There is a wide variety of different styles of cheese, each of them with a unique composition and flavour profile. In this article, we consider which cheese rinds you can eat, which ones will enhance the flavour, and which rinds probably should be avoided.
What Cheese Rinds can you Eat?
Most cheeses have edible rinds. For example, all soft cheeses, which typically have a bloomy rind, and similar in colour to the cheese. Typically, harder cheeses like cheddar also have edible rinds. The rinds on blue cheeses can also be eaten and can enhance the flavour. However, it is best to avoid wax and paper style rinds, for example on a cheese like Manchego. These are things that cover the cheese, as opposed to forming naturally during maturation.
What is a Cheese Rind?
The rind of the cheese is the outer ‘crust’ or shell of the cheese. Whilst the cheese matures, the rind will form naturally.
Eating the cheese rind is very much dependent on your personal tastes. Although nearly all cheese has an edible rind, sometimes it can have a very strong flavour complexion. As ‘the Spruce Eats’ suggests,
“Allow your taste buds to guide you.”
If you like the flavour, great; however if the rind smells or tastes unappealing, do not eat it.
There are different styles of rind that form depending on the style of cheese.
Bloomy rinds typically form on white mould cheese (think Brie and Camembert) and are edible. The rind forms by covering the cheese with an edible mould spore known as Penicillium Candidum. The mould spores on the cheese react with the oxygen in the air. The bloomy rind forms quickly in the humid environment the cheese matures in.
If you prefer the strong, earthy flavour Brie or Camembert, eat the rind. This rind however should be avoided if it is starting to turn orange in colour, and has an ammonia smell.
Washed Rind Cheeses:
Washed rinds are the best style to eat! Why? These are man-made rinds, by washing the cheese in a brine solution. As a result, they are pungent, stinky and packed with flavour. Read more on washed rind cheese and how they are formed here.
Natural Cheese Rinds:
As the name suggests, rinds of this nature form naturally. This is because this styles of rinds are minimum intervention and are only monitored by cheesemakers. Most commonly found on aged cheeses, for example, Comte and Gouda, these are slower forming rinds. As the cheese matures, the outer naturally dries out in humid conditions.
This style of the rind is not preferred to be eaten, as it is gritty, hard and as a result often tastes a little like eating cardboard!
In addition, natural rinds are also commonly found on blue cheese. Natural rinds on blue cheese are a little more palatable as they have only had a few months to form. Therefore they enhance the earthy salty flavour of the cheese and should be eaten.
A French cheese known as Ossau Iraty is made with ewe milk and popular for its sweet, creamy and grassy flavour. After this cheese has formed its natural rind during the maturation process, the cheese is placed in the barn with the animals, straw and all.
Therefore it is best to avoid eating this rind!
Some cheese, like Manchego, ages in a protective wax coating. This particular wax is shaped and moulded to replicate the original baskets the cheese matured in hundreds of years ago.
Wax rinds are inedible. Remove the rind when slicing or preparing cheese to avoid it being eaten by mistake.