Moldy Brie Cheese

October 8, 2008 30 Comments

Moldy Brie Cheese

Can You Eat Brie Crust Even Though It Is Mold?

Bill Overton asked on my blog posting Learning About Cheese, “Can you really eat the mold on Brie? I’m always afraid to eat it, but I have a friend who knows a lot about food, who says it’s okay to eat”.

I’m not sure if Bill was referring to the outside rind (skin, crust) on Brie which is a mold in itself or if a mold develops on the outside skin. Let’s start by looking more closely at Brie.

Brie is a soft-ripened cow’s mild cheese that is said to have a bloomy rind. It gets its name from the town it originated in France. The outside casing is a white mold that often has an ammonia smell to it that makes it unappealing to some.

Brie is made much like other cheeses, that is rennet is added to raw milk, heated to the right temperature and then cast into molds and allowed to drain for hours. It is then removed from the molds, salted and sprayed with a “good” mold like Penicillium candidum. It is then aged in a cellar for four to five weeks.

It is during this time the cheese ripens from the outside in because of the mold that has been introduced to the surface of the cheese. As Steven Jenkins’ Cheese Primer says, “The bacteria slowly penetrate the interior, turning it from a chalky, crumbly, bland cheese into a soft, nearly liquid wonder.”

So Is It Edible

Absolutely! That is of course you don’t have any mold allergies. Most doctors would advise you to stay away from soft cheeses like Brie, Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Camembert or any other mold-ripened cheese if you have a mold allergy.

Some people ask, “How can you eat mold? Isn’t it bad for you?” Well it turns out there are good molds and bad molds. The mold used to make Brie and Gorgonzola will not hurt you unless you are allergic to mold. Other species of mold may produce mycotoxins that can be dangerous and make you quite sick. It’s why you don’t want to be eating moldy bread. You just don’t know what type of mold it is so it is better to get rid of it.

The other thing to consider is if you like the flavor of the crust. Some people think the white moldy crust on Brie has the most flavor. Others don’t like it at all and go right for the soft center. When I serve brie at a party, I leave the crust on and let my guests decide for themselves.

I asked Cheeseman Jack about eating the crust on Brie and here is what he had to say, ” It is really a matter of taste. There are those people who would never eat it and others who enjoy the texture and strong flavoring rind may supply. Washed rinds, natural rinds, should never be eaten.”

What About Moldy Mold Brie Cheese?

So let’s say you have some leftover Brie in the refrigerator that has not been rewrapped very well and it starts growing some green fuzz on it. Do you eat it?
Cut the fuzz off and eat the rest? Or throw it away?

Me, I’m throwing it out. I’m not taking any chances that the tiny little microscopic mold organisms with roots that burrow into the cheese are the “good” ones. I’ll get mad at myself for not properly wrapping the cheese up in plastic wrap or better yet in my vacuum sealer that is perfect for cheese but I’ll get over it.

With harder cheeses like cheddar or Parmesan or even semi soft cheeses like Swiss, Muenster or Asiago, I don’t have a problem cutting of at least one inch around the moldy area to save the rest of the cheese but I don’t mess around with soft cheeses.

When I asked Cheeseman Jack (who has forgotten more about cheese than I will ever know) about this situation, he had a completely different take on this. He says,

“Most molds that grow out on soft-ripened cheeses are edible. Normally on most available brie type cheeses you will not see any mold outside of the expected penicillin molds. On Brie de Melun you should expect red and greenish molds but this cheese is quite rare and your readers will not come across it. If they do, it is from a shop that knows what they are doing. So in conclusion either ignore the mold and eat it, remove the mold, or don’t buy it.”

Interesting but I’m still not eating it.

A Little Brie History

I just picked up a used book called An Illustrated History of French Cuisine published back in 1962 and in it they talk about Charlemagne’s (King of the Franks from 768 AD until his death in 814 and one of the first gourmands) first experience with Brie when he stopped by the monastery of Reuil-en-Brie to rest while returning home from a tiring day of battle with his Knights.

