Four Types of Cheese Knives and How to Choose


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There are so many types of cheese to try and enjoy.  And there are also different kinds of cheese knives to cut, serve, and slice them. But most of us may be at a loss as to what cheese knife to use. It can be frustrating and confusing.  It may also be a bit embarrassing not knowing which to use in a formal occasion.  So, buckle up as we explore the world of cheeses and cheese knives.

Now, here are the four types of cheese knives and how to choose.  Cheese knives are generally categorized into two: for cutting hard and semi-hard cheeses; and knives for soft ones. Then, there are cheese knife types based on usage or purpose:

 

01 SLICING: Cheese Planes, Cheese Slicers

  • For soft cheeses: with thin blades and holes to lessen stickiness of soft cheeses
  • For semi-hard and hard cheeses:

02 CLEAVING: For cutting hard cheeses into wedges, smaller blocks, chunks.

03 FORKING: For securely holding in place a block of cheese for cutting. It is sometimes used to break hard cheeses into smaller chunks or pieces.

04 SERVING:  For serving, the fork tip of a cheese knife is typically used to handle and serve a piece or slice of cheese, after cutting. For sliced pieces laid out on a plate ready to be enjoyed, a spade like cheese slicer can serve that purpose. 

Would it not be exciting to learn why some cheese knives are shaped and designed the way they are?  It has a lot to do with the kind of cheese they are used for. There is a good reason behind it: to enable handling, cutting, and slicing cheese efficiently, with finesse and dexterity.

Hard and Soft Cheeses and the Cheese Knives to Cut Them

For cheese lovers, a regular knife is not enough.  They prefer to use knives and tools specifically designed for cheeses.  And there are valid reasons for that.  Soft and hard cheeses require different kinds of cheese knives. It all boils down to the cheese’s level of toughness or softness. The thickness of the blade, the design and shape of the blade and the handle are the primary criteria for a cheese knife to efficiently cut and slice cheese without compromising the taste, quality, aroma, texture and appearance.  The following are a plethora of cheese knives and tools.  It may not be necessary to have all of them, but at least a few of them may be just the tools to make your love affair with cheese truly memorable.  But before that, let’s dig a little deeper into the subject of soft and hard cheeses.

 

01 Soft Cheeses:  

Camembert and brie are kinds of cheese that have soft interior, so the slices tend to stick to the knife.  It would be best to use very sharp, thin straight blade, or a cheese knife with holes, to make cleaner, even cuts and leave the shape of the interior looking good. 

If a cheese knife is not available, you may instead use a sharp kitchen knife with the blade dipped in hot water to make it warm. Then it will be ready to make cleaner slices of cheese that will be less sticky.

When you take the time to familiarize yourself with the different cheese knives and how to use them, you will discover the shape of each knife is shaped and designed in relation to the texture and level of hardness or softness of the cheese.

02 Hard Cheeses:

Cheese planes and cheese slicers are used on semi-hard and hard cheeses to produce solid, even slices.  If wedges or chunks of hard and semi-hard cheeses are desired, cheese cleavers or cheese spades can do the job well.  

There are many varieties of cheese knife specifically designed to handle medium-hard to hard cheese varieties.  The cheese knife with a triangular-shaped blade is made short and stubby which is ideal for digging out chunks from hard cheeses.  

 The cheese fork can lend a helping hand when it comes to breaking hard or aged cheese blocks into smaller sizes. It serves to hold the cheese block steady in place so the block of cheese will stay in place, or not move or budge, when being cut.

 Basic Reminder in Serving Cheeses

When sliced or cut into serving pieces, it is time to put them on a serving plate and on the table.  This is when the cheese knives used for serving are important. It is important to place a separate cheese knife for each kind of cheese. This is a cue not to mix the knives to avoid mixing the flavors of the cheeses,  which is not a good thing when it comes to savoring the unique flavor and aroma of each type of cheese.

The Various Shapes of Cheese Knives, Slicers, and Servers

01 Fork-Tipped Spear: 

This looks like a regular long kitchen knife for general use, but with a tip slightly curved upwards terminating with a fork tip, with two tines or spikes. It is ideal for cutting and slicing firm cheese varieties, from semi-hard to hard ones.  Since it is proper etiquette to not handle the cheese with bare hands, the forked tip is used for that purpose. After slicing a piece, you pick it up with the tip and serve it on your guest’s plate.

