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Can you eat the rind on Brie, other cheeses?

Ever look at a fancy cheese plate and face this dilemma: Are cheese rinds safe to eat?

The short answer: yes, for the most part.

Rinds come in all kinds, and the edible ones tend to fall into three camps:

 

Rinds formed by a mold species

The rinds on these cheeses, think Brie and blue cheese, are an essential part of the cheese’s flavor.

 

 Flavor-based rinds

These rinds, which can include wheels of cheese rubbed with cocoa, Merlot or cinnamon, give an extra kick to a particular cheese.

 

Rinds formed naturally in the cheesemaking process

One example is Parmesan; they’re safe to eat but can be tough and chewy.

 

“Popping [tough rinds] in your mouth is like [eating] leather, but they can add flavor to your culinary dishes,” said Dean Sommer, a cheese and food technologist with the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research. Instead of eating them, he recommends throwing them in soups to add thickness and depth.

Cheese rinds that are not edible can be made from cloth, bark or wax and basically serve as containers for the cheese.

Bark

Bark should be easy to spy because well, it’s tree bark! Look for soft, decadent cheeses that can scooped right out of the bark container.

 

Cloth rinds

Cloths rinds can be spotted by their frayed edges, which appear when the cheese, typically Cheddar, is sliced.

 

Wax

While wax can technically be chewed, that’s not what it’s there for. You’ll find it on some Goudas and aged Cheddars.

 

“You would be surprised how many people eat the wax — which they can; it’s edible — but that can be the mistake of the host for not cutting it off,” said Tom Bivins, Vermont Cheese Council’s executive director. He recently gave Food & Wine the lowdown on rinds.

Rind savoir faire is more useful than ever because America is quickly catching up with Europe when it comes to producing cheese. Bivins has noticed an explosion of interest in rinded cheeses in particular, from Comte to Stilton to Parmesan Reggiano.

“People are asking more and more, ‘Can I eat this? What do I do with this?’” said Bivins. “One thing I generally tell people is the cheesemaker intends for the rind to be there since what happens on the outside of the cheese can help flavor what’s on the inside.”