Here is what the author writes,

“The abbot ordered up from the cellars some of those marvelous cheeses the fame of which in later years was to spread far beyond the borders of Brie. Charlemagne and his knights feasted well. At the first mouthfuls, however, every one of them made the mistake of removing the crust. One of the monks respectfully called their attention to their error; whereupon the gentlemen abstained and willingly agreed that the advice was excellent.

“I thought I knew everything that could be eaten, ‘ exclaimed Charlemagne before the end of the meal. ‘It was only vanity on my part… I have just discovered in this cheese one of the most delectable foods imaginable. ‘ And he added; ‘I desire that twice a year a goodly quantity of these cheeses of Brie be brought to my palace at Aix-la-Chapelle… And I pray you to see to it especially that they have a good consistency and also a good crust!’ “

Last modified on Sun 15 December 2013 2:25 am

Filed in: Bloomy Rind

Comments (30)

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  1. Elizabeth E. says:

    Thank you so much for such an informative post! I am trying Brie for the first time and this was the first good bit of information that told me exactly what I wanted and needed to know about Brie’s moldy rind. THANKS!!

    • hector vega says:

      any mold like this on brie its not good for youre body and even gorgonzola which is rotten is not healthy for you either..thanxs and god bless

  2. Philip Greendyk says:

    I just opened up some Brie that was in the fridge for a little while and the rind had sort of spread out by molding onto the sections that it had been cut off of. I just cut it off and ate it – tasted great to me!

    Then I got a little worried just in case I wasn’t supposed to do that (although I do it to harder cheese all the time), so I stumbled across this site. Glad to know it won’t hurt me, but I’ll tell you – it tastes fine!

  3. Bess says:

    I bought some Brie on July 30th, it does not have an expiry date, it has not been opened, is it still good to eat? No apparent discoloration…Today is August 14th.

  4. RG says:

    If it hasn’t been open, doesn’t have any fuzz on it or doesn’t smell off, I would eat it. Saying that, you might want to ask the cheese person where you purchased it?

  5. Arwen says:

    I’ve had this Brie cheese for nearly two weeks now. I just opened it after a few days without eating it, and it seems that the is a white sort of fuzz on the left side of the wedge, its on the rind and cheese.
    do I cut it out and eat the rest or throw it altogether?? Help. I’m hungry.

    Hi Arwen, personally, I throw out all cheeses that have fuzz on them, but I have heard from some cheese people to just cut it out. They say cheese is basically a mold anyway. I suggest you make friends with your local cheesemonger and ask them what they would do. – RG

  6. Connie Navarette says:

    I’ve always wanted to try Brie cheese but was afraid I wouldn’t like it and it would go to waste. Recently at a wake I ate some and it was wonderful. My daughter is shopping for me in Albuquerque for our family Christmas festivities and at the top of the list was Brie cheese. I love this site it is very informative. Thank you for sharing.

    You are very welcome Connie and glad you are enjoying the Reluctant Gourmet web site. Do I have to ask or will you tell your friends about it. Thanks and Happy Holidays – RG

  7. Denise says:

    I ate some baked Brie cheese for the first time = Not knowing not to (since I have a penicillin allergy) I ended up with severe stomach pains and passed out — do not eat this if you are allergic to penicillin!

    Great point Denise. As I say in the post, “The mold used to make Brie and Gorgonzola will not hurt you unless you are allergic to mold. ” Can you tell us what other foods you have to avoid when you are allergic to penicillin? – RG

  8. Angie Petersen says:

    I have read conflicting responses on other sites about the ammonia smell to the Brie. The rind is pure white, and the cheese is a beautiful color, but the ammonia smell is throwing me. I have never tried this particular kind until tonight–Martin and Collet French Brie. I don’t know that I’ve had a French Brie before, but I do not recall it smelling like ammonia. Please help!

    Hi Angie, great questions about the smell of ammonia in cheese. I asked my buddy Cheeseman Jack Morgan from Downtown Cheese at The Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia and posted his reply at Stinky Brie Cheese – RG

  9. fifi says:

    This looks more like a Camembert than a Brie cheese. (hello from France)

    Bon Jour Fifi, I see what you mean, they look very similar. I think of Camembert as having a more textured exterior. – RG

  10. Ken says:

    I, too, have a penicillin allergy (once even required hospitalisation) and I eat brie, albeit in small amounts, with no ill effects.

