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Are Cheese Rinds Edible?

The rinds on cheese vary so much. Are they all edible?
This is the second most frequently asked question at my shop, Cheese Plus. (“What’s your favorite cheese?” is first.) And the simple answer is yes—and no. It really depends on the cheese and your preference. Once while traveling in France I noticed many of the older folks at the table did not eat the rinds, stating that they really wanted to taste the pureness of the cheese. But I feel that much of the magic of cheese is what lies between the rind and the cheese, and in some situations the rind has so much flavor and character I’d hate to miss out.

But not all rinds are edible. Waxy rinds on cheeses like Manchego or gouda are there to keep the moisture in and the bad stuff out and therefore deliver no flavor or texture benefits. On the other hand, the rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano, while hard and dry, delivers big-time flavor and is a wonderful addition to soups and stocks. Don’t be afraid of the gray fuzzy mold on certain cheeses or the sticky orange stinky stuff either—it won’t hurt you. The mold is there to protect the interior of the cheese and to add overall character to the cheese. So let your taste buds guide you—try a piece with and without the rind, and decide for yourself.

Ray Bair

Ray Bair owns Cheese Plus in San Francisco, CA. Before opening his own shop, Ray was director of cheese, wine, and specialty foods for Whole Foods Market™. Well regarded for his travels across the country and throughout Europe, Ray is constantly searching to find the source of authentic and traditional cheese and specialty foods.