By some estimates, there are over 1,800 different types of cheeses in the world – we believe there are in fact many more, but won’t question the number. All we know, is that they come in many shapes and sizes, textures and rinds. Such a diversity is fantastic for our taste buds, but what about the practicalities of cutting down all these lovely cheeses?
Each cheese should be sliced and packed in a specific way to maximize its eye appeal, and safeguard its goodness as long as possible. Our on-staff chef, Josh, noticed he was getting many requests from store managers focusing on training employees to cut cheeses such as Caciocavallos, Emmentalers and Roquefort. With that in mind, we’ve created a handy guide offering an overview of the six main types of cheese cutting techniques, and the tools of the trade. This guide will be available as a poster in English and Spanish – contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive one!
The Cuts: How to cut whole wheels of cheese
Soft Ripened Cheese
Soft Ripened Cheeses are always cut in wedges, using an all-purpose Chef knife. Keep the cheese cold to ensure clean cuts. Cut in half, then in quarters, finally in smaller triangles.
Washed Rind and Square Cheese
Square cheeses should be cut on a diagonal from the corner. A cheese like Saint Angel can be left in those isosceles triangles. For larger cheeses like taleggio, cut again in a cross pattern.
Score the cheese foil with a serrated knife. Using a platform wire cutter, cut in half, then in quarters, and finally in smaller triangles. If the cheese is tall, cut in half lengthwise first. Be mindful of cross contamination of the mold in the cheese – always wash and sanitize your cutting utensils and work surface afterwards.
Loaf Shapes: Provolone, Cacciocavallo …
Loaves and cylinders can be tricky. For loaves such as Caciocavallo, trim off the ends, and cut in 1-inch slices. Large cylinders, such as Provolone, can first be cut in half lengthwise.
Hard Wheels: Grana Padano & Parmigiano Reggiano
To cut a Parmigiano Reggiano or a Grana Padano, you need the right knives, see set on the right. Use the scoring knife to score the rind around its circumference. Insert the almond-shaped knives at regular intervals to pierce the cheese. Finally, use the long spatula knife to crack it open. Repeat this method until you achieve the chunks you desire. Always leave some rind on the cheese. Check out a video here.
Large Wheels: Emmentaler, Comte …
Large wheels such as Gruyere and Emmental can reach up to 140Lbs. Use a two-handled wire cutter to split the wheels into quarters, then eights. Use an all purpose knife or two-handled knife to further cut down the cheese. Check out a video here.
The tools of the trade: Which tools to choose to cut full forms of cheese
The Chef Knife
This all-purpose Chef’s knife is primarily used for softer cheeses and smaller cuts. Always keep the blade sharp, as it will damage soft rinds if it is dull. To use this knife, start on the far side of the cheese and while applying pressure, pull the knife towards you. Keep the knife clean of any residue.
The Two-Handled Knife
The two-handled knife is used on almost all pressed cheeses. Using both hands, start with your stronger hand and use your other to guide the knife. Use your body weight to push the knife through.
Handled Wire Cutters are used on many cheeses, including Cheddar, Emmental, Gruyere, or any other cheese that are broader than the width of the two handled knife. To use, first score the rind of the cheese with a shallow incision. This will guide the wire as you pull it through the cheese, and ensure you don’t rip any label that may be on the cheese.
Reggiano and Grana Knives
The only knives to crack open Reggiano or Grana. The first, with its sharp hook, is used to score the hard rind of the cheese. The almond-shape knife is used to deeply pierce the rind, every 4 to 5 inches. This begins to “crack” the wheel. Finally, the longest blade is inserted in the center of the cheese, in the initial scoring, and used to crack the wheel in half.
Platform Wire Cutter
Platform wire cutters from Boska or Handee are devices equipped with a single dowel-handled wire mounted on a metal or plastic platform. These versatile devices are the preferred choice of most cheese mongers for all cuts including semi-soft, brie-style blue cheeses as well as semi-firm cheeses.