Gustav and I often get asked which knives are best to use for cutting different types of cheeses. Gustav’s answer is, obviously, that you don´t need knives at all and just use your fangs—but mine naturally is not quite as simple.
So what is the basic must-have equipment to properly cut our friends without harm to us or them?
As a general answer I can say, that surely every knife, whether dull or sharp, will do it, but that there is indeed a reason for the different shapes of knives to be found in the shops.
Since cheese not only comes in different groups by means of production and milk, but also in terms of structure, density and hardness of the paste, the knives in use should suit these different conditions.
FRESH CHEESES, like young goat cheese but also very ripe soft cheeses, are best cut with the so-called “cheese lyre” which derives its shape and name from the *Lýra*, a string instrument used in Greek classical antiquity. The cheese lyre operates with a thin stainless steel wire that makes it possible to cut delicate and fragile cheeses clear and clean. Cheese lyres come in different sizes, but for most of your friends at home a small sized one should more than do it.
For SOFT CHEESES we have knives that are actually named for the group they are best used for – the *Soft cheese knives*
Soft cheese knives have an upswept, pointed blade with two prongs at the end. This means that the tip of the the knife is higher than its base and the two pointed tips let you pick up sticky or melty cheeses without making an unnecessary mess.
If you have a cheese plate and people coming over I recommend having a separate knife for your bloomy- , washed-rind and blue cheeses. That way you not only not get a sticky color mess on your cheese plate but also you avoid having cultures crossover from one kind of cheese to the other.
SEMI-HARD CHEESES like an Appenzeller are best cut with a sheepsfoot blade. This means that the blade is absolutely straight and the tip comes all the way down to the cutting level, which helps with a controlled and clean cut. Since a wave cut blade could lead to the wave pattern being imprinted on the cheeses surface, knives for semi-hard cheeses therefor come with a concave edge.
To use with a range of cheese sizes the blade should be about 14cm in length.
The concave edge is also on the blades of the two-handle knives cheesemongers use to cut bigger wheels of cheese.
Last we have the group of HARD CHEESES like Parmigiano Reggiano.
For those cheeses it´s best to use a little hatch that has a convex trimmed edge that will not be extremely sharp or you go for the classic Parmesan breaker that looks like a little dagger with a big knobby handle. With the latter you can just break out pieces of cheese and the cheese itself can decide in which structure it presents itself.
As you can see there actually are different kinds of knives that all have a best use with a special cheese group and using them according to their form helps you present your market hunts in a clean and appealing way. Using the proper knives makes a dinner for one evening even more exquisite and will definitely be a show with your party guests.
But don´t worry – if you spent your last penny on cheeses and can´t go out and buy the matching knife – use the ones you have or simply break your friends apart and enjoy them as they come. Hand-torn or broken cheeses automatically have a bigger and more complex surface which helps the aroma and flavors to be accessed more easily.
And as Gustav points out– with a cheese at home, cut or torn, you can only be a winner!