While cheese slicers are an essential addition to any kitchen and cheese-lover’s arsenal of tools, the purchasing process can be confusing. Being overwhelmed by the large variety of products and features available, misunderstanding the characteristics and uses of different types of cheese boards with wire cutter, failing to take into account the essential factors that need to be kept in mind before making a decision (such as durability and adjustability), and being unfamiliar with which cheese cutter is best suited to the types of cheese you intend to cut – these are all problems that can lead to you purchasing an unsuitable and/or poor quality cheese slicer.
We’ve compiled a handy buying guide on cheese slicers, to make the entire procedure simple and uncomplicated for you. Our guide is packed with all the information you need, compiled conveniently in one place, to ensure the cheese slicer you finally select is of top-quality, suits your needs, and lasts a long time.
What's The Point Of Using A Cheese Slicer?
One of the most popular dairy products in the world, cheese is ubiquitous, whether it’s English or American cheddar, a good French brie, Italian parmesan and mozzarella, Dutch Gouda, Swiss Gruyère or Greek feta. Delicious and versatile, it’s perfect for salads, sandwiches, cheese boards, fondues, or on its own.
There are countless brands and grocery stores selling packs of pre-cut cheese, but there are two main reasons why it’s best to steer clear of those. Firstly, packs of pre-cut cheese do not provide value for money – for less or equal the amount of money, you can buy more cheese if you opt for a block or log of cheese instead. Secondly, pre-cut cheese often lacks freshness and flavor – overtime, it tends to go a little stale and lose its character.
If you’re spending good money on high-quality blocks of cheese, it makes no sense to butcher the block with a random knife or cutting utensil. The right tool for effectively carving any block of cheese is with a dedicated cheese slicer.
There are multiple advantages to using a cheese slicer:
- Effective: Knives consist of a blade and an edge – when you drag a knife through a block of cheese, the blade part offers resistance. This requires increased effort on your part, and results in deformed/ squished/crumbled blocks of cheese, and misshapen, ragged-looking cheese slices. A cheese cutter, however, has a special blade/cutting wire designed for the specific task of slicing cheese. It has a more concentrated pressure point – less resistance and all edge – which allows it to glide smoothly through cheese blocks without deforming them and results in even, cleanly-cut, consistent slices.
- Easy to use: Since they are so effective at cheese slicing, they make the task incredibly easy. Not only do cheese cutters minimize effort (since you can easily slice cheese without expending energy and effort with a random knife or any other tool), they make cheese slicing a simple and pleasant task. Most cheese slicers are uncomplicated, straightforward and manually operated, and you can learn to use one in no time.
- Customizable results: Cheese slicers allow for easy control and customization of the size and thickness of cheese slices (as opposed to pre-cut cheese, the thickness of which you can’t modify). Slice it thin for crackers, subs and snacks, and thick for grilled cheese sandwiches and burgers.
- Safe to use: Since they are specially designed for the task, cheese slicers are adequately sharp and safer to use for the task of cutting cheese as compared to knives and other tools.
- Great for entertaining: Cheese slicers are nifty and attractive little tools that are great for entertaining. Put them out with your cheese plates so guests can help themselves! It’s a far more classy and sophisticated way to serve cheese than with an ordinary dull butter knife.
How To Slice Cheese With A Cheese Slicer
The instructions for how to slice cheese using a cheese slicer vary according to the type of slicer you’re using – cheese planes, rolling wire cheese cutters, and wire cheese slicers with boards all have their own particular sets of instructions for use. However, there are some key tips that apply to all cheese slicers:
- Read instructions: All cheese slicers come with an instruction manual, and it is essential to read this in order to get a good idea of how best to use and care for your cheese slicer. Generally, cheese planes are used by holding the tool at an angle against the cheese and scraping it along the surface. Rolling wire cheese slicers are used by sliding the wire through the cheese. Wire cheese slicers with boards are used by placing a cheese block on the board, and using the lever on the side to slice the cheese with the wire.
- Keep cheese at moderate temperature: While most cutters will be sharp enough to slice through any kind of consistency, trying to cut frozen cheese or warm, melting/oozing cheese is not a great idea if clean, even slices are what you’re looking for. So, regardless of what type of slicer you’re using, it is essential to bring the cheese to a moderate temperature before commencing the cutting process. It should not be warm/melting, or frozen rock solid – rather, softer cheeses should be at a slightly cool and moderate temperature, while harder cheeses should be at a slightly warmer, moderate temperature.
- Use your dominant hand: Always hold the cutter/slicer in your dominant hand, and use the other to firmly grasp the cheese and hold it in place while you slice.
- Modify slice thickness: Again, different types of cheese cutters will have different ways for you to adjust the thickness of slices. With a cheese plane and a rolling wire cheese slicer, you will need to use the angle of your wrist to modify slice thickness and adjust it according to your liking (although some rolling wire cutters can be adjusted for customized thickness via screws located on the side). With wire cheese slicers with boards, you will need to adjust the placement of your cheese on the board so the wire attached to the lever can slice through it in accordance with your desired thickness. Regardless of which type of slicer you use, it is best to do a couple of test slices before you begin, to check/adjust the thickness and get the hang of using your cheese slicer.
