Cheese Basics

Why brie smells like ammonia

Okay, so: Yes, Brie can smell pretty strongly of ammonia. Bloomy rind cheeses, like Brie are what we called mold ripened; this basically means that, during the cheese making process a mold culture is introduced and actually becomes the white colored rind of the cheese. In Brie’s case, the culture used to ripen Brie, while feeding on the cheese proteins, produces ammonia and the associated smell.

If the cheese is tightly wrapped in plastic and not allowed to breathe, or stored at very cold temperatures—such that the ammonia cannot escape—the ammonia build up is so great that there is a terribly strong ammonia smell and flavor.

Often times, cheeses that you buy in the supermarket will not be able to breathe like they would in a case at a cheese shop, so it is quite common to pick up a wheel of brie from a grocery store fridge and bring it home to be welcomed by a cloud of ammonia.

As with all cheeses, if the Brie is packaged in plastic shrink wrap you must repackage it as soon as you bring it home in something that better facilitates the exchange of gases like wax paper. The wax paper wrapped Brie should then be placed in a resealable plastic bag or container leaving an opening for air to get in.

Also, before serving Brie, you should leave it out for at least 30 minutes so that the ammonia can dissipate and the cheese can reach room temperature.

Is it still good?

If there isn't visible mold growth then it's probably safe to eat; however, if the taste is not to your liking, you should probably just throw it away and get a fresh wheel.

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  • NoPurpleFlavorAid

    Thanks for this info. I actually had never experienced the ammonia smell until today. I was ticked off, but wanted to check if it was common occurrence. Glad you have this explanation up.

  • Lilac

    I though that smell of Ammonia in brie perhaps so,thing like a smell of blue cheese. But we went to one French restaurant and for desert I ordered cheese platter. Brie had such a strong ammonia odor so I could not handle it…I should of ask the wait stuff who was serving us. Now I know that they just mishandled poor brie and did not even bother to take it out from the fridge. I ordered desert right from the start, so they had time to keep it out…Upsetting..

    • sorry to hear that. I think it depends where you go; if you go to a restaurant that has a large cheese collection they usually know how to store cheese and prevent any unpleasant experiences. Better luck next time.

    • First World Problem.

    • Zsaire Gable

      Blame safe food handling regulations for that!!

  • Lori Stewart

    Thank you for the tips! I was upset over the weekend as I served Camembert – warmed in the oven in the box which is delicious – but the ammonia flavor was not pleasing! And I bought it at a quality shop. It sounds like if I had set it out for a bit before popping in the oven it would have been fine!

  • Ashley E Cloud

    I have had Brie a few times before from a different brand, never smelled or tasted ammonia until today and I was really put off at first. I was going to go back to Kroger and fuss but I’m glad I read this first. I will leave my cheese out for a bit and also repackage it. I had literally just pulled it out of fridge, where it was tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and cut a slice and couldn’t figure out what that awful taste and smell was at first, then I’m like oh my god my food is poisoned with ammonia! ?? Thank you for this info and I enjoyed reading other people’s posts and experiences!

  • Zsaire Gable

    Cheese in France, as a rule is not refrigerated. They think we are mental for doing so in Canada. Cheese is meant to come to room temperature in order for the flavours to develop to be fully appreciated.

    • Peter Deluka

      I hate room temperature cheese like chedder (or when it sweats) but Things like parmigian are good.

  • macca

    I like the smell/taste of ammonia and deliberately look for cheese that emit it. Am I weird? Yes.