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Brie is the little black dress of cheeses. Unlike its funkier friends — we’re looking at you, Camembert — Brie is always a good idea, no matter how you slice, spread or melt it. Grilled cheese? Brie’s got your back. Holiday appetizer? Dress it up in puff pastry. Late-night snack, just between you and the fridge? You know what to do.
Here’s the thing: Not all Brie is created equal, so how do you know you’re getting the good stuff? Whole Foods Market global cheese buyer Cathy Strange took us behind the scenes of one of her favorite Brie cheeses, made by Cowgirl Creamery opens in a new tab, to get the lowdown.
Below, five things you should know about this buttery, creamy crowd favorite:
It’s a textbook bloomy cheese — and yes, you can eat the rind. There are three main types of rinds: bloomy, washed, and natural. Soft-ripened cheeses like Brie fall into the former category, owing their soft, white exterior to Penincillium candidum, an edible mold.
Don’t be afraid to squeeze your cheese. The top and bottom of your Brie will always be firm, Cathy says, so gently squeeze the sides instead. They should give a little when the cheese is perfectly ripe. Another cheese you should get handsy with? Good ol’ cheddar opens in a new tab.
If you like your cheese mild, look for a gooey interior. As Brie ripens from the outside in, you’ll notice creamy, almost liquid edges — otherwise known as the creamline — surrounding a dense center.
Think outside the cheese platter. Mild and versatile, Brie is the default choice for holiday cheese platters, but it really shines when paired with something acidic, like zippy fruit preserves, to bring out its creaminess. Hungry for more: Meet Gruyère opens in a new tab, another cheese plate crowd-pleaser.
Store your cheese in plastic wrap. Really. Many a cheese lover will tell you to never, ever use plastic wrap — but a little plastic, Cathy says, is key to protecting your Brie’s creamy interior. Wrap the cut side in plastic and then put it in a box to preserve the integrity of the rind.
Are you a fan of Brie? What’s your favorite way to enjoy it?