- Keep it clean: Clean your cheese cutter both before and after you begin slicing. Before you begin, it is best to wipe the cutter with a damp cloth and allow it to dry fully before you begin the slicing process. After you’re done using it, wipe it clean with a soft cloth to remove any cheesy residues which might later turn into breeding grounds for bacteria. Then, follow the instructions that come with your cheese slicer for a full and thorough wash – some cutters are dishwasher-safe, while some need to be hand-washed.
- Make sure it is sharp: Just as using a dull knife in the kitchen is dangerous, a dull cheese slicer can be equally unsafe, not to mention frustrating. A dull slicer will also end up deforming your cheese block and producing misshapen slices. When using a cheese plane, ensure the blade is razor sharp. When using a wire cutter, make sure the wire is sharp and taut – adjust for tightness if possible, and if the wire has given out entirely, replace it with a new one.
Types Of Cheese Slicers
Broadly speaking, there are two main types of cheese cutters – cheese planes, and wire cutters. Wire cutters are further divided into two types – there are rolling wire cheese cutters, and wire cheese slicers with boards. The board variety is further divided into three types – the boards can be wooden, marble, or stainless steel. Each type has its pros and cons, and is suitable for different kinds of cheeses.
This is the original Norwegian cheese slicer design, native to Norway and a vital part of Scandinavian culture. The first cheese plane was created by a man named Thor Bjørklund, who worked as a carpenter and wanted to create a tool for slicing cheese that was similar to his carpenter plane. The cheese plane is now a common household tool and one of the most popular types of hand cheese slicers.
Its appearance is somewhat akin to a spatula, with a blade embedded in it and a long horizontal hole/slot positioned directly above the blade. The cheese plane is used by dragging it across the flat surface of a block of cheese – as the blade slices the cheese, the slice emerges easily and smoothly from the slot/hole. The thickness of slices can be customized by adjusting the angle of the wrist when holding the cheese plane.
Cheese planes make for an ideal hard cheese slicer, and work best for medium to hard cheeses (these make an ideal parmesan cheese slicer), and create beautifully thin and even slices. They are easy to clean, and far faster at slicing cheese than knives. In addition, they can also double as cake/pie servers, butter/chocolate shavers, and vegetable peelers.
Wire Cheese Slicers
Wire cheese slicers use mounted wires to slice through cheese. The cheese cutter wires are incredibly sharp and strong, and are made of durable stainless steel. Using a wire for cutting cheese has multiple advantages – as compared to a knife, wire cutters have increased pressure points and are all ‘edge’, i.e. there is no blade slowing them down and causing them to drag through the cheese.
This means the wire will not deform your cheese block or result in strangely-shaped slices. With the best wire cheese slicers, cheese will not stick to the wire cutter, soft cheeses will not squish, and crumbly cheeses will also retain their shape. In addition, the effort and exertion required on your part will be minimal.
Wires can be mounted on any sort of contraption, but there are two main devices which utilize wires to cut cheese – rolling cheese cutters and cheese slicer boards.
Rolling Cheese Cutters
These usually consist of a handle that diverges in a T-shape, with a roller and a taut stainless steel wire (mounted in front of the roller) situated between the two prongs of the T-shape. This type of hand held wire cheese cutter is used by grasping the handle firmly, and gliding the wire through a cheese block/log, with the roller keeping the slice in place and ensuring even thickness and ease of use. Some rolling cheese cutters some with screws attached on either side, or a tension wheel, to adjust the tightness of the wire. Some also allow for the distance between the wire and roller to be adjusted, in order to modify the thickness of cheese slices. However, generally, thickness is modified by adjusting the angle of your wrist when holding the rolling cheese cutter.
These types of cutters work best with semi-soft to medium and hard cheeses. They are great for getting even, clean slices, but can accumulate cheese and gunk in the rollers and sides, which means clean-up might require some extra attention. In addition, they have a set width, so if your cheese block is wider than your rolling cheese cutter, you will need to trim the block down with a knife first. When buying rolling cheese cutters, look for sturdy handles that offer a comfortable grip, and models that come with additional wires.
Cheese Slicer Board
These types of wire cheese slicer boards are basically a cheese board with wire cutter; they consist of a board, with a lever on the side on which is used to control a taut mounted stainless steel wire. Cheese is placed on the board, and positioned for optimal thickness in accordance with a groove on the board (which indicates where the slicer wire will come down). Then, using the lever, the wire is used to slice through the cheese.
A cheese cutting board with slicer is great for customizing the thickness of your cheese slices, and the boards double as serving platters for your cheese. They are also visually appealing, and can be used for other purposes as well (such as slicing liverwurst or refrigerated cookie dough). Cheese slicer boards with mounted wires work best with soft to medium-firm and even semi-hard cheeses. However, it can be troublesome to have to clean out the groove on the cutting board, and these slicers are not dishwasher-safe. In addition, they take up more room for storage than the other two types.
