Sometimes, we buy something delicious, have grand plans to use it in the next few days, store it in the back of the fridge and then magically forget about it, only to discover it weeks later, past its expiration date.
With other fresh foods like meat or vegetables or even perishable dairy products, you wouldn’t even need to ask if it’s still safe to eat – the off smells and appearance will be immediately apparent and will let you know to stay away.
But what about in the case of cheese? That package of brie you bought months ago that is way past its expiration date, can you still eat it?
Can you eat expired brie?
Can You Eat Expired Brie?
Expired brie is safe to eat as long as there is no visible green mold, unusual discoloration, strong off-putting smell, and as long as the taste is okay for you. The expiration date printed on the package pertains more to when the cheese is at its peak or optimum quality to be enjoyed.
Can You Eat Expired Brie?
As with other soft cheeses, Brie is more prone to bacteria or pathogens that cause food deterioration and must be stored in the fridge.
The white rind encasing it is actually mold (the good kind that is safe to eat) and is introduced to it intentionally to help it ripen.
This mold protects it somewhat from other types of mold and pathogens taking over, which is why it is important that it be stored properly.
However, whether opened or unopened from when you first bought it, it continues to mature and develop the longer it stays in storage.
Expiration dates on the package are not true expiration dates, where past that, the cheese will not be safe to eat anymore. Rather, they are a guide as to the timeline when the brie is at its best quality taste-wise and texture-wise. That said, it is best to exercise caution and check for signs of spoilage, as with all types of cheese. (Read also: Can You Eat Expired Kraft Parmesan Cheese?)
Brie is aged in a controlled environment prior to selling and it will continue to do so in your fridge, although slower due to the colder temperatures.
If you forgot about it for weeks or months past the best-by date, it is important to inspect the cheese to check for unusual growths, smells, or textures. If it looks okay, smells okay and the taste is good for you, then it can be consumed.
However, the longer the brie stays in storage, the more it matures, and the more it may develop characteristics that may not necessarily be desirable.
Even if it is still safe to eat, the experience might not be something you will enjoy.
What is Brie?
A soft cheese usually made with cow’s milk (sometimes goat’s milk), Brie is a style of cheese that was named after the region in France where it came from.
Known as the “Queen of Cheese”, it is a soft, light, yellow cheese that is encased in white or grayish-white rind on the outside (known as “bloomy rind”).
This white rind is produced by the mold that is used to ripen it or develop its characteristic flavor, generally from a family of fungi called Penicillium camemberti.
This type of mold is perfectly edible and safe to eat, unless you have mold allergies, in which case it may cause sensitivities. Because mold is used to age brie, it is part of a group known as “mold-ripened cheese”, more specifically, external mold-ripened cheese, similar to Camembert.
Cheese that is ripened by mold externally simply means that it ripens or develops from the outside in. And no, this isn’t similar to the process of milk “rotting”. Read more at “Is Cheese Expired Milk?“
Brie is traditionally made with raw, unpasteurized milk, however, USDA regulations state that raw milk is only allowed to be used in cheeses that are aged for 60 days or more. If it is aged for less than 60 days, it has to be made with pasteurized milk.
Brie is aged for less than that time period, therefore most of the brie that we see sold or made in the stores here in the US is made from pasteurized milk, which makes them more shelf-stable and less at risk for pathogens typically found in raw, unpasteurized milk.
Because of its mild flavor, brie can be used in many different recipes. My personal favorite way to enjoy brie is to drizzle it with honey or maple syrup, top it with toasted walnuts and bake it in the oven for a few minutes until melty and gooey.
How is Brie Made?
Brie is made by adding enzymes and rennet to pasteurized or unpasteurized whole or skim milk to assist its curdling and then heated to the right temperatures.
The curds are then put into molds and allowed to sit and drain for several hours. After that, it is salted and sprayed with the good mold and allowed to ripen and age in a cellar or controlled environment for about 4-5 weeks.
It is at this stage in the process that the mold does its work by turning the crumbly cheese curds into a smooth, creamy dream, working from the surface of the cheese and slowly making its way to the inside.
The final product is that soft, smooth, creamy cheese that we all love.
How Do I Know If Brie Has Gone Bad?
Brie will continue to age or ripen in your fridge the longer you store it. The natural mold present will continue to develop it and bring about a change in its characteristics the longer they are left to work.
