Cheeses – When Waiting is Required

Below is a list of many varieties of cheese, along with the times for which they are aged. A check mark next to an entry indicates that the OU’s poskim maintain that one must wait after eating that specific cheese before then partaking of meat. One should also wait after eating pungent cheese, even if not aged, as is explained in the article that follows the chart (see note 7). One should wait the same amount of time that one waits between meat and milk.

Learn more about kosher food at the Kosher Primer.

To view a updated list of many varieties of cheese, along with the times for which they are aged. See Aged Cheese List

Waiting After Eating Hard Cheese: Some Hard Facts

We are familiar with the rule of refraining from consuming meat after eating certain types of cheese. In Yoreh Deah 89:2, the Remo writes, “And there are those who are strict and do not consume meat after eating cheese (source: Mordechai and Beis Yosef in the name of Maharam; v. Tur Yoreh Deah 89), and such is our minhag, that we do not eat any meat, even poultry, after hard cheese. And there are those who are lenient, and one should not protest their practice, but they must cleanse and rinse the mouth and wash the hands (before partaking of meat after cheese); however, it is preferable to be strict (and wait).” This is the basis for waiting the same time period after eating certain cheeses before then partaking of meat that one waits after eating meat before then partaking of dairy. (V. Taz ibid. s.k. 4.)

The Shach (ibid. s.k. 16) explains that “hard cheese” as referenced by the Remo means cheese which has aged (approximately) six months. Poskim note that after eating pungent, strong-tasting cheeses, one should similarly wait before eating meat, regardless of the cheese’s age. (V. Taz ibid. s.k. 4.)

It is the position of the OU’s poskim (halachic authorities) that one need only wait between eating aged cheese and meat if the cheese is of a variety that is intentionally aged in production, such as Parmesan (must be aged in production at least 10 months) and Emmental (much be aged in production at least 6 months). One need not wait after consuming non-aged cheese that is then incidentally aged on refrigerator shelves and exhibits the same texture and taste as it should exhibit in in its non-aged state.

However, it has come to our attention that some non-aged cheeses, if left to age in their packaging, may acquire a meshichas ta’am – a very potent taste – which is one of the factors that requires a person to wait after certain cheeses. (V. Taz. s.k. 4 and other poskim on Shulchan Aruch  Yoreh 89:2.) Should a person notice that an otherwise non-aged cheese which has aged after production presents a very potent taste, or that it has acquired a brittle texture similar to that of aged cheeses, he should treat such cheese the same as regular aged cheese and wait the full period before consuming meat.

Notes:

1. As mentioned earlier and indicated in the words of the Shach, the six-month age is an approximation. The OU’s poskim thus maintain that cheeses aged within a general range of this period necessitate waiting.

2. American Cheese (“Process Cheese Food”) is not a true variety of cheese, as it is typically made from non-aged cheddar that is melted and mixed with additives, and is then solidified and molded. (American Cheese is the cheese industry’s equivalent of the hot dog; cheese experts often refer to American Cheese as “plastic”.)

3.  Asiago d´Allevo/Mezzano, Fontina, Kashkaval and Marble Cheese vary widely in terms of age, and, unlike the case with most cheeses in the list, there exist no specific names or descriptive titles that denote the ages of these cheeses. Consumers should carefully review the labels of these cheeses for any indication of age.

4. Although goat and sheep milk Feta can be aged in brine for up to six months, the effects of aging cheese in brine are quite different than the effects of aging cheese in dry environments, the latter of which is the predominant method of aging cheese. Cheese which ages (or “ripens”, in technical cheese-making terminology) in dry environments loses moisture and gains firmness throughout the process, thereby creating “hard cheese” for the purposes of waiting before consuming meat. Brine appears to largely prevent such textural aging from occurring. Although there is almost no halachic literature on the subject, it would seem that aging Feta in brine for six months would not per se engender a waiting period before consuming meat. However, aging Feta in brine can impact Feta’s flavor and could create a significant potency of flavor that would necessitate waiting before consuming meat.

5. Some foods that “officially” contain very aged cheeses are often made with less expensive, fresh (non-aged) cheeses. (Aged cheese is more costly, as potential revenue is lost while the cheese ages.) For example, eggplant parmesan is frequently made with cheeses other than parmesan; many establishments instead use mozzarella as the primary cheese here. Consumers are advised to inquire when purchasing such foods.

6. The Yad Yehuda (YYK 89:30) comments that one need not wait after eating aged cheese that has been melted (as the cheese’s brittle texture is lost through melting). Many poskim, including those of the OU, rule like the Yad Yehuda on this point. However, there appears to be a dispute as to which foods the Yad Yehuda’s comment pertains: 1) The Yad Yehuda’s comment was written in reference to a tavshil shel gevina (a pareve food which contains cheese, with the cheese indiscernibly melted into the food); many poskim therefore maintain that the Yad Yehuda’s approach pertains only to foods into which aged cheese is melted as an unnoticeable component (i.e. the cheese is not b’eyn). The OU adopts this approach. 2) However, the logic of the Yad Yehuda – that aged cheese which is melted loses its brittle texture and therefore should be treated like non-aged cheese – would appear to apply to any melted aged cheese, even if the cheese stands alone. Some poskim thus seem to apply the approach of the Yad Yehuda to any melted cheese; see Mesorah Journal v. 20, p.92, and see also Badei Ha-Shulchan: Bi’urim 89:2 d.h. V’ chain nohagin.

7. One should wait after eating some of the cheeses in the above list even though they are not aged long, due to their pungent taste (“meshichas ta’am”). The need to wait after these pungent cheeses is indicated in the list, although any cheese whose taste is noticeably pungent necessitates waiting. (An example is Danablu, which may at times be pungent, depending on the manufacturer and precise method of production.)

Rabbi Gordimer is a Rabbinic Coordinator at the Orthodox Union and is an expert in the kashrus of dairy products.