Understanding Your Cheese Grater: What Are the Sides For?

Photo by Robert_Owen_Wahl from Pixabay

In some food preparation, cheese needs to be grated. So, it is beneficial to know what a cheese grater can do and what the sides are for.  Knowing about these things may help you understand the many ways that a block of cheese could be added to enhance a dish or recipe, with cheese as one of the primary ingredients.

Understanding your cheese grater: what are the sides for? That could only be the cheese box grater which many people may not be familiar with.  Configured like a box, each of the four sides has a different way of grating cheese.  So depending on the requirement, you use the right side for that. There is a side with big holes, another with medium-sized holes, still another with small ones, and one with two to three arc-shaped slicers. The shape is basically rectangular, with a lot of them slightly flaring out vertically from the handle to the base.  This makes handling the grater steadier, faster, and more efficient.

If you love cheeses, their distinctive tastes and aromas, and the many available varieties, you have to have a cheese grater. It can shred, grate, and slice your cheese, making it a more versatile food.  Cheese can be an appetizer, a garnish, a flavoring, and, more importantly, be among the primary ingredients.  That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  There are lots of other ways it can be added and enhance food.

Kinds of Cheese Graters and What Each Is Used For

There are lots of stuff to learn about cheese, and it may be bewildering to decide precisely where to start.  But let us begin by identifying the different graters and food preparation gadgets that are used to process cheese in different ways. Let’s start with the box cheese grater.

The Four Sides of a Box Cheese Grater

Two Sides of the

Cheese Box


Side for Shredding-Medium Size

This side of the cheese box grater has medium-size holes, each with a cutting edge at its bottom, and with a slight protrusion to make the right thickness for cutting.  From a certain angle of viewing, it may resemble a ‘teardrop shape,’ or the holes are more oval than round. This side is used for shredding cheese to the size ideal to top pizzas and other food preparation where the grated cheese is not supposed to blend with the sauce.

 Side for Shredding-Small Size

It has small holes with cutting edges at their bottom rim.  This side produces finer shreds. The cheese shreds cut on this side are perfect for cheese sauces as the smaller shreds melt faster than the larger ones.

Side for Grating-Spiky Edges

The holes are spiked along its edges, and the holes protrude a bit, producing grated pieces smaller than the shredded ones. This is the box grater side to use if you want the cheese powdery. Perfect for cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, lemon, and orange zests. This side has the smallest holes for finely grated food.

Side for Slicing

With a duo or three of wide arcs that resemble a smile, it is for slicing stuff, like cheese, into a more or less uniform thickness.  Potatoes, zucchini, hard cheese, cabbages, cucumbers, carrots are some food items that are usually served in slices.  They can be sliced easily with a cheese box grater. Using the grater will give some consistency and uniformity in the thickness of the slices.

The Other

Two Sides of the

Cheese Box Grater

How to Grate Cheese with These Gadgets

With a Microplane

01 Just like the Box Grater, the Microplane is used manually. Unlike the Box Grater, the Microplane does not have four sides, only one, which makes it handier and much easier to manipulate. Its construction is simple: a flat grate with sharp, small cutting edges attached to a long handle.

Mostly used for zesting, such as lemons and kinds of garlic, it is also perfect to be used for grating cheese and other foodstuff. The Microplane grates cheese into much smaller pieces. So, it is great for hard cheeses such as Parmesan and Pecorino, but not for softer cheeses like Mozzarella Cheese. When used with a Microplane, soft cheeses would just end up mushy.

02 Remove the wrapping on the block of cheese. Make sure that you can hold it steadily using one hand. If it’s too big or bulky, use a sharp knife for cutting it into smaller, manageable sizes. However, there is a higher possibility of hurting or cutting yourself with a smaller chunk of cheese than a bigger one.

03 Hold the Microplane securely in your hand, then position it over a cutting board. Move the cheese up and down gently over the grate until the right amount is reached.

04 To release the shreds stuck or trapped on the grater, knock it gently on the cutting board to free these shreds.

05 Microplane Graters are available in different sizes. It is advisable to have several types of them in your kitchen. You will have the ability to switch from one size to another, from fine ones to coarse versions, depending on what the recipe calls for.

With a Rotary Grater

Grater and Zesting

In the culinary arts, “zest” is the citrus fruit’s colored, outer part of its peel or skin that is used to add and enhance the flavor of food. The rinds of lemon and orange are the usual fruit rinds used for zesting. It is prepared by scraping or cutting from the outer, colorful skin of citrus fruits. Waxed fruits, meaning that they are coated with a thin layer of wax to make it look more appealing, should not be used for zesting.

To explain the process more accurately, the peel of fruits consists of the outer, colored part called the “flavedo” or “exocarp” and the innermost, white part, the “albedo” or “endocarp.”  In the middle of both layers is the mesocarp, which is the edible part that is eaten.  The citrus peel, or zest, is added in food and recipes fresh or dried, candied, or pickled. Here’s a link to an image of a rotary grater.