What we may think of as brie “going bad” is actually it going through a process of overripening, wherein the appearance, taste, texture, and smell change.
A process called proteolysis is also constantly happening, which essentially means the breakdown of proteins. This process is what the enzymes that the molds release do – they break down the proteins in the cheese that are responsible for its structure, and make the cheese softer and gooier.
The more that the mold is left to do what they do, the more proteolysis takes place, and the softer the cheese becomes. This process also causes the release of an ammonia-like smell.
If your brie has a strong ammonia smell, this process is the culprit. This does not make the cheese unsafe, it just makes it somewhat unpleasant for some.
So unless there is green mold growing on it, especially on the surface of the cut cheese, and unless it has turned hard or slimy or has an off-putting pungent smell, it is usually safe to eat. Now whether you will enjoy it when you eat it is a completely different matter.
At its peak, brie should be soft, creamy, and have a slight buttery taste. Its odor should be mild and a bit sweet even. If it is hard or if it is too runny and has an ammonia-like smell, it is likely overripe and won’t be that pleasant to eat.
Storing cheese in its original wrapping and avoiding plastic wrap and allowing it to breathe will help make your cheese palatable for a long time.
Green Mold on Brie
If you see green mold or any other colored mold on your brie other than the white mold on the surface, it is best to discard it.
Especially if it is on the surface of the cut cheese and not on the outer rind, it would be best not to consume it. Certain types of mold produce dangerous mycotoxins that can cause serious food-borne illnesses.
Mold on Soft Cheeses vs Mold on Hard Cheeses
In soft cheeses like brie, the appearance of unusual mold is a sign that it is unsafe to eat and should be discarded. You cannot just cut away the bad portion and use it as you normally would unlike hard cheeses like Parmesan.
This is because in soft cheese, the “roots” and tendrils in the mold easily pass through and mix in with the rest of the cheese and any toxins they produced may have already contaminated the whole portion even if you do not see anything on them. This is not something they are able to do as easily in cheeses with hard textures.
If cutting mold out of hard cheeses, it is best to leave at least a 1-inch buffer around the moldy spot and cut that off before consuming the rest of it.
To be on the safe side, discard your moldy brie and just get a new one. It is not worth risking a potentially serious food-borne illness.
What Are the Risks of Eating Bad and Moldy Cheese?
Brie and other types of cheese that have been made with raw, unpasteurized milk carry an inherent risk for disease-causing pathogens like E.coli, listeria, salmonella and Campylobacter. Being infected with these harmful bacteria can cause symptoms like:
- headaches and muscle pains
- stomach cramping
- neurological issues
Symptoms and infections can range from mild to serious and may resolve on their own or require hospitalization. Some cases may lead to death.
It may also be particularly debilitating and life-threatening for immunocompromised individuals like very young children, pregnant women, and the elderly.
The use of pasteurized milk minimizes these inherent risks and makes your cheese safer and helps it last longer.
While most mold is harmless unless you have mold allergies, certain types produce harmful mycotoxins which may cause serious illness.
It is best to store cheese properly and consume them within a reasonable time frame, and to exercise caution and prudence in consuming them to avoid getting a potentially serious food-borne illness.
Frequently Asked Questions to Can You Eat Expired Brie?
Can I Eat Moldy Brie?
Brie is a naturally moldy cheese that is safe to eat provided it is made and stored properly. If there is mold other than the one used to ripen it, especially if it is on the inside of a cut wedge of brie cheese, it is best discarded to prevent food-borne illnesses.
How Do I Store Brie Cheese After Opening?
Brie should be stored in the fridge at all times whether opened or unopened. Make sure it is properly wrapped in cheese paper and not plastic wrap as it needs to be allowed to breathe. Consume within a reasonable period of time.
Can You Freeze Brie?
You can freeze brie but due to its water content, the texture will definitely change after freezing and will make it crumblier. If you will use the brie in food that will be cooked, it will probably be fine, but if it will be for serving on a cheese board, you are better off not freezing it.
Conclusion to Can You Eat Expired Brie?
Brie that is past its expiration date can be safe to eat provided there is no unusual mold on the cheese, especially on the surface of cut cheese wedges. The longer your brie sits in the fridge, the more it will mature and develop, and change its characteristics.
You may get away with still consuming overripened brie if the texture, taste, and smell are fine with you, but if you are like me, I would just rather get a new one and enjoy it the way it’s intended to be enjoyed.