You’ve spent a pretty penny on your selection, you’ve built your perfect cheese board, arranged the crackers and the nuts. Small instagram-friendly bowls contain jams and honey. But do you have at least one knife per each hunk of cheese?
According to curd nerd etiquette, you should never use a knife on more than one cheese type on your platter. That’s because each and every cheese knife performs a different task. Just as a chef uses various types of knives for the job at hand, each cheese knife has its specific purpose.
I’m a cheese hoarder, and my cholesterol may be a smidgen above average, but I’m still a novice when it comes to cheese knives. My collection is growing slowly. I’m not a big fan of cheese knife sets, I rather like to buy individual unique pieces at specialized stores, or score vintage finds at antique markets and thrift shops.
So far, my most prized (and most used) cheese knife in my slim collection is my Nonna’s Parmigiano knife that’s at least 50 years old. The varnish on the handle has chipped and the blade’s been honed several hundred times over the course of its lifetime. Still, it’s the cheese knife that I use the most.
I recently invested in a Fondue pot. Next will be a raclette set. Who knows where I’ll find the space for these, but my cheese tool quest is unstoppable. But before we get into cheese toys, let’s address the basics.
Below is a list of the most common cheese knives going from those for soft cheeses to hard cheeses, with tips on a few cheeses they are ideal for.
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1. Soft Cheese Knife
Soft cheeses have a soft interior that can easily stick to the knife. To make a cleaner cut and keep the shape of the delicate interior you’ll need a soft cheese knife with a thin blade or with holes in the blade. A soft cheese knife is also called an ‘open work blade’ knife, and its reduced surface area keeps those sticky, creamy soft and semi-soft cheeses from sticking and losing their delicate shape. You can also use the holes to push pieces off of the knife.
- Features: Sharp edge, holes in the blade
- Ideal Cheeses: Brie, Camembert, Mozzarella, aged Taleggio or any creamified bloomy rind cheese
2. Cheese Spreader
A cheese spreader knife, also known as a spatula knife, is made for applying cheese spreads and creamy, spreadable cheeses onto breads and crackers. Looks like a larger butter knife.
- Features: Dull edge, rounded blade
- Ideal Cheeses: Robiola, Stracchino, Squacquerone, Chèvre
3. Slim Blade Knife
The slim blade knife features the least surface area which prevents soft cheeses from sticking to the blade. It is typically offset from the handle to provide room for the user’s hand to keep the knuckles from hitting the board.
- Features: Thin narrow blade, sharp edge, raised handle
- Ideal Cheeses: Camembert, Mozzarella, Burrata, creamified Taleggio, Brie and other watery, fudgy, bloomy or washed rind cheeses
4. Gorgonzola Knife
The Gorgonzola knife is similar to a cheese spreader. It is made for spreading creamy cheeses. However, it has a sharp blade to cut through the cheese rinds.
- Features: Rounded blade with one sharp edge
- Ideal Cheeses: Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Strachitunt, Stilton, Shropshire, the list goes on…
5. Pronged Cheese Knife
The pronged cheese knife, or fork-tipped spear, is a multipurpose tool that allows you to cut a piece of cheese and then cleanly stab your cheese slices or cubes for plating or serving. The narrow blade offers minimal surface area, so works well with soft cheeses that won’t stick, and crumbly fresh ones as well.
- Features: Upward-curled narrow blade, sharp edge (can be serrated), pronged end
- Ideal Cheeses: Brie, Camembert, Epoisses, Feta, Roquefort
6. Flat Knife
A flat cheese knife, or a chisel cheese knife, is used to cut slices off of aged cheeses by holding the blade vertically over the cheese and pushing downward. You can then use the sharp end to cut the pieces down even further.