  11. Jacque says:

    I love Brie cheese. I have never eaten the mold or even tried it because when I was a child I developed allergies to Penicillin due to the fact that I was treated with this for a long time after being diagnosed with Rheumatic Fever. I am now 56, live a whole foods lifestyle so cheese is a major staple for me. I have never had any problems with Brie cheese but I would not take a chance with eating the mold because of the Penicillin.

  12. martha says:

    Penicillin?!!!! I am allergic to penicillin, that is probably why I get tired and sleepy after eating Brie cheese which is one of my favorites

  13. Cathy says:

    Should the outer white “good mold” casing actually taste like mold? It’s just that I’ve heard so much about brie tasting so good, that I started wondering if it is actually supposed to taste like mold.

    Interesting question Cathy. Since the exterior casing on brie is mold, it should taste like mold but depending on ripeness, that taste may be mild or extreme. Many people don’t like the flavor of the casing at all whether it is young or ripe. When young, it is sort of bland tasting because it is made from pasteurized milk. When riper, it gets earthy tasting that many people enjoy but when it gets really ripe, it has an ammonia smell and in my opinion an off taste that I don’t care for. So to answer your question, yes, the casing should taste like mold but not all molds taste the same. – RG

  14. Amy says:

    I share the same issue as Diane, i am allergic to penicillin and had brie for the first time. The exact same thing happened to me! Past out and had horrible extreme stomach cramps. I found this site on my desire to find a answer to my issue. Thank you so much for sharing this info will us! Very appreciated!

  15. Cynthia says:

    It is Derby week here in Kentucky and our local Krogers had a recipe for a “Derby burger”, involving pears, Bourbon and brie cheese. I had never bought brie before yesterday, but I picked up a wheel of Private Selection (aka Kroger brand) “Parisian Style Lite Brie”. I noted that the sell by date was today but I am using it tonight. I opened the brie earlier to check it out, and the rind is kind of a patchy dull gray color and it smells like mold, but not in a bad way. By what you say, I am pretty sure it’s safe to eat. Especially since I don’t plan to eat the rind due to seasonal mold allergies. Am I right in assuming it’s safe??

    Sell by dates usually mean they just have to be sold by that date, not consumed but if you have questions, you should contact the manufacturer or the store where you purchased it. Not seeing, smelling or tasting the brie, it’s hard to say one way or another if it is safe. Go with your own instincts and if you don’t thinks it’s ok, don’t use it because you’ll be worried about it all night even if there is nothing wrong with it. – RG

  16. Gabrielle says:

    Hi Reluctant Gourmet,

    This question isn’t about brie in particular but another soft cheese. I just ate some Saint-Andre that tasted “off”–the smell was okay, kind of floral, but the taste was like gasoline, the kind of thing that could probably be described as an ammonia taste. The rind was not especial discolored, but the inside was the color of peanut butter. I’ve begun to flip out and have started worrying about dying of food poisoning–I have no physical symptoms right now, but I’m very worried. Do you know anyone who has eaten spoiled Saint-Andre and lived to tell? I was completely unacquainted with the cheese, so it took me a few bites to realize that the gasoline/ammonia flavor probably wasn’t intentional. I’d be glad to hear back from you.

    P.S. I forgot to mention that I couldn’t find an expiration date on the package. The cheese was put out by Ile de France and purchased at Trader Joe’s, if that means anything to you.

    Hey Gabrielle, not sure if this is a problem or not, hopefully you are still around to read this, but I would take it back to where you purchased it and ask them about it. I will ask my cheese expert friends and see what they have to say too. – RG

  17. Gina says:

    We had Fresh Asiago fondu tonight and I developed an alergic reaction in my mouth and on my tongue. I know I have enjoyed this cheese before so I was mystified. Turns out my husband included the rind in the cheese mix. Everything I’ve read said the rind is not edible. Do you know what it’s made of that may have caused such a reaction? Should the family be concerned since we all shared the great fondu?

