The Best Knives for Hard Cheese

You’ve sourced some delicious artisan cheeses and tasty accompaniments and styled them into a beautiful cheese board. But what are you going to use to cut those wedges?

While just about any knife can cut through soft, spreadable cheeses, specialized gear—or at least something nice and sharp—is needed to handle hard cheeses like parmesan, cheddar, aged Gouda, and Comte. 

Luckily, you probably have at least one of these knives on hand. Most cheese knife sets include multiple knives that make cutting, slicing, shaving, and chunking your favorite hard cheeses easy and fuss-free. These are some of the best knives to use for hard cheeses, whether you’re pre-slicing wedges or cutting them on your cheese board.

hybrid cheese knife for hard and soft cheeses
Our new writable, black resin cheese knives are designed for both hard and soft cheeses.

Chef’s Knife

A chef’s knife is great for pre-cutting cheeses into batons, slices, triangles, or cubes before placing them on the board—and best of all, you probably already have one in your kitchen. Use this technique when working with very hard cheeses with inedible rinds. A sturdy chef’s knife makes rinds easy to remove, so you and your guests don’t have to cut around them later. 

This method allows you to style pre-cut pieces in attractive freeform heaps, artfully arranged rivers, or patterns as you build your board. It also makes it super easy for guests to serve themselves. However, a chef’s knife won’t work if you plan to serve uncut wedges of cheese—you don’t want your guests wielding a big, sharp knife at the table. That’s where specialized cheese knives come in. 

Flat Cheese Knife

If you have a set of cheese knives, it probably includes one of these short-handled, shovel-shaped implements. These knives are great for accessing something very firm on a board loaded with goodies, since your hand presses down onto the blade from the top rather than from the side. The angle also gives you good leverage to cut slices, sticks, or chunks of hard cheese like the tommes, Goudas, and Alpine styles in this Boston Post Dairy cheese set

These knives are also versatile, meaning they can cut semi-firm and semi-soft cheeses in a pinch, too. Look for a flat cheese knife with a sharp blade and a rounded handle that’s comfortable to hold. 

Cheese Cleaver

This handy cheese knife looks like a miniature hatchet. It’s designed to make it easy for you to cut slices of firm cheeses like Redhead Creamery’s Lucky Linda Clothbound Cheddar and Alpine styles like Pleasant Ridge Reserve. A wide rectangular blade makes it easy to cut cheeses evenly. Thanks to the offset blade, your knuckles won’t get in the way.

Narrow Plane Knife

This style of blade is also known as a trapezium knife, and its stubby-yet-sharp blade is great for cutting chunks of even the hardest cheeses. While it’s not specifically designed for softer cheeses, it’s also quite versatile: you can use it with semi-firm wedges like Meadow Creek’s Mountaineer and Appalachian as well as soft cheeses if need be. 

Hybrid Knife

hybrid black cheese knife with writable handle

Some small-scale cheese knives combine traits from different styles to serve multiple purposes. For example, the cheese knife sets in our gift shop are designed to function as a spreader-like tool for enjoying softer cheeses while being sharp and sturdy enough to handle hard cheeses. 

Our new black resin cheese knife is especially good for long-aged, firm styles, because it’s even tougher and more durable than wood. Best of all, you can use the included soapstone chalk to label the handle of each knife with the style of cheese it’s intended to cut. How cool is that?

Parmesan Knife

This is the sharp, pointy implement in your cheese knife set. Also known as a spade knife or tagliagrana in Italian, this dagger-like blade is designed to pierce easily into the hardest cheeses. It’s also great for other very firm cheeses, like Vermont Shepherd’s Queso Invierno Extra-Aged

Cheese Plane

With a trapezoidal head, an inset blade, and a long handle, this implement looks like a cross between a pie server and a vegetable peeler. In fact, it’s designed to cut thin, even slices from the top of a wedge of hard cheese like Landmark Creamery’s Pecora Nocciola. Want to get similar results but don’t have a cheese plane? A standard four-sided box grater has similar blades designed for shaving on one of its skinny sides.

What are your favorite knives to use for hard cheeses? Tag us on Instagram @cheesegrotto and let us know!

Alexandra Jones is a writer, cheesemonger, and food educator who has been working with farmers and artisans in Pennsylvania for the past eight years. She has written for publications like Food & Wine, USA Today, The Counter, Civil Eats, Thrillist, and the Philadelphia Inquirer and is one-third of the team behind Collective Creamery, a women-powered artisan cheese subscription based in southeast Pennsylvania. Alexandra leads cheese tastings and teaches cheesemaking classes in and around Philadelphia, and we are honored to have her on our team.

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