How long does mac and cheese last refrigerated? (5 factors affecting shelf life)
In this article, we are going to answer the question “How long do mac and cheese last in the fridge?” and discuss the factors that affect the shelf life of mac and cheese, what is the shelf life of cooked mac and cheese and to know if mac and cheese have gone bad.
How long does mac and cheese last refrigerated?
Macaroni and cheese, commonly known as mac and cheese, can last for 3 – 5 days in the refrigerator (1). However, the exact shelf life of cooked food, including mac and cheese, is difficult to predict, as it depends on many factors.
The ingredients, the cooking and cooling methods used to prepare mac and cheese, the hygienic conditions of the environment and the temperature of storage can determine if mac and cheese have a shorter or longer shelf life (2, 3).
What determines the shelf-life of mac and cheese?
The main factors that may affect the shelf life of mac and cheese are (2, 3, 4):
The ingredients used: while different ingredients have different impacts in determining the shelf life of foods, due to different properties and susceptibilities of microbial spoilage, the use of fresh and clean ingredients may favour the shelf life
The addition of preservatives: natural and chemical preservatives can act by reducing the growth of microorganisms and the oxidation of food, improving the shelf life
Cooling rate: cooked food should be cooled to safe temperatures of 70 °F (21 °C) within 2 hours and 40 °F (5 °C) within 4 hours after being prepared to prevent fast microbial growth or it should be kept at a temperature above 160 °F (70 °C). Long periods at the intermediate temperatures (between 5 °C and 70 °C) favour fast microbial growth and make food consumption unsafe
The hygienic conditions of food preparation: Good hygienic conditions, including hand washing, good sanitation of utensils and cutting boards, as well as surfaces, are necessary to prevent food contamination
The temperature of storage: a constant storage temperature below 40 °F (5 °C) is required to ensure the safety of cooked foods and temperature fluctuations in the fridge can reduce the shelf life of the cooked mac and cheese
How long does mac and cheese last?
The shelf life of cooked mac and cheese is about 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator and 1 to 2 months in the freezer if stored properly in an air-tight container, plastic freezer bag, or heavy-duty freezer container (1, 5).
Freezing is not recommended for cooked mac and cheese, as it can drastically and negatively affect the texture and flavour of the food (6).
The shelf life of uncooked mac and cheese is 9 to 12 months when kept unopened and stored in a cool and dark place (85 °F or below), free from moisture.
How to know if mac and cheese is bad?
To know if cooked mac and cheese has gone bad, it is necessary to be aware of the possible indications of spoilage. These include (4, 6):
- Generation of off-odours and off-flavours, that are unpleasant or unusual and characterized as alcoholic, acidic, fermented, rancid, putrid and fruity
- Generation of gas (bloating of container or package) or growth of mould, including colonies on the surface
- Changes in the texture, such as bubbling or formation of a ropy texture, drying of edges
- Colour changes, including browning and discolouration
Can you eat expired mac and cheese?
Yes, you can eat expired mac and cheese, as long as there are no signs of spoilage in the food, as described in the previous section of this article. As mentioned above, the exact shelf life of cooked mac and cheese can vary and depends on several factors (2, 3).
Given that mac and cheese can have a longer shelf life than predicted, it is possible to eat mac and cheese after the expiration date. However, it is not recommended to eat foods that have indications of spoilage.
Consuming spoiled food can be dangerous and lead to foodborne illnesses, hospitalisations and even death (4).
Other FAQs about Mac and Cheese you may be interested in.
In this article, we answered the question “How long do mac and cheese last in the fridge?” and discussed the shelf life of mac and cheese, what factors affect the shelf life of mac and cheese and how to know if mac and cheese have gone bad.
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