  18. Kumar says:

    What if it is white mold growing on it in the place that have been cut?

  19. yeah, i wouldn’t eat it either–we’re not “real” cheese men, it seems haha.
    no seriously: typically the green mold, didn’t come with the cheese… so it would skeeve me out.
    Love your site!

  20. Paul says:

    My girlfriend did not eat the crust when we first met and I convinced her to try it. When she tried it she liked it, then I made the mistake of telling her it was mold and she would never eat it again after that.

  21. Glad to have found this site. Please tell me what you think? as I am a bit worried now . A few days ago I bought 4 wheels of French Brie that are on ‘best before’ date is today. The wheels are 1 kg each, and were normally $26 each, but reduced down to $2.50 each. Was so excited that I bought the 4 wheels. Upon opening, the mold rind was patchy and ‘deflated’ and not white anymore, more like a tan colour,and the inside was a lot more solid than brie, and the colour of pale peanut butter. It was also deliciously stinky, like sweaty socks- yum. Being a huge brie fan and an even bigger cheapskate, I got stuck in and made a coconut & mango and brie salad, and was delicious. I have put the rest of the wheels into the freezer, as cant possibly eat that much cheese at once. So asking: have I ruined the cheese by putting it into the freezer? And is it ‘normal’ and is it SAFE to eat since its not white and goo-ey anymore ? And if the cheese was left long enough, would it ‘morph ‘ into another stinky cheeze like gorgonzola? And, If I make a baked brie /mango chicken and rice dish with that cheese, who’d be game to eat it?Thanks for all your help 🙂

    • The Reluctant Gourmet says:

      Wow, that’s a mouthful Leanne. This one’s over my head. I’ll try to ask a couple of my cheesemonger friends and see what they have to say but in the meantime, I would suggest you go back to the cheese shop where you purchased them and ask one of their experts. I’ll see what I can find out.

  22. Leanne Keddie says:

    Thanks for your reply
    It was a supermarket RG, so no cheese experts there. It was a French Brie.
    The good news though is that I am still alive, albeit a bit snuffly due to the dairy (or the mould? who knows).
    I also suspect that I smell a little cheesy, I have eaten a lot of it over the last week since buying
    Had to throw the remains of the refrigerated one out this morning. The smell was a bit much, was stinking up the whole fridge
    It still leaves me the 3 frozen cheeses, which I can slice off a little at a time to use. Will be good to slow down for sure.
    Didnt ever think I could get sick of cheese !

  23. Tom says:

    The rind is the best part… It is a big waste to cut it away (unless you can’t eat it for medical reasons). I think the center part of brie cheese has little taste, the rind gives it a full flavor.

    Just my $0.02

  24. Michigan Guy says:

    I just opened some “Parisian Style Brie” from Kroger’s Private Selection brand that had an almost five month past “sell by” date of April 14, 2014 (that had been languishing in the basement fridge). It had speckling on the rind and it was a little darker and more ammoniatic than typical Brie, but I warmed it on some Breton crackers and mmmm mmmm mmmm, delicious. I’ve never tried the Parisian style before so don’t know if it has changed much, if at all, since it was purchased. I will, of course, follow up if I suffer any ill effects, but I think I’m good and the dogs are jealous.

  25. Javiwood83 says:

    Thank you for this post. Just got into trying different cheese to expand my pallet and I’ve had brie before but pre cut and prepaired. Was scared about the smell but this post helped. Can’t wait to learn about other cheeses. Today’s reading will just brie and its history. Thank you to everyone.

  26. Michelle says:

    Is there a way to buy Brie that has the crust already cut off? Maybe just me, but I found it a bit difficult to simply slice it away with a knife although it was easier the warmer the cheese got.

    Also, I have heard of baking Brie wrapped in a pastry puff dough. Have you done this and do you have a good recipe? The one I saw was for Brie in the pastry with a tablespoon or two of raspberry preserves. That CAN’T be bad!

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