Yep, you can eat the rind of any soft-ripened cheese like Brie or Camembert. But just so you know: Sometimes it won’t taste so good.

“Soft cheese bruises like an apple,” says Maxx Sherman, director of national sales for the Marin French Cheese Company, which makes a number of soft cheeses in Petaluma, California. “If the cheese is mishandled and bruised, it’ll have spots that are mocha-colored and ammoniated.”

But even a cheese that hasn’t suffered any mishaps can have a rind that doesn’t taste very good, Sherman says, depending on how it’s been ripened. Mass-produced cheeses are laid on racks, and the mold culture that ripens the cheese is misted. The cheeses ripen from the outside in, and by the time the center is soft, the outside is likely to be a little overripe and stinky.

But cheese that’s made with more care has mold culture applied to the outside and the inside, so it ripens more evenly. Sherman says that when you eat a good rind, “it sort of crumples a little, has a nice little crush in your teeth, maybe [tastes] a little bitter, and then you sink into the interior and it’s soft and sweet from the milk.”

So how do you know whether you’re getting a good cheese or a literal stinker? If the rind looks good, smells good, and tastes good when you sneak a surreptitious pinch, go for it. If not, Sherman says you can lessen the reek by letting the cheese sit for a half-hour out of its packaging, to let the ammonia dissipate a little.

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