What is Brie?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Brie is a creamy cow’s milk cheese named for the region in north-central France where it was first created. The cheese typically comes in a wheel, or round, and is protected by a thick, white rind. While the rind is edible, most cheese connoisseurs are more interested in the creamy center. The cheese will hold its shape if cut into wedges or slices, but is easily spreadable. Its neutral flavor makes it an excellent complement to fruits, nuts, and any number of different sweet or savory foods.

Brie goes well with nuts.
Brie goes well with nuts.

Early Popularity and History

According to legend, brie first became famous when it was declared “a delicacy” by France’s Emperor Charlemagne, who reigned from 768 to 814. Nearly a hundred years later, it was crowned “the King of Cheeses” at a European cheese-making competition at the Congress of Vienna. These accolades are mostly owing to the cheese’s uniformly creamy texture, its rich taste, and its smooth, even flavor.

Brie is a cheese made from cow's milk.
Brie is a cheese made from cow's milk.

Modern Production in France

Bries are made throughout the world today, but France remains the top producer. The most traditional French iterations are made with unpasteurized, or raw, cow’s milk. Most countries have restrictions on the importation of unpasteurized dairy products, however, largely for safety reasons.

Brie usually comes in a wheel shape and is coated in a thick, white rind.
Brie usually comes in a wheel shape and is coated in a thick, white rind.

Raw milk has what many call an unparalleled creamy flavor, but it also presents a higher risk for contamination. Bries destined for export — and many of those designed for commercial sale in markets throughout France — are made with pasteurized milk. Pasteurized cheeses have a very similar taste to those made with raw milk, but usually travel better and have a longer shelf life.

Brie is a creamy cow’s milk cheese named for the region in north-central France where it was first created.
Brie is a creamy cow’s milk cheese named for the region in north-central France where it was first created.

Protected Origin Certification

The term “brie” is considered a generic name for any sort of cheese made in the brie style. There are two exceptions to this rule, though. The names Brie-de-Meux and Brie-de-Melun are covered by what is known as a “protected origin certification,” and can only be used on cheeses made in the Meux and Meuln regions of France. This sort of protection is given to foods and drinks that embody certain regional specifications.

Cheeses made in Meux and Melun are not necessarily all that different from those made elsewhere in France or in other parts of the world, but they are regarded by many as the most authentic. Cheese lovers looking for a “true” or “original” experience often seek out products with origin certification.

How it is Made

Making brie is something of a complex endeavor, and usually spans multiple days. The basic ingredients are cow’s milk, some form of culture or starter, and rennet. Rennet is an enzyme found in young goat or calf stomachs, but synthetic versions are available in many places. Most of the time, it is the proportion of cultures and rennet to milk that determines the sort of cheese that will result.

Heating the milk is the first step, after which the cultures and rennet are added. Once everything has been absorbed, the milk is removed from the heat and left to cool until is “sets” — that is, until it becomes almost solidified, usually with the texture of a custard or thick yogurt.

Cheese makers then pour that solid into molds, which are pressed and strained over several days. Straining removes excess moisture, and ultimately improves the density and flavor of the cheese.

The rind forms when the molds are removed and the cheese is salted and set out to dry. Traditionally, this drying happened in caves in northern France. Today's global demand, as well as health and safety concerns, make cave drying less realistic today. Most modern manufacturers use temperature-controlled rooms or drying machines.

Serving Ideas

Brie is a versatile cheese that can be served either chilled, at room temperature, or warm. Baked brie is a very common appetizer, particularly when paired with bread or some form of fruit. The cheese is often eaten on its own, usually as an appetizer or on a dessert cheese plate, but can also be incorporated into pastas or baked dishes, particularly those featuring poultry.

Historically, brie was set out to dry in caves.
Historically, brie was set out to dry in caves.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Is it safe to eat a brie that has a sell-by date of April 2013 in July 2013?


You can get real, unpasteurized Brie in the US. Go to a good cheese shop that imports the cheese from France. I buy it all the time and as well as other unpasteurized cheeses from around the world.


Forget the laws, we want real brie!


Two excellent sources for Brie. One domestic on foreign. President Brand Brie is excellent and smooth tasting. Often you can find it on sale if you wait as it does expire. Buy it when at the cusp and enjoy your savings.

The other Brie which I use for presentation foods and guests is the Isle De France brand. This cheese is the original and stems from the microorganisms that created Brie to begin with. A mellow and smooth taste.

Brie is an acquired taste. It may rankle your taste buds at first, but this cheese is the Queen of cheese. Enjoy it.


What is the role of bacteria in brie?


I just bought a slice from a supermarket. I've never had brie before. I tasted it and it tasted kind of rotten. Am I supposed to wait, or throw it out?


According to the packet of Brie in front of me, it has 0.5g of carb per 100g. I'd say that was low!


does anyone know how long after outdated date that brie cheese is still edible. It is not opened.


How many carbs in Brie?


What is the material in the rind on Brie?? I've

eaten it for years and am alive to ask the question--what is it? bdc


What makes the rind on the brie?


most places like pizza hut, at least in the us, use mozzarella. McDonalds usually use cheddar. At least in america you cannot get veg cheese at any major chain restaurant. Only at specialty restaurants that cater to vegan and vegetarian consumers.


brie can be stored up to six months when uncut. if cut, it doesn't last that long, hardly even a day.


Brie? How is it made and how did it get its name?


I think all french cheeses are delish! But Brie is one of the nicest because it is so creamy and rich!


In India, we have got Pizza huts, Mcdonalds, US Pizza etc. but we don't know what type of cheese they use. I am a vegetarian and would like to have only veg cheese. Can you guide me?


I read that brie will just age until sliced into so I would just refrigerate it until the party.


I've purchased a brie for a party that has been postponed. It has a "sell by" date rather than an expiration date so I don't know how long I can expect the brie to remain edible. gwbz


"Although Brie is traditionally a French cheese, it is made all over the world, with the highest quality Brie coming from France"

This is a quote from your own article and I would not be presumptuous enough to disgree. However, checking of the World Champion Cheese of 2002 and the winner of the class22 award at the 2006 championships in Wisconsin might reveal otherwise. The cheeses came, of course, from Australia, but we're a modest lot and don't like to boast.

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