainly the only one we use regularly. That raises a lot of questions when it comes time to store leftovers, and you’re likely to have some leftover after pizza night. Or really, after any time eating mozzarella. I mean, you never want to buy too little do you?
It really is the water aspect that’s confusing with mozzarella. I mean, as it comes in a bath of stuff do you need to keep some aside for storage? I’ll answer that and many more questions about how to store fresh mozzarella, how long it lasts and how to tell when it’s bad in the article.
Be warned, though, opinions differ on mozzarella. Real purists might tell you that a good ball of fresh mozzarella has to be eaten the day it’s open. That may well be the timeframe to get the absolute best out of it, but why eat more cheese than you want to. You can definitely keep your fresh mozzarella for a while in the fridge!
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Fresh Mozzarella vs Low-Moisture
There are two types of mozzarella you’ve probably encountered. These are fresh, and low moisture.
Fresh mozzarella is soft, white and comes packed in brine. You might find large or small balls kept in bags or tubs, or sometimes larger loaves though these are more often found in the context of catering.
Fresh mozzarella is usually used for traditional Neapolitan pizzas. They have thin crusts, which are cooked on the bottom but kept somewhat damp through the water content of the mozzarella cheese.
Low moisture mozzarella is also sometimes simply referred to as ‘regular’ in the USA. It’s made just like fresh, but soured for longer and then dried. It has a saltier flavor and melts better, giving off less moisture in the process.
Basically, in order to get all the moisture out of fresh mozzarella you need a really hot oven. But there is plenty you can do using the moisture in fresh mozzarella!
Does Fresh Mozzarella go Bad?
Mozzarella is cheese, so of course it goes bad. Soft cheeses have a high water content, and this means that mold spreads easily through the cheese. It can also get hard at the edges or grow a generally hard skin if you leave it exposed to the air.
As a fresh product, this kind of mozzarella is best eaten as soon as you can get to it but it’s also fine after a few days. If you want to eat it when it has gone just a little fry, then melt it in an appropriate dish and you’re unlikely to be able to tell the difference.
If you have fresh mozzarella you want to stay fresh for a while then you need to store it properly. There are a few ways to do that, and I’ll go into them in the next section.
How to Store Fresh Mozzarella
If you haven’t opened your package of mozzarella leave it that way. An unopened package of fresh mozzarella will last a couple of weeks in the fridge — in fact experts say it’ll be at a decent quality for 70 days after the production date (you can often find this on the packet).
If your mozzarella came in water or brine you can keep it in the same. It’s fine to simply save the liquid it came in, but if you haven’t done that then it’s best to try and recreate what it was in initially. You may have to dig the packaging out the trash to find out, but it’s the best way to make your cheese last. The ingredients list should tell you what your fresh mozzarella was packed in. It might say ‘in water’ or ‘in brine’, or just say water with a salt content.
If you keep your mozzarella in liquid, make sure the container it’s in seals tight. If you’re keeping the mozzarella longer than a couple of days then change the liquid to keep everything fresh.
When you can’t keep your fresh mozzarella in liquid then simply wrap the cheese tight in plastic wrap or keep it in an airtight freezer bag with all the air squeezed out.
Can you Freeze Fresh Mozzarella?
Make sure to freeze mozzarella cheese before it begins to go bad. Pack it up and put it in the freezer while it’s still reasonably fresh to ensure best quality once it’s defrosted.
You can pack fresh mozzarella in most airtight options. It’s best chopped and kept in tight plastic wrap or heavy-duty aluminum foil.
If you put it in a freezer bag be sure to squeeze out all the air. Avoid freezer burn by making sure there are no gaps in the plastic wrap and/or the container you’re sealing the cheese into is fully closed or else you might find the mozzarella suffers from freezer burn.
You can keep fresh mozzarella in the freezer for more than 6 months, however, it might start to lose some quality after month three. Mozzarella is unlikely to become unsafe in the freezer up to about a year, but it will lose flavor.
In fact, as soon as it has been frozen mozzarella may become a little grainy and possibly watery tasting. Use it in cooked dishes, though, and you’ll barely notice the difference.
Be sure to defrost mozzarella slowly over a few hours to keep it as high quality as possible.
How Long Does Fresh Mozzarella Last?
Kept properly in the fridge, fresh mozzarella will last 1-2 weeks. It’ll stay fresh longer in liquid, with the possibility of dry spots in just plastic wrap. But remember, dry spots don’t mean your mozzarella is actually bad, it may simply be a little past best and more appropriate for melting into a pasta, on a pizza or as a sauce component.
In the freezer, properly stored mozzarella can last 3-6 months.
How to Tell if Fresh Mozzarella Has Gone Bad
Fresh mozzarella can go bad in a variety of ways.
If you have packed it poorly or left it out, your mozzarella may simply go dry. A few dry patches or edges aren’t an issue, you can definitely still eat the cheese. If the whole thing is dry, then get rid of it.
As fresh mozzarella is a wet cheese, mold spreads quickly. If there is any mold visible on the cheese you should chuck it away immediately. You might not be able to see or taste it throughout, but mold is likely to be everywhere if it’s in one spot!
Before your fresh mozzarella gets bad it will begin to smell a little sour. It’s kind of like a sour cream smell. At this point, the mozzarella won’t do you any damage if you do eat it but it might not taste amazing!
Finally, your mozzarella may develop a sour or bitter taste. This is usually preceded by the sour smell, but if you miss that you’ll surely notice bitter cheese! Don’t worry, it won’t hurt you, so if you’re unsure take a tiny test nibble. Just get something delicious ready as an antidote afterward in case your suspicions are correct!
Using Fresh Mozzarella
As fresh mozzarella is wetter than the low-moisture stuff you’re probably used to it has to used carefully.
Fresh mozzarella is amazing in salads, or even eaten alone dipped in oil and lemon as part of a mezze platter. It also goes great in melts — for example a grilled cheese. And pairs perfectly with sweet and sharp flavors like balsamic and sundried tomatoes.
Smaller mozzarella balls are really great in pasta bakes, as they melt into individual pools of gooey cheesy goodness.
To be honest, if you love mozzarella you should be looking to the fresh stuff rather than the low moisture. Hopefully, now, you’ll have a little more confidence as you know the guidelines for when fresh mozzarella goes bad and how to store it!