Cheese knives are one of those things that almost every kitchen seems to have, but very few people actually know how to use.
It’s possible that you own a cheese knife without knowing what it’s for, especially if you’ve ever been given cutlery as a gift!
Learning how to use a cheese knife might not be necessary for everyone, but it can make a huge difference in the flavor and texture of your favorite cheese.
Real cheese lovers, and anyone who wants to put together a good wine and cheese plate, should absolutely know how to use a cheese knife properly.
Not only will you be making the most of your cheese, you’ll also be able to impress friends and family with your new cheese knife knowledge and skills!
In this Guide you’ll learn:
- How to choose the right kind of knife for your cheese
- Why using a cheese knife is better than a regular knife
- And Much More!
What's in this Guide?
What Are The Benefits of Using a Cheese Knife Properly?
You’re probably wondering if having a specialized cheese knife is worth the extra effort. After all, regular butter knives work well for soft cheese, and you can use a sharper knife or cheese cutter for most other kinds of cheese.
The truth is that you can get by with regular knives for most kinds of cheeses.
But using a regular knife for your cheese will almost always change the texture. Squishing and breaking the unique texture of your cheese apart can even change the flavor slightly, robbing you of the best aspects of your cheese.
Not to mention some cheeses, like Parmesian, are incredibly hard to cut and enjoy without a cheese knife designed to help you cut that kind of cheese.
Having a great cheese knife (or rather, having a few specialized cheese knives) is the only way to make sure you’re getting the most out of your cheese.
I’ll be honest with you. If you’re not a huge fan of cheese you probably don’t need a specialized cheese knife set. However, if you love cheese, enjoy serving a good cheese plate with your favorite wine, or enjoy a charcuterie board with a selection of high-end cheeses, you’ll want cheese knives.
Looking for some great cheese pairings? This guide has you covered with some of the most mouth watering cheese pairings you can enjoy!
I personally think that cheese knives are most useful for hard cheese and cheese purchased in the rind. Fresh parmesan, some hard cheddars, and most kinds of goat and sheep cheese can all benefit from cheese knives.
But even when it comes to herbed cheese spreads and medium hard cheeses like smoked gouda, you can take advantage with a set of cheese knives.
Read More: >> The Complete Guide to Kitchen Knives
What You Need To Know About Cheese Knives
One of the main things that you need to know is that there are actually several different kinds of cheese knives. They fall into three broad categories: knives for soft cheese, knives for medium/hard cheese, and knives for the hardest varieties of cheese.
If you have a good generalist knife from each of those categories then you’re probably set.
Truthfully though, those three kinds of cheese knife are just the beginning of the story. True cheese lovers will tell you that there are actually dozens of kinds of cheese knives, and each has some unique advantages and disadvantages.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to tell you to go out to a specialty knife store and buy a dozen different new knives. Most people can get away with just the three basic knives, and you can add one or two additions to your collection depending on which cheeses you enjoy most.
You should also know that not all cheese knives have sharp edges. Cheese knives designed for soft cheese are generally dull, well rounded, and look a little more like a spreader than a knife.
Of course, that’s what they’re meant to do– They spread soft cheese!
Just like other knives, it’s important to get a cheese knife that was made with high quality materials to make sure it’s more durable. Stainless steel is the best material for most cheese knives. It’s easier to maintain than carbon steel, but also more flexible and durable than cheaper metals.
Want to see these knives in action? Take out this video showing you how to use several different kinds of cheese knives.
Plus, I love the many different shapes and sizes of the knives she chose! This really is a good representative set of knives for cheese!
That’s it, that’s pretty much everything you need to know to start using cheese knives, but I do want to give you one more tip.
It can be difficult to tell if your cheese is safe to eat. Smell isn’t always a good guide, especially for blue cheeses and other strongly scented varieties. This guide will help you decide when your cheese is and isn’t safe to eat.
What Do I Need to Use a Cheese Knife?
You don’t need much to use a cheese knife effectively. You’ll typically just need three things:
- The appropriate cheese knife for your cheese
- A slightly damp bar towel
- A cutting board
The cutting board is essential to using a cheese knife safely, but the damp towel is optional.
You’ll want a damp towel for sticky cheeses because a little water on your knife will help repel the fats in the cheese, making it easier to cut.
Having one really isn’t necessary for hard or dry cheeses like parmesan because the cheese isn’t likely to stick to the knife in the first place.
Read More: >> How to Remove Rust from a Knife
It’s also not a good idea to use the damp towel with some grainy hard cheeses because the additional moisture can soak into the cheese and ruin the texture while also changing the flavor.