Preparing Zest from Fruits Using a Microplane

The Microplane is a hand-held portable kitchen grater and is designed based on the carpenter’s rasp file for woodworking. The Microplane cuts into the fruit’s skin far down enough to obtain the “zest,” shredding the flavedo layer into smaller, ribbon-like strips. The zests are then sprinkled in a lot of recipes to enhance their flavor and lend just the right amount of “zing” or “kick.”

A Microplane should be a part of your arsenal of gadgets for food preparation, processing, and cooking. It is so versatile, incredibly easy to use and maintain, and portable. But be careful in handling and using it due to its sharpness, and be aware that you could accidentally hurt your finger or hand.


While we are talking about kitchen graters and shredders, especially for cheese, be acquainted with the different kinds of cheese you might want to try out someday. There are soft ones, hard ones, and each type of cheese is unique to a significant degree.

Difference Between Fresh Cheeses and Ripened or Aged Cheeses

Lots of people just love cheese.  On top of having so many varieties of it, there are many ways to add it to our food and recipes.  In short, it is quite an all-around kind of food that can be savored as is, as a garnish, or as one of the main ingredients in a recipe.

All types of cheese are made from animal milk.  More conventional sources of milk used for making cheese are those from cows, goats, or sheep.  It can be fresh or ripened (aged).  Cottage cheese, cream cheese, and ricotta all fall under the fresh, unripen cheeses.

Ripened or Aged cheeses are classified based on its texture and consistency:

  • Soft Cheeses: Ripened for a shorter period compared to the other two classifications. Examples are Brie, Camembert, and Feta cheeses.
  • Hard Cheeses: These cheeses are aged or ripened in different lengths of time. They can be either semi-hard and hard, covering a broad range in between. Cheddar, Gouda, Muenster, Parmesan, and Romano are cheeses that belong in this classification.
  • Blue Cheeses: Also called Blue-Veined Cheese, it is a general term that covers cheeses using cow’s, goat’s, or sheep’s milk and aged, or ripened, with the incorporation of cultured molds from Penicillium. During the production phase, the cheese is spiked with stainless steel rods to introduce oxygen that circulates and promotes the growth of the mold. It also softens the texture and brings about the characteristic blue coloration and flavor. Gorgonzola, Roquefort, and Stilton are a few of the more popular blue cheeses.

Kinds of Cheese Around the World

When we hear the word grater or Microplane, the image that we mostly see in our mind’s eye is cheese, being grated.  Although using a Microplane may not be needed in preparing some kinds of cheese, soft cheeses, for instance, it is enlightening to know, even a little, about the exotic cheeses from other countries and cultures.

1. Asiago

Asiago has a texture that can be described as smooth and silky to firm and crumbly, with a color that can change from white to a dark yellow, depending on how ripe it is. It has a distinct aroma of piquancy, with a hint of tang and fruity sweetness that make Asiago the perfect dressing for a wide range of pasta, soups, sauces, salads, viands, and snacks. It will be an ideal dining experience when served with dried fruits, savory crackers, or a glass of exquisite wine.

2. Blue (Bleu) Cheeses

Blue Cheese covers a wide range of aged cheeses infused with specific cultured Penicillium mold that brings about that bluish, emerald hues, with touches of browns and gray veins. Blue Cheeses are cultured in caves under natural conditions, creating that extraordinary aroma and tangy taste.  It is great to add to several kinds of appetizers.  Taken with sweet desserts and wines, it brings about a pleasant and delicious contrast to the Blue Cheese’s tangy and mild salty taste. It also goes well when paired with fish, poultry, and beef.

3. Brie

Brie cheese is made from cow’s milk and originated in Brie, France, hence the name. It is a “double cream” cheese. It is the kind of cheese that has a thick consistency and contains a lot of butterfat. It is dubbed as the “Queen of Cheeses.”  Brie is an exciting zesty addition to any food plate.  Its mild, sweet flavor is complemented by a serving of fruits or berries, nuts, and a cup of dark chocolate or a glass of Chardonnay.

4. Camembert

Camembert has a full-flavored, rich buttery taste with salty, mushroom or garlic undertones.  It is generally added as a light seasoning for salads, crunchy baguette (long, narrow French bread), and light red wines. As a soft-ripened cheese, it has a pleasantly runny (watery) consistency, and smooth texture. Its rind or outer covering is bloomy, and the inner part, called the paste, is full-flavored.

Camembert cheese is also mostly enjoyed with apple cider, and a delightful appetizer when taken with jams, honey, and fresh fruits.  It can also serve as a side dish and appetizer with cold meats such as turkey, ham, or salami.

5. Cheddar

Cheddar, probably one of the more popular kinds of cheese, if not ‘the’ most popular, it originated from Cheddar, a village in England.  Cheddar cheese has a firm, and sometimes almost hard texture, matched with a flavorful taste that is both sharp and creamy.