02 Small Spade:

It is usually designed with a fat, round handle for comfortable and steady grip and a tear-shaped or oval blade with a pointed tip. It is used to cut semi-hard to hard cheeses into chunks or wedges, and also cut them into slices.

 03 Hard Cheese Knife:

This cheese knife usually has a fat, bulbous, curvy handle for better and comfy grip. The blade looks like a regular kitchen knife that is straight and tapering gently towards the end, with a tip that is pointed. It is for spearing and picking up sliced or chunks of cheese

04 Gorgonzola Knife:

Named after the famous Gorgonzola cheese, it looks like a long narrow spatula that gradually widens at the tip that is rounded. It may be slightly angled from the handle and is used to cut roundish blocks of wheel shaped cheese, and sliced into wedges or round pieces, just like a pizza crust. The rounded tip is for spreading cheese on breads and crackers.

05 Open Work Blade Knife:

The open-work blade, or blade with circular holes or vents, is good for cutting and slicing soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert.  The holes on the blade decrease the surface that come into contact with the soft cheese when slicing it. The cheese slices become less sticky and easier to handle and released into the plate.

06 Flat Spatula Knife:

This is a long, thin spatula for cutting off excess pieces of rinds that have not been removed at the first rinding. It is also good for dividing the cheese into small wedges.

07 Almond Knife:

This  knife can be called all-around or all-purpose knife. It is used to score the thick rind of hard cheeses, for opening cheese in wheel containers, cutting and dividing into wedges, and cutting cheeses into bite size chunks.

 

08 Spade:

A more heavy-duty tool to cut hard cheeses, it is used to cut them into wedges and chunks. It has a long handle and a short blade that is triangular in shape, with a pointed tip, and the blade that ends in a convex arc towards the handle.

  

09 Soft Cheese Fork:

A cheese plate will not be complete without soft cheeses. This knife for is for spreading soft cheeses on crackers and other foods or ingredients on the plate.

 

10 Cheese Fork

The cheese fork is for holding a block of cheese in place while it is cut or sliced. It is also good for breaking hard, aged kinds of cheeses and softer, crumbly cheese varieties.

11 Flat Cheese Knife: 

To cut soft, crumbly cheeses, the flat cheese knife is the one to use.  It is also ideal for cubing and chipping hard or firm cheeses.

 

12 Narrow Plane Knife

This is a cheese knife that should be included in any basic set for cheese cutting. It is good for cutting different varieties of cheese such as semi-firm cheeses and soft cheeses.  Some of those cheeses are Cheddar, Jarlsberg, and the softer cheeses like Camembert and Brie.

13 The Ostehøvel Cheese Slicer:

This  cheese slicer is used for both hard and semi-hard kinds of cheeses and produces cheese slices that are thin and even. It is variation of the classic cheese slicer  that was invented by Norwegian Thor Bjorklund way back in 1925. Inspired by the design of the carpenter’s plane, the Ostehovel cheese slicer has a blade that is wider at the handle end and gradually tapers into a narrower width, which conforms to the shape of a cut block of a wheel cheese.  The cutting hole at the wider blade’s end can easily be used to cut even slices of cheese that stays on the Ostehovel Cheese Slicer ready to be transferred to a plate or dish.

14 Rind Cutter:

The rind cutter is utilized to score or remove the rind of hard cheeses. Scoring means making a series of cuts lengthwise and crosswise, creating smaller surfaces to cut or remove. It makes removing the rinds of hard cheeses quicker and easier.

Types of Cheese Knives:  From Another Point of View

Home and kitchen appliances, multi-media and entertainment products, tools and gadgets: these are all essential conveniences to all of us. They also undergo a stream of innovations, additions, and variations through the years. Some even morph into multi-functional versions of the simpler, basic products. The same thing is true with kitchen gadgets such as the cheese knife.

Here is another way of looking at various cheese knives and making sense out of them. It is to narrow down the kinds of cheese knives to the basics to help you decide and maybe prioritize which ones to buy, own and maintain.

