Cooking with Dairy

Keep Dairy Products Fresh, Longer


How to Store Dairy Products

Properly storing milk, cheese and yogurt is critical for maintaining their safety and quality. Below are several food storage tips you can use to maximize the life of dairy products.

Refrigerator Food Storage

  • Store dairy products in the refrigerator between 35°F and 40°F. If you are not sure what the temperature of your refrigerator is, finding out is as easy as purchasing a refrigerator thermometer. Any dairy product that has been unrefrigerated for more than two hours is no longer safe for consumption and should be thrown out.1
  • Follow the “first in, first out” rule when organizing your refrigerator: Rotate items in your refrigerator so older dairy products are at the front and used first, while newer dairy products are put in back to be used later.
  • Store your products in the right location in the refrigerator by following these tips.

How to store dairy products also is important

  • When kept closed and in its original container, milk can maintain peak quality for seven to 10 days after opening.
  • Yogurt should be stored in its original container and be tightly covered. Doing so will help yogurt maintain its quality for up to 10 days after opening.3
  • Hard cheeses, such as cheddar, Gouda or Swiss, can last for up to four weeks after opening if wrapped tightly and stored in the refrigerator.2
  • Softer cheeses, such as Brie, ricotta or feta, should be eaten within one week of opening. To maximize quality and shelf life, wrap soft cheese in wax or parchment paper and then in plastic wrap.3
  • Did you know cheese tastes best when eaten at room temperature? To provide optimal flavor while maintaining quality and safety, set cheese out before serving, but only the amount you will use.3

Freezer Food Storage

Girl in front of a refrigerator

You also can freeze dairy products to ensure these nutritious foods do not go to waste, and help reduce food waste. When doing so, store dairy in the freezer below 0°F, and follow proper storage and thawing practices:

  • Label dairy products with the freezing date and rotate items properly so those with the oldest dates are used first.
  • Thaw dairy products in the refrigerator, and once thawed, use them as soon as possible.
  • Frozen milk maintains its quality in the freezer for up to three months. Freeze milk in an airtight container and leave a half-inch of headspace at the top. Because milk often separates when frozen and can lose its smooth texture, it works best for cooking and baking versus drinking. Be sure to stir and shake thawed milk well before using.2,3,4
  • Freeze yogurt in a covered airtight container and use within two months.4
  • For best quality, soft cheeses should be used within two to three months of freezing, and hard cheese within six months.4 Cut cheese into cubes or grate before freezing and place inside a heavy-duty freezer bag.4 Like milk, freezing cheese can impact the texture and taste, so it is best to use thawed cheese in cooked dishes such as soups, sauces and casseroles.2,4

Here are some delicious recipes to try with thawed milk and cheese:



  1. USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. “Danger Zone” (40 °F – 140 °F). Accessed June 6, 2016.
  2. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Keep Your Dairy and Egg Products Safe. Accessed April 15, 2016.
  3. Save the Food. Food Storage Directory – Dairy, Eggs. Accessed April 21, 2016.
  4. Garden-Robinson J. Food Freezing Basics: Freezing Dairy Products, Eggs and Other Foods. North Dakota State University Extension. 2012. Accessed June 6, 2016.
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