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Cheese Tools

As with cooking, having the right tools for cheese makes all the difference. A dull knife with a thick blade will never cut neatly through a creamy cheese, and a thin, delicate knife won't cut it when it comes to a hard cheese. What follows is a brief description of cheese knives and how to use them.

Skeleton knife: This is a knife in which the blade has big holes in it and usually has a forked tip. The reason for the holes is so that creamy cheeses won't stick. The forked tip is meant to spear the piece of cheese after it's been cut.

Forked-tip knife: This is an all-purpose knife and comes in a variety of sizes. The smaller ones (approximately 3 to 4-inch blade) can be used for soft cheeses, and the larger ones (over 4-inches) can be used for semi-hard cheeses, which, by definition, have a firmer texture and need a sturdier knife.

Short, stubby knife: These knives, which also have a pointed tip and are usually triangular in shape, are meant for hard cheeses, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano. They will not cut nice, neat slices, nor are they intended to. Instead, they are used for digging out chunks of cheese from a larger piece. Hard cheeses tend to be rustic, and these knives simply add to that allure.

Wire slicer: I am not a big fan of the wire slicers (other than the professional ones, which most of us don't have access to) because they're not terribly effective. That said, they're fine with semi-soft cheeses like mozzarella, Monterey Jack, young cheddars, or any other cheeses that are somewhat soft in texture. A wire slicer will not work with a super soft or creamy cheese like brie, though. All it does with a cheese like that is make a mess.

Cheese plane: This is a tool that looks like a rounded-corner triangle and has a horizontal slit (actually, a blade) in the middle. It is meant for shaving thin slices off of semi-hard and hard cheeses. These work well if the blade is sharp and if the cheese is not creamy. Otherwise, the cheese does not slice and simply gets gummed up in the blade.

One other "tip" (sorry, couldn't resist the pun): If you're serving a variety of cheeses, always be sure to have one knife per cheese. That's because if you cut one cheese with a particular knife and then cut another cheese with that same knife, the second cheese may end up tasting like the first one. This is especially true if you cut a strong cheese, like a blue cheese, and then cut a mild cheese with the same knife. I assure you that that mild cheese will taste like blue cheese no matter what.