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Why Are Cheese Knives Curved? The Truth Revealed!

Why Are Cheese Knives Curved? The Truth Revealed!

Cheese knives are a vital part of the utensil drawer for those of us who like serving charcuterie.  Broad, flat, and usually with a dull edge, you can usually tell a cheese knife from a butter knife by its distinctive curve.  While the curve can be aesthetically pleasing, it would be strange for every cheese knife to be curved if it didn’t serve a purpose.

Cheese knives are curved to increase surface area for spreading soft cheeses.  Unlike a butter knife, a cheese knife must be somewhat sharp for hard cheeses, as well as the cheese rind.  A curved blade is a compromise between usefulness as a cutting and spreading utensil.

The curved, relatively dull knife commonly known as a ‘cheese knife’ isn’t accurate.  That’s because while this knife is the most common knife used for serving cheese, there are actually a large variety of different knives that specialize in cheese.  Read on, and you’ll learn everything there is to know about cheese knives!

 

Different Types of Cheese Knives are Meant for Different Cheese

Types of cheese

There are a fairly wide variety of cheese knives used for different cuts and types of cheese.  The primary differences are in what type of cheese the knife is good at cutting. 

Soft cheeses don’t require a sharp blade but stick to the knife easily.  Hard cheeses are the opposite, not sticking to the blade but being tougher to cut with a dull knife.

While it’s not as if you can’t use a knife intended for hard cheeses to serve soft cheeses, it helps a lot more than you would think.  You can cut a hard cheese with a soft cheese knife, but it will most likely end up in several pieces.  Likewise, a hard cheese knife may leave slices of soft cheese misshapen after it sticks to the blade. 

Overall, using a cheese knife well suited to the cheese you’re serving mostly helps with presentation. 

Using the correct knife seems like the kind of thing a stuffy aristocrat would get hung up on, and to be honest, if you’re at home enjoying the cheese by yourself, it truly doesn’t make a difference.  However, if you want to impress guests, the proper cheese knife will make cheese slices look much more attractive.

In other words, don’t feel as if you need a massive collection of cheese knives to serve cheese.  Simply read this article, and maybe pick up the cheese knives intended for the types of cheese you serve to friends often!

cheese knife on serving tray

Soft Cheese Knife

This is the knife most people think of when they think of a cheese knife.  Dull and curved, most people have one of these in their kitchen.  It goes by a lot of different names and has a lot of different variations.  Some of these include gorgonzola knives, spreader knives, and soft cheese knives.

All of these variations can loosely fit under the umbrella of ‘soft cheese knife,’ as that is their intended purpose.  They also share the same basic design: relatively dull, curved, and with a broad surface area.  That being said, there are some small additions to this design that increase the knife’s functionality.

One of the most common additions to a standard soft cheese knife is a pair of prongs at the tip.  These are usually included on a knife that curves sharply upwards at the very tip, which ends in two fork-like prongs. 

They function much like a cocktail fork, allowing you to more easily pick up and serve slices of cheese.  However, they do slightly reduce the knife’s surface area, making spreading soft cheese more difficult.

Some soft cheese knives have markings and indents in the blade.  This can range from an indent that runs straight along the blade to several medium-sized holes in the blade. 

These are included to make soft cheeses less likely to stick to the blade.  Depending on the size and nature of these indents, they may make using the knife to spread cheese much more difficult or not affect it at all.

Soft cheese knives can vary in sharpness as well.  Most are dull, comparable to a butter knife.  However, some, like the gorgonzola knife, are crafted with a sharper blade to cut through tough rinds and waxes.

Overall, the soft cheese knife is the most versatile knife out there.  While it is most useful for serving soft cheeses, it is perfectly capable of being used on harder cheeses as well.  If you’re only in the market for one cheese knife, rather than a collection, this is the one to get.

 Cut soft cheese

 

Cheddar Knife

Due to its distinctive shape, this knife is more commonly known as the cheese cleaver.  In fact, the cheddar knife actually does function in a similar manner to a full-size cleaver, just on a much smaller scale. 

The blade, though small, is proportionally quite broad and heavy.  It is somewhat sharp to deal with tough cheese rinds, but most of its cutting power, much like a full-sized cleaver, comes from the weight of the blade.

