What do you use different cheese knives for?

09 August 2023, 13:55 PM
  • Our guide to the different types of cheese knives sheds light on the best tools to stock, and the knives cheesemongers swear by
What do you use different cheese knives for?

If a man is only as good as his tools, as the saying goes, then whether you’re an experienced cheesemonger or simply a curd enthusiast, it’s wise to choose your cheese knives with care.

Not only are knives used at the cheese counter, but cheese knife sets also provide a potential upsell opportunity over the Christmas season.

What type of knife is best for cheese?

There are many cheese tools on the market, including wires, knives, chisels and forks, and different knives suit different cheeses. 

Svetlana Kukharchuk of The Cheese Lady, based in Haddington, Scotland, swears by cheese wires, also called lyres, while Gemma Williams, owner of The Little Cheesemonger in Rhuddlan, Wales, finds Oasis floral knives surprisingly effective.

“There are various knives for different occasions, whether you’re serving on a counter, cooking or enjoying a cheeseboard,” says Gemma.

Choosing the best cheese knife sets will help your customers eat their cheeses in style.

Whatever knives you choose, Svetlana makes one thing clear: make sure you have enough. “When serving cheeses as wedges on a cheeseboard, it’s essential to include a separate knife for each variety of cheese to avoid flavour contamination,” she says. “Some cheeses, like really soft and gooey ones, may require a spoon to handle them effectively.”

Gemma agrees: “Don’t just use one table knife for the whole cheese selection or cheeseboard at home, it makes them all muddy and messy. Separate knives for the cheeses – the cheeseboard deserves a bit of class!”

What is the difference between cheese knives?

Here, we’ll break down the different types of knives to consider stocking, including which cheese knives go with which cheeses.

Soft cheese knives

As well as having a thin, curved blade, you can easily spot a soft cheese knife as they often have holes on the side of the blade and tines on the tip.

With this knife, you can easily cut through a soft cheese and pick up the cut piece of cheese with the tines. Use them with cheeses like a traditional Brie De Meaux, Baron Bigod or a soft blue cheese.

Why do soft cheese knives have holes?
Soft cheese knives often have holes to reduce the friction between the blade and the cheese. It’s especially helpful with very soft, sticky cheeses.

Hard cheese knives

There are several types of cheese knife that can be used with semi-hard and hard, aged cheeses.

Cheese cleaver
A cheese cleaver is essentially a smaller version of a meat cleaver. Its long, hatchet-shaped blade and sturdy handle make it a great choice for easily cutting through hard or semi-hard cheeses in one motion. Think aged Cheddar or Parmigiano Reggiano.

Cheese chisel or flat-blade knife
This knife has a wide, flat blade with a handle on top. It’s paddle-like shape makes it perfectly suited to chipping away at small areas of hard cheeses, like Gruyère.

Parmesan knife or grana knife
The almond-shaped blade of this knife is ideal for cutting hard cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano, hence the name. “They are chunky, squat blades, and the technique is known as the ‘flat wedge method’,” says Gemma. “They are used to break through a parmesan by cracking it wide open.”

Other knives and tools

A cheese knife set isn’t complete without a few additional implements – these are the most popular tools and their uses.

Cheese wire
A cheese wire is a versatile tool that will help you produce clean slices of soft to semi-hard cheeses. “For soft and blue cheeses, a cheese wire (also known as a lyre) is ideal as it allows for precise cutting without any loss of cheese,” says Svetlana. At her shop, she sells cheese wires for clean and effortless cutting. “I believe they are indispensable for any cheese lover.”

Cheese fork
Cheese forks are typically included in cheese knife sets, and they have two long prongs to help pick up cut pieces of cheese, as well as cheese board accompaniments like fruit or charcuterie.

Cheese plane
To get very thin shavings of semi-soft cheeses, use a cheese plane. They’re often found on standard cheese graters as well.

Stilton scoop
Consumers might be surprised to see a scoop-shaped knife on your shelves, but this tool is perfect for those serving a whole wheel of Stilton. Simply scrape from the middle out.

Offset cheese knife
With a handle that’s set at a higher level than the blade, offset knives ensure you won’t catch your knuckles on the cheeseboard while cutting through harder cheeses.

Cheesemonger tips for choosing cheese knives

What are cheesemongers using behind the counter? Speciality Food asked Svetlana and Gemma for their top picks.

When cutting cheeses before serving, Svetlana uses a sharp chef’s knife for firm and hard cheeses and a wire for soft and blue cheeses.

Meanwhile, Gemma finds several implements useful when serving cheeses: large, two-handled blades for aged Goudas, parmesan knives for cracking open Parmigiano Reggiano (“So satisfying,” she says), and large kitchen knives for soft Brie-style cheeses.

When giving out samples, Gemma uses paring knives as well as Oasis floral knives. “The Oasis knives are great for dishing out samples,” she says, adding that they “cut the sample nicely but are relatively blunt compared to the pairing knives”.

Do you need to use special cheese knives?

Enjoying a cheeseboard is an indulgent experience, so while it’s not strictly necessary to buy a special knife to cut a particular piece of cheese, many consumers want to choose a sparkling new knife to go alongside their carefully chosen cheeses and accompaniments. 

Svetlana believes it’s a common misconception among customers that they need to invest in extra fancy and expensive cheese knives to create a beautiful cheese board. “I believe that the focus should be on the quality of the cheeses themselves, and while using appropriate tools is essential, it doesn’t necessarily have to be overly expensive or ornate knives.”

However, if you’re looking to upsell your cheese products this year, why not find a local angle for your cheese tools? Gemma, for example, recently began selling hand-forged cheese knives made in Wales by local bladesmith Gwyl Roche. This could become a great talking piece for introducing customers to a new set of knives.

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