Can you eat expired Mac & Cheese?
In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat expired Mac & Cheese?”, and how to tell If Mac & Cheese has gone bad?
Can you eat expired Mac & Cheese?
Yes, you can eat expired Mac & Cheese. Kraft Mac & Cheese comes with a ‘Best-by’ or ‘Use-by’ date instead of an expiry date.
In general, macaroni and cheese mixes can be stored for 9-12 months maintaining its quality (2).
This is an indicator of quality and not safety. The product will not taste the same past this date. The cheese often becomes stale and loses its flavor.
Before making old Kraft Mac & Cheese, check the package for any organic growth, bugs, or unusual flavors and colors before consuming.
If the cheese powder is hardened into a brick, throw it away. It is because the cheese powder absorbs moisture over time due to a porous package.
Many canned and boxed products are safe to eat long after the date on the container and the shelf life of refrigerated and frozen foods can be extended if they are handled properly. Once a perishable item is frozen, it doesn’t matter if the date expires — foods kept frozen continuously are safe indefinitely, though the quality slowly deteriorates over time (2). According to the USDA, packaged foods (cereal, pasta, cookies) will be safe past the ‘best by’ date, although they may eventually become stale or develop an off flavor. You’ll know when you open the package if the food has lost quality. Many dates on foods refer to quality, not safety (3).
Macaroni and cheese mixes are processed food. Findings from a nationally representative cross-sectional sample of UK adults show that higher consumption of ultra-processed food is associated with greater BMI, waist circunference and odds of being obese. It was identified as a dose-response relationship with a 10% increase in the consumption of ultra-processed foods being associated with a 18% and 17% increase in the prevalence of obesity in men and women, respectively (1).
How to store Mac & Cheese?
- If your homemade Mac & Cheese are to be consumed within a few days, It can be kept in the fridge. Before refrigerating, let the Mac & Cheese come down to room temperature.
- If you will not be consuming your Mac & Cheese within a week, freezing it is a good option.
- Boxed dry-mix of Mac & Cheese should be stored in a cool, dark, and dry place. A pantry or a kitchen cabinet works fine. For extended storage time, put it in the freezer.
- Frozen Mac & Cheese always goes in the freezer.
How to freeze Mac & Cheese?
Freezing macaroni and sauce separately is not a good idea. Because pasta will become mushy, losing its integrity and shape after thawing.
Store the Mac & Cheese in a freezer bag. Squeeze out the air from the bag and chuck it into the freezer. If you prepared some extra sauce, that can go in the freezer for weeks.
How to tell If Mac & Cheese has gone bad?
A food unfit for consumption may not necessarily be spoiled and may contain a high number of food poisoning causing bacteria. Microbial deterioration of food is evidenced by alteration in the appearance (color changes, pockets of gas/ swelling), texture (soft & mushy), color, odor, and flavor or slime formation. In dry food products, microbial growth is reduced due to low water content, and chemical changes not induced by microbial or naturally occurring enzymes may occur. These changes usually involve O2, light and other than microbial spoilage, are the most common cause of spoilage e.g. oxidative rancidity of fats and oils (5).
- If the dry mix of Mac & Cheese develops wet clumps or becomes moldy, it has spoiled.
- As long as the cooked Mac & Cheese is concerned, if anything is off about the texture, appearance, and smell of Mac & Cheese, throw it out.
How to make the best Mac & Cheese?
- 1 lb. dried elbow pasta
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups whole milk
- 2 ½ cups half and half
- 4 cups grated medium sharp cheddar cheese divided (measured after grating)
- 2 cups grated Gruyere cheese divided (measured after grating)
- ½ Tbsp. salt
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- ¼ tsp. paprika
- Preheat the oven at 325℉ for 15-20 minutes. Grease a 9-by-13 baking tray with butter or vegetable oil.
- In a large pot, add plenty of water. Add salt. When the water comes to a rolling boil, add dry pasta. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta water. Do not rinse the pasta. Toss it with some olive oil to keep it from sticking.
- Grate the cheese and divide it into 3 portions. Separate 3 cups for the sauce, 1 1/2 cups for the inner layer, and 1 1/2 cups for the topping.
- In a large saucepan, melt butter. Add the flour and whisk it well until combined in butter or until the mixture is homogeneous and sandy. Cook the butter with flour for about 1 minute.
- Then pour some milk while whisking the mixture continuously. When the mixture is creamy, add the rest of the milk while whisking.
- Keep whisking and heating the mixture on medium heat until it becomes thick and creamy like a condensed soup.
- Now remove the mixture from the heat. Finish off with spices and grated cheese. Whisk the cheese in while the mixture is still hot so that it melts and the sauce is smooth.
- In a separate bowl, mix the sauce with pasta. Pour half of this pasta mixture into the greased baking tray. Sprinkle with 1 ½ cup of grated cheese. Top with the rest of the pasta mixture.
- Top off the pasta mixture with the remaining 1 ½ cup of grated cheese. Slide the tray in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese has turned golden and is bubbling.
Mac & Cheese variations
- Top off your Mac & Cheese with crispy and crumbled bacon. Toss it in the pasta mixture if you like.
- If you do not have an oven, you can make Mac & Cheese on the stovetop. Once the sauce is ready, add cheese. Do not thicken it too much. Add the pasta to it. Toss and serve warm.
Other FAQs about Mac and Cheese that you may be interested in.
Does kraft mac and cheese have pork in it?
Can you freeze Costco mac and cheese?
Can you cook Mac and Cheese without milk?
In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat expired Mac & Cheese?”, and how to tell If Mac & Cheese has gone bad?
- Rauber, Fernanda, et al. Ultra-processed food consumption and indicators of obesity in the United Kingdom population (2008-2016). PLoS One, 2020, 15, e0232676
- Shelf Life of Food Bank Products. Carnegie Mellon University.
- Gravely, M. Before You Toss Food, Wait. Check It Out! Food Safety and Inspection Service. USDA. 2022.
- Raab, Carolyn A., et al. Freezing convenience foods. 2002. Oregon State University.
- Dilbaghi, Neeraj, and S. Sharma. Food spoilage, food infections and intoxications caused by microorganisms and methods for their detection. 2007.