So, friends brought over a small wheel of brie for lunch today. I started talking about the "ripeness" and how you can leave it to sit for a while to make it softer and more ripe, similar to leaving fruit for a few days. Then I realized I had no idea whether what I was saying was true! But I knew who would know....
You are correct! If you leave it to sit out on the counter, and not refrigerate it, it'll ripen more quickly. I'm a little bit of a food weirdo, so I leave my brie out for a few days, but my kitchen is relatively cool.
And remember, ALL cheese likes to be eaten at room temperature. Why is that? Well, without putting you, dear reader, to sleep, I'll keep it simple:
"Tasting" food involves engaging your taste-buds, respiratory system and brain into detecting volatile organic compounds (aka "flavor") emerging from the food. These compounds are released at about room temperature.
To give you an even shorter explanation: Butterfat. Butterfat holds a lot of the flavor, and butterfat is solid when cold and unctuous at room temperature. You want it unctuous.
Now, if you are not a food weirdo like me, and you prefer to refrigerate your cheese, please keep a few things in mind when bringing cheese to room temperature:
- Keep that cheese wrapped! Or in a container of some sort! You don't want it to dry out.
- The time it takes for your cheese to achieve room temperature has much to do with the temperature of your room. Cooler room = more time. Hot room = not too much time.
- The time it takes for your cheese to achieve room temperature has much to do with the texture of your cheese. Harder cheese = more time. Softer cheese = less time.
- The rule of thumb is about a half-hour to a full hour, but you may adjust according to the two rules listed above.
One more important thing to remember: Even if left out all day, your cheese isn't likely to "go bad." Unless the cheese is something very soft and fresh like cream cheese or fresh ricotta, and you're keeping it directly in the equatorial sun, the worst that will happen is, the butterfat will become completely liquefied and rise to the surface of the cheese. It will look like oil because that's what it is. There is no need for alarm. Just eat the dang cheese, already.