- Features: Wide flat paddle-like blade, sharp bottom edge
- Ideal Cheeses: Provolone, Gruyère, Asiago, Cheddar, Gouda, Comté
7. Narrow Plane Knife
The narrow plane cheese knife, aka trapezium knife, is made for cutting cheese as well as chipping away at blocks. It’s similar to the flat/chisel cheese knife but tends to be more rectangular in shape and features two sharp sides as opposed to one. Two of these plus a teardrop Parmigiano knife (see below) are used to open an intact Parmigiano wheel, which is scored all the way across and the trapeziums are wedged in the crack to facilitate the separation of the two halves.
- Features: Narrow blade, both the short edge and long edge are honed sharp
- Ideal Cheeses: Gouda, Cheddar, Parmigiano, Castelmagno
8. Parmigiano Knife
This knife goes by many names: teardrop knife, bell knife, almond knife, pear knife, heart knife, spade knife. It features a pointed edge made for breaking off chunks of hard, dry cheeses like… you guessed it, Parmigiano. A Parmigiano knife worthy of its name always has a sharp edge to cut the rinds open.
- Features: Sharp-pointed tip, triangular stubby blade, sharp long edge, knob handle
- Ideal Cheeses: Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano, Trentingrana
9. Cheese Cleaver
The cheese cleaver, also known as a cheddar knife, or semi-hard cheese knife, is made to cut hard cheeses. The wide blade and cleaver shape allows users to apply force and balance to push downward and cut slices. The placement of the handle keeps knuckles from hitting the board. It’s also great for cubing cheeses
- Features: Wide rectangular blade, sharp long edge, ergonomic handle
- Ideal Cheeses: Cheddar, Gruyère, Asiago, Fontina
10. Hard Cheese Knife
Hard cheese knives are among the largest blades available. They are made for pressing downward and cutting through a whole wheel or wedge of aged hard cheese to form smaller portions. You will often find hard cheese knives with handles on either end to allow for even pressure distribution.
- Features: Long straight blade, sharp edge, one or two handles
- Ideal Cheeses: Asiago d’Allevo, Extra Mature Cheddar, Provolone, Comté, Ragusano, Piacentinu Ennese
11. Cheese Fork
A cheese fork is often included in cheese knife sets. The fork is ideal for holding harder cheeses in place while you cut with another knife. It’s also helpful on a cheese board for picking up cut pieces of cheese for plating. It can also be used to break up blocks of aged cheese into smaller chunks as well.
- Features: Two pointed prongs
- Ideal Cheeses: Fontina, Feta, Provolone, Gouda, Vecchio Piave, Asiago or any semi-soft to hard cheese that holds its shape
12. Cheese Plane
Made for achieving wafer-thin slices of cheese. To slice the cheese, press the cheese plane along the top or side of the cheeses. Voila, petals.
- Features: Spatula-like paddle with a sharp-edged slit
- Ideal Cheeses: Fontina, Havarti, Gruyère, Munster, Gouda
13. Cheese Wire
Also known as a bow knife, a cheese wire is made for cutting delicate soft cheeses without crushing them or spreading them too far. They are usually found in a T Bar- or saw-shape, or attached to a cheese board that has an indent groove for the wire. The wire should be lowered down gently through the cheese, leaving a clean slice behind.
- Features: Metal wire, bow or handle
- Ideal Cheeses: Unripe goat cheese logs, Chèvre, Robiola, Triple Crème or any other soft bloomy/washed rind cheese
The girolle is used for one cheese and one cheese alone, the Swiss Tête de Moine (monk’s head). The top, flat part of the wheel is sliced off exposing the paste which is scraped with the specifically designed girolle or pirouette tool to create beautiful cheese “rosettes” that look like wispy feathers. This way of curling the cheese is not only decorative but modifies the structure of the paste which, thanks to more surface area coming in contact with air, releases all its complicated aromas.
- Features: Round wooden base, central pivot, revolving lever blade for scraping the surface
- Cheese: Tête de Moine
Now that we’ve shared which type of knife cuts which cheese, it’s important to know HOW to properly cut those wheels. Stay tuned for a cheese-cutting tutorial coming soon!
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