The Right Cheese Tool for the Job
Deciding which tools and equipment to have in your cheese shop is an important decision for any cheese monger. Whether it’s a wire cheese slicer, a cheese curler or an industrial cheese grater, having the right counter tools will equal more revenue, less wastage and greater profitability from your cheese counter. Here’s why…
Good cheese knives keep the queue moving
It is often said that a queue is a sign of healthy trade, but let’s face it – nobody really enjoys standing in line. And whilst it can give customers time to browse what’s on the counter in front of them, for many, a queue more than a few people long can be enough to put them off entering your shop in the first place.
This is why it is important to choose reliable equipment – robust tools that stay firmly rooted to the counter, cheese wires that don’t keep breaking and the sharpest of knives that swiftly slice through the hardest of cheeses. The right counter tools are indispensable for getting the job done quickly to keep that queue moving.
The best cheese slicer? Look for function, not failure
As well as choosing durable, high-quality tools that won’t let you down, it is important to know which tools are best for cutting the variety of cheeses and accompaniments on your counter. Due to the huge spectrum of textures on a cheese counter: from soft and oozy to sticky or solid – there’s a tool that has been perfectly engineered to cut or slice each variety of cheese in the most efficient way.
Cheese knives or cheese wire cutter? Don’t let the choice drag you down
It goes without saying that you will want your cutting tool to be strong enough to cut even the hardest of hard, cooked cheeses such as Parmesan or Gouda. It is also really important the tool doesn’t create “drag” across a cheese’s surface or, even worse, leave a load of excess cheese behind.
Why is this? To start with, who wants to see an untidy piece of cheese given to the customer? Not to mention the scruffy piece left on display. But also, if a greater surface area is left exposed, it is likely to spoil quicker.
And then there is the issue of the quantity of cheese that is left behind on the cheese knife – what a waste! Our guide below should help you find the correct piece of equipment for any variety of cheese.
The cheese wire cutting board is the most effective tool for cutting most styles of cheese, including Cheddar and Tommes. The wire, which is pulled through the cheese, is not sharp but has no drag so moves through the paste and rind easily leaving smooth cheese surfaces. If a cheese is too large to fit on a board (eg a Le Gruyère PDO), then a long cheese wire with handles will be used.
This is commonly used on soft blue cheeses, such as Roquefort PDO and Fourme d’Ambert PDO. They come in a multitude of sizes, with smaller ones perfect for Chèvres and other soft goats’ cheese. The amount of moisture, together with their chalky textures, makes the cutting very delicate and can leave a lot of cheese behind on a knife.
Different countries have their own preferences on which tools to use, this typically derives from the preponderance of styles of cheese in that country.
These knives are traditional in The Netherlands for Gouda cheese cutting. The knife is large, often with a blade of over 45cms, curved and at one end the handle is at right angles to the blade to allow for greater control of the knife.
Cutting speciality Cheeses
There are some tools that are specifically designed for a certain cheese, such as Parmesan and Tête de Moine AOP .
Grana cheeses – Parmigiano Reggiano PDO and Grana Padano PDO – are too big, too hard and too large to easily cut. The tradition is to use a toothed knife to cut through the hard exterior by 1-1.5cm, then use sharp wedges to break the cheeses open. This gives grana pieces their signature rough cut look.
The cheese plane, also known as a cheese slicer or cheese shaver is a very useful tool for creating shavings of hard cheese. Cheese shops may use them for slicing tasting pieces and also for cleaning the face of the cheese.
More ways to save money with your Cheese Toolkit
Cheese Cutting: Cut Smart
Sometimes it is more economical to buy whole cheeses to cut and portion yourself into smaller wedges for sale, rather than buying pre-cut. The Boska Divide-O-Matic cheese cutter, which allows you to cut round wheels of cheeses, such as Gouda and Cheddar, into perfect, almost flat slices, with less cutting waste. The well-designed lever lets you cut through cheeses with ease, meaning you will be able to cut half a cheese wheel into decent wedges in no time.
With the Boska Cheese Slicer, (Unika +) you can cut the most beautiful cheese slices in a flash – perfect for sandwiches and paninis. Thanks to the unique wedge-shaped cutting technique, you can cut round wheels of cheeses with less cutting waste. This makes the Unika+ extremely suitable for Raclette cheese and semi-hard cheeses, such as Le Gruyère PDO; thanks to the chopping movement, the structure of the cheese will remain intact.
Cheese tools: buy cheap buy twice
Now everyone’s on board with their Bags for Life, it’s time to think about Tools for Life. Cheese tools don’t come cheap, which means they need to be hard-wearing. Buy a brand, such as Boska, that’s built to last and they’ll keep you cutting for longer.
Keep cheese fresher for longer
Keep cheeses fresher for longer by packing them in vacuum bags. With sealed cheeses and longer use-by dates, not only will you have less wastage, but you will also be able to offer your customers handy pick-up wedges – ready for that impulse buy.
Cheese Toolkit Aftercare
Prolong the life of your tools by giving them a good clean after using and (just as essential) dry them completely before storing to avoid the corrosion of the blade. Also, because the acidity of some cheese this can damage the sharpness of the knives, it is important to regularly sharpen them.
Rachel Holding | Academy of Cheese Writer
Rachel loves a good cheese and wine session. Her love of all cheeses, artisanal or otherwise, has grown from her early years of working on the cheese counter at Fortnum & Mason. She has a personal mission to taste as many cheeses as possible and to encourage this passion in others.