23 April 2020, 11:57 AM
  • A definitive guide to the cheese tools to have to hand, and when to use them
Mastering cheese tools

Cutting cheeses correctly is a big part of cheesemongery, as it’s important that cheese looks just as appealing cut as it does whole. There is no one-size-fits all method to cutting cheese, and different types require different tools in order to get the best possible result. While a classic standard knife – which features a curved blade and double point at the end to pick up the cheese – will most likely be the most reached-for item in your toolkit, there are plenty of occasions where a specialist knife is called for.

According to the Academy of Cheese (Level One Associate Learning Road. Feb 2020), “Different countries have their own preferences on which tools to use,” continuing, “this typically derives from the preponderance of styles of cheese in that country.” As such, it makes sense to have a selection of tools available in order to cut and present every cheese at its best.

“This is the most effective tool for cutting most styles of cheese. The wire which is pulled through the cheese is not sharp but has no drag so moves through the paste and rind easily leaving smooth cheese surfaces,” reports the Academy of Cheese. “The wire in this set up is likely to be on a spring so the tension makes it possible to cut through even the hardest rind with precision. Most cheese shops in the UK will use a board and wire. They are likely to have at least two boards, one for blue cheeses and one for other cheeses to prevent contamination. If a cheese is too large to fit on a board (e.g. a Gruyére), then a long cheese wire with handles will be used.

“For fresh and creamy pastes, we can use a wire to make precise cuts, but it is always easier to spread it on a top of bread or cracker using a butter knife,” says Noemie Richard of Savencia Fromage & Dairy. “Soft ripened cheeses (Camembert, Brie) are defined by a creamy and sticky texture with different level of firmness depending on their life stage. These cheeses should be cut with a perforated blade to avoid the paste to stick to the knife.”

According to Naomi, “Blue cheese such as Roquefort will generally require a wire as the amount of moisture together with the chalky texture make the cutting very delicate.” The Academy of Cheese advises to use, “Hollowed out/ reduced blade knives for softer cheese (including blues) where the reduced drag of the blade makes it easier to cut and avoids smearing down the face of the cheese.”

“The hard cheese family is more diverse,” explains Naomi. “For the ‘non cooked curd’ cheeses like Edam or Gouda, the wire machine will work perfectly and make the job easier for big wheels, whereas for the ‘cooked curd’, the firmness of the paste requires that a double handled knife is used.”

“A very useful tool for creating shavings of hard cheese,” states the Academy of Cheese. “Cheese shops may use them for slicing tasting pieces and also for cleaning the face of the cheese.” However, “In the home they are more frequently used for cutting cheese for recipes rather than on a cheeseboard.”

Due to some cheeses being designed to have certain characteristics when cut, specialist tools have been created to satisfy this demand. For example: “the unique texture of Tete de Moine requires a girolle to create its unique curled ‘flower petal’ cuttings,” explains Noemie. According to the Academy of Cheese, “Grana cheeses – Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano – are too big, too hard and too large to easily cut. The tradition is to use a toothed knife to cut through the hard exterior by 1-1.5cm, then use sharp wedges to break the cheeses open. This gives grana pieces their signature rough cut look.”

The Academy advises that, “Grana knives are the tools used to achieve this. Once the cheese is in small pieces a cheesemonger may use knives or cheese wires to cut smaller pieces.” Scoops and spoons are available for cheeses which are served from the centre of the cheese rather than in slices, such as a whole Stilton or Mont D’Or; and Dutch or rocker knives – a large curved knife, often with a blade over 45cm long, with the handle at one end at right angles to the blade to allow for greater control – are popular in Holland for cutting Gouda, says the Academy of Cheese.

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