First, a note on quality: You may be tempted to purchase pre-shredded or pre-grated cheese for later use. While these products can be convenient, we encourage you to grate your own cheese as you need it. Pre-grated cheese costs more and has a shorter shelf life than whole wedges, and it often includes anti-caking additives that can affect the taste and texture of the food you’re cooking. Grating cheese as you need it gives you the best flavor and extends shelf life.
As with knowing how to cut different cheeses properly, knowing when to use the right grater makes a big difference—and the proper gear will make grating cheese at home a snap. Whether you need to break down a block of cheddar for mac ‘n’ cheese, shred some Gruyere for fondue, or shower parmesan over a plate of pasta, our guide to the different types of cheese graters will help you pick the perfect tool for the job.
A versatile, no-frills box grater is a must for any kitchen. With differently textured surfaces, you can shred or grate hard or soft cheese, not to mention fruits, vegetables, chocolate, and more. Box graters are especially good for shredding cheeses that will be melted—baked into casseroles, gratins, and pasta dishes, for example, or sprinkled over nachos or our Perfect Cast-Iron Pizza.
If a box grater is too clunky for your tiny kitchen, look for collapsible four-sided models or fold-up models with interchangeable blades to save space.
Use a microplane for fine, feathery shavings of dense, hard cheeses like Landmark Creamery’s Pecora Nocciola. This handy tool is made up of hundreds of tiny, sharp blades that can shave parmesan, pecorino, and other aged cheeses ultra-thin. Thinner shavings mean more surface area, which means more flavor hitting your tongue at once (and quicker melting onto a hot plate of pasta). Plus, they’re great for finely zesting citrus, mincing garlic, and grating whole spices like nutmeg, too.
Handheld Cheese Grater
Like a microplane, a handheld grater has a convenient handle for easily topping dishes with hard cheese before serving, but its holes and the shavings it creates are larger. We like the style of handheld grater sold by Boska, which also has a spadelike blade on the front for cutting slices, too.
Tabletop Cheese Grater
Looking for a hard cheese grater that’s as pretty as it is functional? Reach for one of these elegant models, which look more like fine tableware more than kitchen tools. They’re perfect for topping pasta with a fine sprinkling of parmesan just before serving. They’re compact, too, so they don’t take up much space, whether you keep them on your table or stashed in a drawer.
Rotary Cheese Grater
There’s a reason the servers at Olive Garden wield this style of grater: hand-crank models are great for processing a large amount of firm cheese more quickly, easily, and smoothly than a box grater, handheld grater, or microplane.
Unless you’re regularly preparing big Italian feasts, you probably don’t need a rotary grater in your home kitchen. But if you prefer this style, be sure to look for one that comes with multiple blades so you can grate cheeses ranging from semi-firm to very firm.
While not technically a cheese grater, a basic vegetable peeler should be in every cheese-loving cook’s arsenal. This tool comes in handy for shaving hard cheeses for salads or veggie dishes like Asparagus with Arugula, Pine Nuts, and Shaved Parm—any application where you want the texture and punch of the cheese to come across on its own rather than melding into the dish. You can even use a peeler to create thin, even slices of cheese for use in sandwiches.
Food Processor Grater Blade
If you’ve got a lot of cheese to shred—or want to skip the effort of grating by hand—bust out your food processor. Most models include a coarse grater blade that can make short work of firm cheeses. Just pop in the cheese, turn on the processor, and press the cheese through the blade with the plunger. Seconds later, you’ll have a heap of uniformly shredded cheese—and no sore arms or scraped knuckles.
What’s your favorite dish to make with grated cheese—and which gear do you like to use for it? Tag us with your gooey, melty cheese recipe pics @cheesegrotto on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and let us know!