As the name suggests, the cheddar knife is intended to be used with cheddar and other hard cheeses.  The cheddar knife is used for the kind of large, thick slices you would serve on a cracker.  The weight and sharpness of the blade allow you to cut cleanly and easily.

You’re probably reading this thinking, “why would I need a small cleaver for cheese?”  Well, you’re not entirely wrong.  The cheddar knife is one of the more specialized knives, and if you aren’t looking to have a large assortment of cheese knives, this is probably a good one to leave out.

However, it wouldn’t be correct to say that it’s not good at what it’s meant for.  While a soft cheese knife is usually fine for serving hard cheeses, it can cut a bit unevenly, depending on how dull it is.  If presentation is important, a cheddar knife is much more consistent at cutting symmetrical slices of your favorite hard cheese.

 

Parmesan Knife

The parmesan knife is another odd-looking cheese knife.  The blade is extremely broad and thick, usually dullish on the sides but sharpened to a point at the end.  The handle is typically quite large and sturdy, allowing you to push down heavily on the pointed tip.

This knife is only useful for extremely hard cheeses.  That is to say, the kind of cheese that is so hard and dry you can feel the salt crystals while eating it.  Obviously, the cheese the knife is named for, Parmigiano Reggiano, is a great example.

The purpose of this knife is, instead of slicing the cheese, to chip off crumbs, preserving its classic dry and crumbly mouthfeel.  So, unlike a cheese grater, this actually makes the cheese-less likely to fully melt when added to a hot dish.

Obviously, this kind of knife is extremely specialized.  If the cheese is even a little soft, a parmesan knife makes little sense.  However, many people keep fresh blocks of Parmigiano Reggiano around.  If you’re one of them, this knife offers an attractive way to add cheese to any dish.

 

Chisel Knife

As you might imagine, this knife is fairly similar to the parmesan knife.  Both are intended to be used with a downward motion in order to chip away at harder cheeses, and both feature heavy, sturdy handles. 

However, the chisel knife, as opposed to the parmesan knife, does not feature a sharp point at the end, instead of using a flat frontal blade.  In a way, the chisel knife is a bit like a cross between a parmesan knife and a cheddar knife, with the frontal blade of the parmesan knife and the broad, heavy blade of the cheddar knife.

The chisel knife is best suited for cheeses of middling hardness or cheeses that fall somewhere in between soft and hard.  Too soft, and the cheese will stick to the chisel knife’s broad blade.  Too hard, and the cheese will crumble instead of being sliced.

The chisel knife does best when used on cheeses between these two extremes, which usually have the consistency of the kind of cheese you would have sliced for you at a supermarket deli.  If you prefer to purchase cheeses like swiss or even processed cheddar in block form, the chisel knife is a great way to make sandwich-ready rectangular slices at home.  

 

Mezzaluna

Probably the strangest looking knife on the list, the mezzaluna looks a bit like a small bandsaw.  It was a handle on each side of its half-oval shaped blade.  Fun fact, the name ‘mezzaluna’ is Italian for ‘crescent moon,’ named for the shape of its blade.

The mezzaluna is actually more of a general-purpose knife than a cheese knife, but it is frequently used to serve cheese. 

The original purpose of the mezzaluna is to simulate the rocking motion of a classic chef’s knife.  When grabbed by both handles and moved back and forth in a seesaw motion, the mezzaluna is excellent at finely chopping vegetables.

As a cheese knife, it has two purposes.  First, it behaves much as it does usually, finely chopping hard cheeses, very useful if you want to powderize a very hard cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano.  Second, if you happen to buy very large wheels of cheese, the mezzaluna is large and heavy enough that it’s quite useful for portioning out chunks from much bigger pieces.

As you might imagine, the mezzaluna is better at cutting hard and very hard cheeses, as soft cheeses end up getting flattened and stuck to the blade. 

The mezzaluna is a bit of an odd duck; it has many uses, but many of those uses are performed just as well by other kitchen utensils.  Overall, its unique appearance and general functionality make it a fine choice for home cooks and party planners.

 

Other Cheese Serving Accessories to Use with Cheese Knives

Now that you have a good working knowledge of the different types of cheese knives that are available, we can talk about other ways of serving cheese. 

