What Is Brie?

Brie Cheese
Peggy Trowbridge Filippone

Brie is a soft, creamy off-white or yellow cheese with an edible rind. It is made from cow's milk and is usually sold in small rounds. The cheese is often served at room temperature on a plate with crackers or baguette, and it is added to sandwiches and salads. The round can be baked in the oven with or without pastry. Brie is considered to be one of the world's great cheeses. It is simple and versatile, and it goes well with champagne, nuts, and fruit.

Original French Brie

True French Brie is a soft farmhouse cheese made from unpasteurized cow's milk. True French Brie cannot be imported to the United States because cheeses made with raw milk must be aged at least 60 days to qualify for U.S. importation, which would render the Brie overripe for consumption. The flavor of  French Brie is rich and fruity and has a creamy texture.

France exports a stabilized Brie that is available in the U.S. It is an excellent cheese, but to enjoy the famous French original, you'll have to travel to outside the U.S.

Domestic and Pasteurized Brie

Brie is made in many countries. In the U.S., domestic and international versions of Brie and versions that are made of pasteurized whole and skim milk are readily available. Bries made of pasteurized milk are somewhat milder in flavor that true French Brie. They are available plain or with herbs.

Brie Cheese Rind

Brie develops a natural, white mold on the exterior of the rounds. The white moldy rind is edible and delicious, and it is usually eaten. Bries made of pasteurized milk are inoculated to grow the mold. The cheese takes anywhere from one to three months to ripen, depending on the size of the flat discs. When properly ripened, the center of the cheese is soft and oozes as if warmed.

Eating and Storing Brie at Home

Refrigerate Brie in its original packaging until you are ready to eat it. Then take it from the refrigerator and allow about an hour for the cheese to come to room temperature for the best flavor and texture. After you cut into a round of Brie, it begins to lose quality immediately. Plan to eat it within five days. When cutting, use a long, thin blade. You can serve the entire Brie on a plate or cheese board or cut just a few narrow slices for a sandwich or salad.