Shredded cheese from the shop doesn’t clump together, so it can be a surprise when it happens to your homemade shredded cheese.
And when you’ve spent a good few minutes shredded the cheese by hand, it’s disheartening to see all your work undone.
Luckily, I know a trick to stop this from happening.
How do you stop shredded cheese from clumping?
Coat your shredded cheese with a thin layer of corn starch. Corn starch works by absorbing excess moisture, which means the cheese doesn’t become sticky. It’s also flavorless, so it won’t affect the taste. Add 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch per 1 block of shredded cheese.
Pre-shredded cheese from the supermarket is rarely just cheese.
Usually, it’s coated with some sort of anti-caking agent: cellulose or potato starch.
Side note: yes, cellulose can come from trees, but it’s exactly the same as the cellulose in vegetables. You’re not eating wood pulp!
This coating repels moisture meaning the cheese doesn’t get sticky and clump together.
The shredded cheese may also contain preservatives like natamycin to make it last longer.
Now you know how the manufacturers stop the cheese from coagulating, you can do the same!
Cornstarch is an ingredient most people have at home and does the same job as cellulose.
- Sprinkle in some corn starch to your shredded cheese. 1-2 tablespoons per block of cheese is enough. You only need to coat the cheese very finely
- Shake the cheese and corn starch mix to ensure an even coverage
- Store the cheese in the refrigerator or the freezer
If you don’t have any cornstarch, you can substitute it with regular flour.
And don’t worry about taste. The cornstarch won’t alter the cheese’s flavour at all because you use so little of it.
Will adding cornstarch prevent my shredded cheese from melting?
This is a common but unwarranted worry.
Cellulose and potato starch inhibit melting so pre-packaged cheese isn’t the best choice if you’re going to use it in a sauce.
But cornstarch is different and doesn’t have the same inhibiting effects.
Cornstarch (or flour) will actually aid the melting process, not hinder it!
If you look up a recipe for a cheese sauce, it might even recommend adding cornstarch as ‘insurance against clumping’.
Store the cheese in an airtight container (not a ziploc bag)
This ones an easy swap to make, but one you might not have considered.
In a plastic bag, all the cheese is piled up. The cheese at the bottom is likely to clump from the pressure. A bag is also at risk of being squished if something falls on it or you accidentally push it to the back of the fridge.
In a container, you have more space to spread the cheese out and there’s less pressure. Plus, the hard exterior means it doesn’t matter if you need to put something on top of the cheese. It’s much more protected.
If you have a lot of space (extra air) at the top of your container place a layer of plastic wrap over the cheese. This will reduce air contact and help the cheese keep for longer.
Freeze the cheese
The freezer isn’t an option for every type of cheese (I list what cheeses you can and can’t freeze later on), but it is useful if you want to shred a lot of cheese in one go and save it.
Freezing the cheese will harden it and prevent it from clumping together. It will also increase its shelf life (unless it’s parmesan, which has a really long shelf life in the refrigerator anyway).
But, there’s a caveat.
Freezing cheese will alter its texture. I wouldn’t recommend freezing your cheese if you want to use it for a cheeseboard, or in a sandwich or salad.
But if you’re going to melt the cheese for use in a sauce, or on a pizza then go ahead and freeze it. Any changes in its texture won’t be noticeable once you’ve melted the cheese.
To freeze shredded cheese:
- Lay the shredded cheese out on a baking tray and place it in the freezer for an hour (flash freezing)
- Once frozen, put the cheese into an airtight container and put it in the freezer
- The cheese will last 2-3 months before the quality starts to deteriorate
Since shredded cheese is so thin, there’s no need to defrost the cheese before you use it. You can chuck it straight from the freezer into whatever dish you’re preparing.
If you want to be extra cautious, you can also coat the cheese in a thin layer of corn starch before you freeze it.
Which cheeses are suitable for freezing?
As a general rule of thumb, harder cheeses have less water content so are better able to handle being frozen. An exception to this rule is parmesan, which will keep well in the fridge for up to a year, so there’s little point in freezing it.
Softer cheeses don’t fare as well.
Here are some examples.
|Cheese you can freeze
|Cheese you shouldn’t freeze
Related: Can You Freeze Parmesan Cheese?
How to stop cheese clumping as you shred it
Your quest to get perfectly separated cheese begins as soon as you start shredding it.
Here’s what you need to do to prepare and make sure your cheese doesn’t end up as a solidified lump under the grater.
Chill the cheese before you shred it
Put your block of cheese in the freezer for 30 minutes before you shred it.
The freezer hardens the cheese, meaning it’s less likely to smear and get stuck together.
Be careful not to forget about the cheese in the freezer because if it completely freezes it will alter the texture.
Coat your cheese grater in flavorless cooking oil
Time is of the essence when you’re shredding cheese.
The longer you leave the cheese out of the refrigerator, the warmer it will get. Warm cheese will quickly clump.
A few sprays of cooking oil on the grater means the cheese can slide easily over the holes.
This will make the whole process a lot quicker. Not to mention easier!
Use the large holes
Another trick to speed up the shredding process is to use the largest holes on the grater.
Yep, that’s it for this one. Short and sweet (just like the shredding process when you use the large holes).
Shred the cheese onto wax paper
You’ve shredded all your cheese onto the counter.
But you didn’t consider how you’d move it into its storage container. So now you have to use your hands to scoop it up and transfer it.
You can try to be light-handed, but it’s inevitable you’ll end up squishing some of the cheese together.
Shredding the cheese onto wax paper is a MUCH better idea.
Once you’re done shredding, the wax paper makes it really easy for you to transfer the cheese into its storage container. You don’t have to handle it at all.
Simply lift the wax paper up by its corners to make a funnel, and slide the cheese off it.
Other cheese storage tips
Keep the cheese in the crisper draw
Cheese loves humidity. It helps the cheese to breathe.
The crisp drawers are the most humid part of a refrigerator, so the cheese should live in there.
The draws also have a nice stable temperature (cheese does best stored between 35 and 45 degrees) which prolongs the cheese’s life.
Keep the cheese away from strong-smelling foods
Cheese will easily pick up other smells and flavors from pungent foods (including different cheeses!).
The tupperware will protect from this, but to be extra sure, keep the cheese separated from smelly foods.
How To Stop Shredded Cheese Clumping
- Airtight container
- Cheese grater
- 1 block cheese most hard varieties, anything you would normally shred
- 1 tbsp cornstarch regular flour works fine too as a substitiute
Use Cornstarch To Prevent Clumping
- Sprinkle in some corn starch to your shredded cheese. 1-2 tablespoons per block of cheese is enough. You only need to coat the cheese very finely.
- Shake the cheese and corn starch mix to ensure an even coverage.
- Store the cheese in the refrigerator or the freezer.
Freeze Shredded Cheese To Prevent Clumping
- Lay the shredded cheese out on a baking tray and place it in the freezer for an hour (flash freezing).
- Once frozen, put the cheese into an airtight container and put it in the freezer.
- The cheese will last 2-3 months before the quality starts to deteriorate.