For Slicing Hard Cheese:  The basic cheese knife around, it is basically for slicing cheese blocks into thin or thick slices. On top of dividing or cutting up the block of cheese into smaller pieces, the science behind slicing is to expose the cheese to more air to release its flavor. The blade tip is shaped like a prong to pick up the piece and transfer it on the plate.

For Slicing Soft Cheese: The challenge with soft cheeses is that the sliced piece sticks to the knife that removing it by hand or another tool will surely break it.  Not a good scenario when doing it at party or a gathering. So, we have cheese knives with perforations or holes that lessen the surface contact between the cheese and the blade.  It usually comes in two variations: the round holes and the rectangular holes.  The round holes are intended for soft cheeses while the rectangular holes are to be used on hard and semi-hard cheeses. Likewise, the blade terminates in a prong-shaped tip that can pick up the cheese for transferring to a plate.

For Presentation:  This is a cheese knife that has a broader blade that can slice, cut, and at the same time carry and  transfer the cheese slice or chunk to the plate, without touching it. It can also break or slice harder types of cheese.

The Different Shapes of Cheese

The Block Shape

Some varieties of cheeses do not have the same issues that cheeses made in the form of wheels do.  Producing them in block shapes is more advantageous. The block shape of cheeses presents no problems in stacking them, and storing them, which has been proven to be much easier and more economical. Block cheeses also do not present any difficulties in delivery and transporting it, especially if it involves long distances. 

 

The Wheel Shape

Some varieties of cheese are processed in wheel shape. Classic examples are Brie and Camembert. The wheel shape is conducive to produce consistent thickness and equal absorption for the flora on the surface to spread and proliferate. Having less or no corners, the essential flora can spread evenly and not concentrate too much and too long on one area, such as in corners of more boxy or rectangular shaped containers. The result is equal ripening, or no areas or corners that are left unripe.

 Another advantage in the wheel shape container for ripening cheese is its ease in rolling or moving the large wheels around. Lugging a rectangular shaped one would be much more difficult.

 

The Barrel or Truckle

Cheese that comes in a cylindrical shape is called a truckle or barrel-shaped cheese.  This cheese shape is taller than its width, which is why it’s also called a barrell-shaped cheese. Just like the wheel-shaped cheeses, the occurrence of uneven ripening is much less.

The Ball Shape

Edam cheese is the best example of a cheese ball or cheese that is ball-shaped. With ball shaped cheese like the Edam cheese, uneven ripening is never a problem. Edam cheese is named after the town from which it originated, in the town of Edam in North Holland. The interior of the Edam chees is pale yellow and a red-colored rind made of paraffin wax. Edam cheese hardens as it ages, and hardly spoils or get

The Different Types of Cheeses, Made Simple!

FRESH CHEESE: Fresh cheese, as you may have guessed, is cheese that is not aged.  It is not ripened. Fresh cheese is thus so soft, it is  easy to spread it on crackers or bread, and could be easily blended into your favorite concoction for added salty taste.  It has generally very mild flavors and creamy texture. It is possible to create fresh cheeses using different kinds of milk.

By combining milk of different types and salt in varying amount, it is possible to make fresh cheeses that will have unique flavors.  Cheese texture is admittedly something that you like in cheeses, and the kind of texture that is created with fresh cheese depends on the amount of whey and moisture that is taken out from the final product. The final result can be anything from soupy or watery, like cottage cheese, or crumbly.

Examples of fresh cheese are: chevre, cottage cheese, cream cheese, mascarpone, ricotta

PASTA FILATA CHEESE:  Pasta Filata, when translated from Italian, means “spun paste” which refers to the stretched-curd cheese preparation which is a classic and famous Italian pasta recipe. Basically, it is prepared by steeping fresh cheese curds in a large container of hot water, and then stretched out, spun, and kneaded into various shapes or configurations. 

Some changes in the very basic structure of the cheese is rearranged or changed due to the heating and kneading process.  That makes the cheese stretch even more when cooked and melted. Some famous Pasta Filata cheeses are burrata, caciocavallo, mozzarella, provolone, queso Oaxaca, and scamorza affumicata.

SOFT- RIPENED CHEESE: Soft-ripened cheese is a type of cheese that is ripened from the outside in. The inside turns out runnier, or watery, than the exterior.   Soft-ripened cheeses have a thin, white rind full of blooming mold, definitely a characteristic that sets it apart from other kinds of cheese.

