There’s a little confusion when it comes to cheese, and it’s all about the exterior. Folks just aren’t sure if ― or when ― they can eat the rind.
Cheese is a beloved food, and no one wants to see perfectly edible cheese go to waste. We reached out to the experts at Murray’s Cheese in New York to get to the bottom of this tough problem. Here’s what Katie Kirby, director of marketing at Murray’s, said:
“We like to say that all rinds are edible, but not all are palatable. If you’re talking about a bloomy rind, a washed rind, a goat cheese or a blue cheese ― absolutely eat the rind. They are full of flavor! But if you’re talking about something like a wax-wrapped gouda or a cloth-bound cheddar, both rinds are food-safe ― so they CAN be eaten, but they aren’t necessarily enjoyable.”
In other words, yes you can eat this whole, entire wheel of Brie cheese.
Sure, you can just dig around the inside of a Brie round and leave the rind behind, but you don’t have to. Cheeses with soft rinds like Brie, Camembert and certain goats ― often referred to as bloomy rinds ― are more than edible. Some would even say that the rind adds a flavor that makes the cheese great.
The bloomy rind is naturally made from a combination of mold, yeast or a yeast-like fungus that “blooms” into little flowers on the exterior and eventually forms a cohesive skin. The live rind breaks down the cheese on the interior, making it creamy and dreamy. In other words, we have the rind to thank for the cheese itself.
Now, a cheese with a tough exterior, like Parmesan, is another story entirely.
Parmesan is edible all the way through ― and in fact, it’s been found that the tastiest part of Parmesan is closest to the rind ― but that doesn’t mean the whole thing is enjoyable to eat. The rind can get tooth-breakingly tough, almost not worth it. (Save those rinds for making stock!) Just make sure any wax or cloth is removed from these cheeses before you give the rind a nibble. While they are food safe ― according to Kirby ― they’ll likely detract from your cheese-eating experience. (In other words, they don’t taste good; even though they’re safe, they aren’t meant to be eaten.)
Any rinds softer than Parm’s are also good to eat ― like some of the (in)famous barnyard-smelling cheeses classified as washed-rind cheeses ― no matter how stinky they might be.
So just remember, when it comes to rind, if it’s soft and creamy, don’t be shy. If it’s hard as a rock, bite cautiously. And always, always trust your tongue. Because after all, it’s all about how good the cheese (and its rind) tastes to you.