Few things are as exciting as a well-prepared cheese board. A gorgeous spread of crackers and crostinis, jams, preserves, soft cheeses, hard cheeses, and other accoutrements that can easily be a meal on its own, or presented at a party to impress your guests. However, cutting the cheese itself isn’t quite so simple. There’s a world of cheese knives out there, ranging from spades to cheese wires, and if you’re unfamiliar with them, it’s hard to know which one to grab off the platter. Besides, they’ll all get you a slice of cheese in the end … right?
To demystify the process, we tapped Eric Brazel from Fig Restaurant in Santa Monica, the in-house fromager and expert on all things cheese. He not only gave us a breakdown on which knives work best with each cheese, but he also told us how to care for them, so they’ll last for many, many cheese boards to come. Check out his tips below:
First of all, you need these knives and spreaders
An etched or hollow knife
“This knife is important because the air pockets help eliminate sticking and make a clean cut without damaging the shape of the cheese,” Brazel explains. “This knife can also be used on semi-hard cheeses. The fork end is good for moving the cheese around the board.”
A spade or hard cheese knife
“You need a sharp, wide blade to easily cut into a hard cheese,” he says. “This knife is great to use when cutting Asiago, Manchego, and Parmesan cheeses.”
A cheese wire
“A cheese wire is perfect for blue cheeses because it will not drag through or break off the fragile blue cheese,” Brazel says. “It will make nice little slices.”
Additionally, when entertaining, Brazel recommends using Laguiole Spreaders with your cheese board.
Laguiole Spreaders, $35-$87 depending on quantity (was $60-$87) at williams-sonoma.com
Try these brands
“I am a fan of Wüsthof and Henckles cheese knives and they are readily available for at home cooks,” he says. “I also like the Boska Holland Cheese Knife Set Vienna.”
Wüsthof Classic Etched Cheese Knife, 5", $95 at surlatable.com
Always keep your knives sharp and clean
“The knives should be honed regularly at home and taken to a professional sharpener once a year,” Brazel says. “It is important that the knives remain very sharp to avoid tugging and pulling apart the cheese. You should always hand-wash your knives.”
He also says to wipe the cheese knife with a damp cloth in between cuts if necessary, in order to make sure the knife stays clean.
Respect the shape of the cheese
“Don’t try to change the shape of the cheese by cutting it into cubes or quartering round discs,” he says.
Keep your slices small
“Many people slice cheese into large, thick pieces,” Brazel explains. “It is better to cut thin pieces and cut more if you need to. This is how cheese should be served."