Processing this kind of cheese takes just a short period of aging.  A specific strain of mold converts fats into ketones from the outside working its way inside. The ketones produce a pungent, mushroom-like taste to Camembert.

Cheeses in this category are the Cambozola, and two famous ones from France, Brie and Camembert.

SEMI-SOFT CHEESE Just like the soft-ripened cheese variety, semi-soft cheeses undergo a short aging period of a few months.  The result is a cheese with a moist, flexible texture and creamy consistency.  A popular cheese in this group is the Havarti which has a very mild flavor.    

Other cheeses in this category are Chaumes, Havarti, Jarlsberg, and Muenster.

WASHED-RIND CHEESE:  The washed-rind cheese category includes a few of the foul-smelling cheeses in the world.  You guessed it right, the Limburger cheese is definitely one of its stinkier cheese variety, if not the stinkiest.

The process in making  washed-rind cheese is to rinse down the cheese with seawater, beer, wine or liquor, twice in a week for a period of two months. The procedure was first done by monks to prevent molds from growing on the cheese. They washed the cheese with either beer or brine killing the mold but inducing the growth of another bacteria.

Cheeses in this category are Alsatian Munster, Epoisses, and taleggio.

BLUE CHEESE:  Blue cheese is processed with the inclusion of cultures of the mold penicillium. The result is a kind of cheese that is spotted and veined with the blue mold and gives off a distinct odor. They are usually aged in an environment such as in a cave where the temperature is controlled. Blue cheese can be enjoyed as a spread on sandwiches, cucumber, melted onto foods, or eaten by itself.

Famous blue cheeses in the world are Stilton from England, Gorgonzola from Italy, and Roquefort from France.

SEMI-HARD CHEESE: Semi-hard cheese as a category is the biggest in the market so far.  And the cheddar cheese is the most popular and well-known semi-hard cheese.

Two factors are responsible for the flavor and taste characteristic of most semi-hard cheeses: the strain of bacteria added to the milk and the length of time in which the cheese is aged.  

Included in this group of cheeses are Edam, Emmental, Gouda, Gruyere, and Monterey Jack.

HARD CHEESE:  Cheeses included in this group are extra-hard and the famous ones are Parmesan, Asiago, and Machego.  Cheeses in this group are best grated over dishes like pasta, soup, and even delicacies that could use a bit of saltines and texture. 

Other cheeses that belong to this group are Asiago, manchego, pecorino, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and pecorino.

PROCESSED CHEESE:  The word “processed” in it says it all.  It is not a dyed-in-the-wool cheese. In other words, it is not natural cheese, but a processed kind of cheese. It is not directly made from milk, and contains emulsifiers, artificial coloring, and others not found in natural cheeses.  But it also tastes good, has long shelf life, and also brings a pleasant salty taste to food and sandwiches.

Some Amazing Cheese Trivia

  • An Accident 4,000 Years Ago Led to the Creation of Cheese

It could have been just a legend, but we won’t really know. According to it, milk was accidentally poured into a container with the stomach of an animal in it. An enzyme from the stomach caused some chemical reaction with the milk causing separation into solids and liquid.  The liquid is what we now call ‘whey’ and the solid substance  ‘curd’ which is actually the cheese itself. 

  • Why Some Cheese Names Are Capitalized

A simple explanation is that the cheese is named after a city, usually from its place of origin.  Examples of such cheeses are Asiago, Gorgonzola, Parmigiano, Camembert, Edam and Gouda.

  • Mice Do Not Really Care About Cheese

Mice go for carbohydrates and sugar, or sweet stuff. They would eat cheese if there was nothing else to eat, but notice that if you put a piece of cheese on a mouse trap, cheese or the scent of it will not lure a mouse. It might nibble on cheese if it gets hungry enough. 

 

  • Larger Curds Provide Different Cheese Types

Big curds produce softer cheeses like Brie, ricotta, Camembert, and mascarpone; small ones provide hard cheeses such as Parmesan, Cheddar, Romano and Swiss cheeses.

  • There Are Cheeses for The Lactose-Intolerant

This is good news to people who cannot enjoy cheese because of lactose intolerance.  Cheeses that are aged have less lactose content than fresh one. So, just pick the right ones such as Camembert, Muenster, Cheddar, Gouda, and Parmesan, among others.

