Can you eat the rind?

Three half wheels of cheese with edible rind.

To eat or not to eat the rind, that is frequently the question.

This may be the question I’m asked the most. Whether it’s Brie or Gruyère, Pecorino or Délice de Bourgogne, someone is always asking. When it comes to cheese, can you eat the rind?

Well, the less-than-helpful answer is you can eat it if you can eat it. What I mean is this: if the rind is synthetic, don’t consume it. For example, if the cheese is covered in cloth, like some cheddars, don’t eat the cloth. If it’s covered in wax, like many Goudas, don’t eat the wax. Synthetic rinds are pretty much inedible.

Otherwise, cheese rinds are naturally occurring and can be eaten. Be warned, though. Just because they are edible doesn’t mean they are pleasant to eat! The rind on a wheel of aged Parmigiano Reggiano is completely natural and therefore edible. Bite into a piece, however, and you’re in for a lot of chewing on a rough, oily mass that is nowhere near the edible delight the interior of the cheese is! (It’s much tastier in a broth with tortellini and spinach.)

Natural rinds can be quite enjoyable to eat. Brie is a great example of a rind that is well worth sampling. It’s soft and yielding, with a flavor and texture that is different (yet complementary) to the cheese’s core. Camembert? The rind is totally edible. Aged Gruyère? Edible but not all that tasty. Vacuum-sealed log of goat cheese from the supermarket? Nope. You can’t eat plastic.

Rinds play a critical role in a cheese’s development, and are a part of it’s personality. Don’t hesitate to try even a tiny nibble of any natural rinds you come across. They will share another aspect of the cheese’s character. As for the man-made stuff? Toss it!

LearnAdam Centamore