Knowing when to use a damp towel, and when not to, is a matter of practice. The general rule is that a damp towel is most useful for soft cheeses, and gets less necessary the harder your cheese is.
How To Use Cheese Knives (3 Methods)
Every kind of cheese uses a slightly different method, so I’m going to cover all three basic kinds of cheese knife. The process itself is really basic, but you’ll want to tweak and adjust it slightly as you gain more experience.
Every cheese is different, so cutting it will be slightly different. Feel free to modify these techniques to better suit the specific cheese knife you’re working with, as well as each kind of cheese you’re cutting. Refer to this handy knife guide for reference:
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Method 1: Soft Cheese
Soft cheese is incredibly easy to cut and work with, even though it might not seem that way at first. If your cheese is in a rind, use the sharper side of your knife to score the rind and then lift it free.
Some cheese will stick to the rind while you remove it. That’s normal. You can use the knife to cut through any cheese sticking to the rind if there’s too much.
Dampen the knife slightly with the wet cloth. There should be just a tiny amount of water on the knife, too much could change the texture and flavor of the cheese, but too little and it won’t work properly.
Next, scoop a small amount of cheese onto your knife, and spread it over some bread or a cracker.
Wipe off any cheese sticking to the knife. Leftover cheese will dry out and get stickier, making it hard to get a clean scoop or slice of cheese on the next pass.
You’ll need to dampen the blade and wipe it off, every time you get more cheese out.
Method 2: Medium Hard Cheeses
Method two requires a cheese knife that has a sharp edge. These knives can look mostly like a normal knife, or they can have small holes or divets in the side of the blade to help reduce the friction on the cheese.
If you don’t have a cheese knife for medium hard cheeses like cheddar, colby jack, and most gouda, a wire cheese slicer will also work well with these cheeses.
The biggest difference between cutting these cheeses and cutting anything else with a knife is that you should not saw your knife back and forth.
Instead, press straight down on the knife to cut the slice of cheese you’d like.
Sawing back and forth, like you would to chop vegetables or slice meat, causes too much friction. Your knife is more likely to get stuck to the cheese when you saw that way, instead of gliding straight through like it’s supposed to.
It can take a moderate amount of pressure to get through the cheese– don’t worry if the cheese seems to mush slightly as you cut it. That’s normal.
If it presses down more than it cuts though, the cheese is probably too soft for the knife you’ve chosen. Try a soft cheese knife or a wire cutter instead.
Some cheeses in this category will also benefit from wetting your knife with a damp cloth, but not all of them will. Feel free to experiment with a slice or two each way to see what works best for you.
Method 3: Hard Cheeses
Cheeses in this category are very very hard, with little or no give when you squeeze them. Most of these cheeses are more likely to crumble or chip than slice, which is a perfectly good way to serve them!
Parmesan and other very hard cheeses are typically either shredded or chipped apart. They aren’t usually sliced like other cheeses because the texture of the cheese isn’t very good for slicing.
That’s why the cheese knives for this category of cheese can so often resemble chisels instead of knives. You’ll literally chip the cheese apart.
As you develop additional skills you’ll learn to work with the texture of the cheese to get pieces close to the size and shape you want, but cutting these cheeses is much more an art than a science.
You’ll almost never want to wet your cheese knife with these cheeses. Even a little extra moisture can change their texture and taste.
If you live in a humid area you’ll even want to make sure you’re covering your cheese quickly after cutting it, or you’ll risk the moisture in the air softening the cheese.
Sometimes you’ll be able to press hard cheese knives through the cheese like a medium hard cheese, with one smooth motion with steady pressure slicing straight down.
Other times you’ll place the chisel and gently pound on the handle of the knife with the palm of your hand. Gentle pressure is key for this technique if you want to cut the cheese instead of crumbling it.
Keep hitting the handle of the knife with steady pressure each time until the cheese is cut. It’s okay if the cheese crumbles a little or doesn’t separate exactly where you’re cutting.
My Final Thoughts on Cheese Knives
Cheese knives might not be entirely necessary but they can definitely add to the experience. If you love cheese like I do you’ll appreciate taking cheese eating to the next level. Not only does it taste better when it’s been cut and cared for properly, the ritual of cutting cheese is enjoyable as well!
I even know some people who collect rare or well-decorated cheese knives!
Of course, if you already enjoy cheese the way you already slice and eat it, there’s nothing wrong with that either.
Even if you never use these knives at home you never know when you might need these skills at a fancy restaurant, a family dinner party, or over at your cheese-loving friend’s house.
No matter how you’re eating it, I hope you enjoy your next piece of cheese!