Knives are useful for getting pieces big enough to put on a cracker, but sometimes you need a more specific type of cut for some cooking applications.  Fear not!  If you’re more of a home cook than an entertainer, you might find something you like here!

 

Cheese Grater

Cheese grater

The cheese grater is one of the most common, as well as versatile, methods of preparing cheese to be added to a meal.  The fact is, cheese graters come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from the classic box grater you see in cartoons to flat graters for grating cheese directly into the food!

The reason there is so much variety in cheese graters is that there are a ton of different patterns used to grate cheese.  From very thick cuts, used for gruyere or cheddar, to the finest grain graters used for Parmigiano Reggiano, you can get a lot of different textures by grating cheese.

This is why, at least at first, it’s usually best to get a large box grater, as not only do they have a larger surface area for grating but they also typically have more grating patterns available.  The more variety to start out, the better.

That’s not to say flat graters aren’t nice.  By far, the biggest advantage they bring is how much easier they are to clean, and they’re also more convenient to bring to the table when you just want to grate a little bit of cheese on top of your meal.

Cheese graters are also underestimated as a way to prepare other foods, like vegetables!  Grating onions is a quick and easy way to add them to sauces or hashbrowns.  Grated carrots are also great in bolognese sauces.  Finally, graters can be used to get citrus zest from fruits like lemons and oranges, a great way to get citrus flavor without the sweetness. 

Cheese graters are great for most cheeses, except the softest.  As long as the cheese is hard enough that you can rub it on the grater without spreading it on the grater, it should be ok, though cheeses on the softer side are a bit harder to clean.  The cheese grater is a fixture of the modern kitchen, and you should look into getting one if you don’t have one already!

 

Cheese Plane

This type of cheese knife is a bit less common.  If you don’t know what it is, chances are you don’t have one!  It looks a bit like a triangular, offset spatula, but with a horizontal blade in the middle.  It is used primarily for hard cheeses.

Cheese planes function a lot like a cheese grater, but much more specialized.  The cheese is placed on the flat of the spatula against the blade in the middle.   With an up and down motion, the cheese plane shaves off slices of the cheese.

The primary benefit to the cheese plane is its ability to shave off extremely thin slices of cheese.  It’s most commonly used on hard cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano and  Pecorino Romano.  Since the cheese is sliced so thin, it melts easily onto warm pasta.  It is also far more convenient than bringing an entire cheese grater to the kitchen table!  For that reason, the cheese plane is recommended for any home cook who enjoys Italian cuisine.

 

Cheese Wire

Finally, cheese wire is the kind of tool that isn’t usually necessary for the home cook, but in some circumstances, it can be useful.  Cheese wire is exactly what it sounds like, a thin, strong wire attached to a handle on each side that can be pulled through cheese to cut it.

Cheese wire is usually used to portion relatively large portions of cheese for even larger ones, such as an entire cheese wheel.  In other words, it’s not the sort of tool you would use to use guests at a dinner party.  So if you’re the sort of person who reallylikes cheese, to the point you buy entire wheels of it, it can be useful.

Cheese wire is also noted for its ability to create the cleanest and most precise cuts.  It can be used to cube large amounts of cheese at once, as well as to cut off the rind of the cheese without leaving too much usable cheese still attached. 

Cheese wire is able to cut most types of cheese.  You might have some trouble with the hardest cheeses, especially the more crumbly ones.  You can still cut them, but you probably won’t get the perfect, smooth lines that cheese wire helps you achieve with softer cheeses. 

Overall, cheese wire is a pretty niche tool for the home cook.  That being said, most varieties happen to be very cheap.  If you buy your cheese wholesale, it probably makes sense to invest in some cheese wire.  Even if you don’t, it can be useful for cubing and removing rinds, and it’s cheap enough that it’s worth picking some out and seeing if it works well for you.

 

Final Thoughts

 

There are a variety of specialty cheese knives depending on the type of cheese and whether you want to crumble, slice or spread it. If you're not a frequent cheese eater then you can also use a utility or paring knife from one of our Chef's Vision knife sets. The advantage is that they're more versatile and will be useful for the majority of your food preparation tasks, as well as being beautiful to look at.