Cheese slicer boards are available in three main types of board materials – wood, marble, and stainless steel. However, regardless of which type you choose, care and maintenance are key – scrub your board with hot water and soap when you’re done using it, and wipe it dry immediately. If you detect even a whiff of an odd smell, this means bacteria is starting to take hold and your board needs a thorough disinfection and sanitizing.
Wooden Cheese Board With Slicer
These types of cheese slicers come with a wooden cheese board attached to a slicer. The board is generally made of types of hardwood. These are lightweight, and visually appealing as the wood grain offers a beautiful contrasting background for the cheese. Wooden boards are also the most economical. However, they can be a little hard to maintain as they require careful cleaning, oiling and waxing every month or so, and certain types of wood can, over time, end up absorbing the oils and odors of various types of cheese. This is why it is important to check the type of wood that has been used in the slicer – cheese contains oils and fats, and if these seep into the wood, they can turn rancid over time, spoiling your wood cheese board. Avoid porous woods such as oak and most softwoods, and opt instead for hardwoods like birch, hard maple, and teak. In addition, make sure the wood board does not have a varnish or lacquer finish, as these are not food safe, and may chip off the surface and end up in your cheese.
Marble Cheese Board With Slicer
These types of cheese slicers come with a marble board, and are considered the most aesthetically pleasing of all. Marble, with its unique colorations and distinct veins, offers a gorgeous palette on which to present cheese, and the beauty of the material is only rivalled by its functionality. Marble provides an optimal temperature zone and keeps cheese at a cool temperature, preventing it from melting or oozing. In addition, while marble is porous to a certain extent, it does not absorb food particles or odors as fast as wood does. It is also easier to clean, since oils and cheese particles cannot stick to it – however you will need to maintain the board by sealing it every month. However, the downsides include the facts that marble can be quite heavy (so it may not be easily portable) and can also chip easily if not handled with care.
Stainless Steel Cheese Board With Slicer
Cheese slicers with a stainless steel board are durable, do not crack, warp or swell, and are extremely easy to clean. They are the most hygienic option, since there is no way for bacteria and germs to enter the material through holes or scratches, and a stainless steel board can easily be washed, disinfected, and wiped down. Their main selling point is the fact that they are easy to clean and do not require maintenance such as monthly oiling etc. However, care needs to be taken when washing and drying, to ensure there is no possibility of rust or discoloration.
Things To Consider: How to use a Cheese Slicer
When purchasing a cheese slicer, there are a number of factors you will need to keep in mind, in order to ensure that you purchase a solid and suitable tool which lasts you long and serves you well. Here are some of our top tips on what to look for in a cheese cutter.
Cheese is undoubtedly delicious, but it can be sticky and oily – if cheese particles stick and accumulate on blades, wires or boards, they can become a breeding ground for bacteria. To counter this problem, the best and most convenient cheese cutter will be easy to clean. This means minimal nooks and crevices in which gunk can get trapped, and ideally a dishwasher-safe label, which would make for super quick and easy clean-up. However, some models that require hand-washing may offer some other features that you need, so choose wisely – a dishwasher-safe cheese cutter is not always automatically the best option.
The best cheese cutter will be one that is safe to use. In addition to having a super sharp blade/wire to ensure easy and safe slicing, it should come with added features for safety. These may include taut and well-secured cutting wires (with the option to tighten them as required), rubber feet under cheese slicer boards to ensure they don’t slip during the cutting/slicing process, and a comfortable, ergonomically-shaped, non-slip handle for cheese planes, including rubber grips on handles, etc. An old cheese slicer may get blunt with prolonged usage, so extra cutting wires included in the package are bonus safety feature too.
A good and reliable cheese slicer should be a long-term investment. Look for models that are durable and heavy duty, so they can withstand the test of time. Materials such as stainless steel and zinc alloy, and features such as solid filled handles and strong steel wires are all good indicators of durability. Flimsy, cheap slicers will end up costing you more in the long-term so invest once in a quality and long-lasting piece.
Being able to modify the thinness/thickness of your cheese slices is one of the best things about a dedicated cheese slicer. This is why it is essential to look for a model which offers features that enhance adjustability and control over the thickness of slices. Adjustable wires, side screws which enable modification, and slicers that can be manipulated into cutting thick or thin slices via a simple adjustment of your wrist – these are all ideal, and your focus should be on selecting a model that allows adjustment with the maximum ease possible.
A warranty is an important consideration when you’re looking to invest in a cheese slicer. Warranties will give you a sort of safety net, so you can get a defective product replaced, or request a complete refund if you are dissatisfied with the product. A lifetime warranty is the best, but even a 30-day or 1-year warranty is sufficient
The Type Of Cheese You Will Be Slicing
Surprisingly, this is often the most overlooked factor when it comes to selecting a cheese slicer. While most slicers will do a fairly good job with most cheeses, different types of cutters are best suited to different types of cheeses. It is essential to remember this if you’re looking to get good results from your purchase. Harder varieties are better suited to cheese planes, while soft and medium-firm varieties are ideally cut with wire cutters.