  • One Pound of Cheese from 10 Pounds of Milk

To get around 2,600 gallons of milk from cows yearly, they have to consume about 90 pounds of feed daily.

  • Cheese Caves Do Exist

Caves have a temperature and humidity that are just right for cheese to age properly. On top of that, caves as a location to store cheese aids a lot to the process of aging cheese and giving it distinctive flavors.

Tips on How to Fully Enjoy Eating Cheese

Cheese is best eaten at room temperature:  So, take out the cheese from the refrigerator an hour before you plan to eat it or serve it to let it warm up to room temperature. Leave the wrap on the cheese to keep it from drying out. Be sure to check that the cheese does not get too warm that it starts to melt or become soggy. Remember the following:

  • For hard cheeses, take it out of the refrigerator about one hour and a half before consuming it.
  • For soft cheeses, take them out of the refrigerator two to three hours before consuming it.
  • For fresh cheeses, take it out of the refrigerator about thirty minutes before consuming it.

 

Rind of hard cheeses must be peeled off: The hard rind usually contains wax and should not be eaten. Edam, Cheddar, and Gruyere are some of those cheeses.

 

Rind of soft cheeses is edible:  Soft cheeses typically have rinds that are white and soft, such as Brie and Camembert. 

 

Eat bread and crackers to cleanse your palate:  Although it is enjoyable to eat cheese with crackers or bread, the pairing somehow decreases our enjoyment of the cheeses’ flavors. You may want to end the session by concentrating on eating and enjoying your cheeses without any cracker or bread.

 

Savor the aroma of cheese before eating it: As with all foods, its taste is usually complemented by its smell. Our sense of taste and sense of smell are related. The smell of the food affects our taste of the food. So, smelling your cheese intensifies its taste.

If possible, start with the mildest cheese to the strongest cheese: You may not be able to enjoy the taste of milder cheeses when you start with the stronger ones. If in a party, you may want to ask your host. To avoid mixing the flavor and aroma, you have to use different knife for each of the kinds of cheeses served.

Enjoy soft and fresh cheeses with crisp, white wine: Soft and fresh cheeses to consider are Brie, Bucheron, Burrata, Camembert, Feta, and Ricotta. Wines to pair them with are Beaujolais, Cava, Chablis, Chardonnay, Champagne, Moscato, Pinot Grigio, Provencal rose, Sauvignon Blanc, and White Port.

Enjoy hard and aged cheeses with full-bodied white wines: Hard, aged cheeses to choose from are aged cheddar, Asiago, Comte, aged Gouda, aged Gruyere, Parmigiano, and Pecorino.  Wines to pair with the nutty, strong flavors of these cheeses are Bordeaux, Barolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Madeira, Oloroso sherry, red Burgundy, red Port, Sauternes, sweet Riesling, vintage Champagne and Zinfandel.

Enjoy hard, aged cheeses with full-bodied white wines: Hard, aged cheeses to try are aged Cheddar, Asiago, Comte, aged Gruyere, Manchego, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Pecorino. Pair them with aged white Burgundy, Barbaresco, Cabernet Sauvignon, California red blends, Madeira, Nebbiolo, Petite Sirah, red Burgundy, red Bordeaux, Tawny Port and Viognier.

Enjoy stinky cheeses with light-bodied wines:  Stinky cheeses such as Epoisses, Morbier and Taleggio would need a wine that is aromatic to balance out the combination. Possible wines to consider are Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Riesling, red Burgundy, and Sauternes.

Conclusion

Understanding the different types of cheeses knives is indeed interesting and something anyone who loves cheese should take the initiative to learn about.  Admittedly, it can be confusing because one tool has functionalities that one or two other tools also have. And then, there are newer variations where uses of two or even three cheese slicers are incorporated into one gadget.

 

So, it takes more than just knowing what each type of cheese knife can do, but also about the kinds of cheeses that need a type of cheese knife to slice, cut, dice and serve. It takes not only understanding but the whole experience of enjoying, choosing, buying and incorporating the different kinds of cheeses into our foods, in our celebrations, and in the way that we entertain visitors and friends.

 

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