Aged cheese is suitable for shredding and grating, being firm and somewhat hard, while the fresh one is soft and mild tasting. Older cheeses lose most of the moisture content and become hard but more flavorful. Fresher ones are wetter, containing more moisture, and so should be consumed within a shorter period of time than that an aged cheddar.

6. Gouda

Gouda, touted as probably the most famous Dutch cheese made from cow’s milk, it has earned its place among the revered cheeses in the world.  As it ages, Gouda cheese acquires a firmer texture, and its pate, or insides, turns from an ivory or light mocha color to a somewhat golden tint. What’s more is that Gouda’s flavor can be described as fragrant, with a taste that borders on being complex, which makes it an excellent addition as a dessert cheese, an appetizer, and ingredient or garnish to the main dish. Gouda cheese flavor is enhanced when taken with pears, plum jam, and red wine. Alternatively, the traditional aged Gouda goes nicely when paired with orange marmalade and with white wine, like Riesling.

7. Gruyere

The Gruyere cheese originated from Switzerland and is processed from cow’s milk. As it ripens, it develops a hard and grainy texture and forms a distinct earthy taste. On the other hand, fresh Gruyere has a creamy and sweet taste.  Gruyere is mostly enjoyed with French onion soup and is an essential ingredient in the Swiss fondue dish of melted cheese and with bread dipped into the cheese. This cheese adds a certain piquancy to any meal when grated or melted. It goes well with the sweet-tasting red Port wine and the purplish or blackish Pinot Noir, both created from grapes.

8. Mozzarella

The Mozzarella cheese is made from the milk of water buffalo, though presently cow’s milk variety is widespread.  It has milky to snow-white color and soft texture. This cheese is enjoyed while still fresh and just right for cooking. It imparts a pleasant taste when garnished on pizzas, sandwiches, and salads. Over the years, Mozzarella has been used as a generic name for this type of cheese, and it is derived from the Italian word “mozzare” which means “to cut.”  It is a description of how the cheese is processed, which is cutting the curds into smaller pieces and adding hot water to achieve an elastic consistency.

9. Parmesan

Parmesan cheese is aged cheese processed from cow’s milk and has many varieties of both hard and grainy kinds.  Two of the popular ones are Parmegiano Reggiano and Grana Padano.  Parmesan cheese has a fragrant scent and a sweet taste, with hints of both fruity and nutty texture and flavor. It is not only an excellent choice for grating but also as a seasoning for several hot dishes and snacks, lending a piquant taste to them.  Parmesan cheeses are outstanding when served with dark chocolate or apricot jam, and wines.

10. Pecorino

Pecorino is a catch-all name for all Italian sheep milk cheeses. With a shape that resembles a drum, the Pecorino cheese is firm and creamy, with fresher ones having a texture that is softer and smoother, with a bit of buttery taste. Aged Pecorinos have a trace of nuttiness and earthiness and tend to be crumbly. It is suitable for grating, which makes it an ideal condiment for soups, sauces, salads, and pastas. They can also go well with sweet fruits, orange marmalade, or honey. Pecorino cheeses are also great with dry, red wines such as Zinfandel and Amarone.

Quick and Easy Ways to Use Cheese For a Quick Meal

  • Create a melted and warm appetizer by grilling soft-rind cheeses such as Brie or Camembert. Other soft cheeses to grill are Ricotta, Chevre, Gorgonzola, Cotija, and Panela.

  • For non-melting or hard cheeses, these are the ones that can be grilled to prepare a quick meal. Grilling hard cheeses will not turn it into a disastrous mess. Hard cheese varieties to consider are Cheddar, Gouda, Halloumi, Muenster, Parmesan, and Romano.

  • Cook up “Aligot.” It is so simple to make. Just blend cheese with mashed potatoes and add some minced garlic for that extra “zing.” This is a classic French potato recipe that is also nutritious and satisfying.

  • With shredded Asiago or Gruyere cheese, prepare a crunchy, nutritious dish by adding lots of nuts and seeds and then baking it.  Other hard cheeses can be used.

  • ·Prepare a Greek-inspired meal by quickly frying cheese for a crispy rind and soft, melted center. Balance the flavor by squeezing some fresh lemon juice. This is based on a Japanese recipe, the saganaki.

  • ·Shape mozzarella cheese into several small balls, coat with bread crumbs, then fry them. You now have a filling bar snack in just a moment.

  • Create a flavorful meal with a variety of soft cheeses marinated in olive oil and lots of spices. Use cheeses such as Chevre, Feta, Brie, and Camembert.

  • Enjoy an easy-to-do dessert by baking Brie cheese just enough to warm and melt it. Top it with candied nuts, berries, honey, or anything sweet and filling that you fancy. This is also great as an appetizer.


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