It is very important to cut the cheese right – it influences the flavors, it could make your job more difficult or easier, it influences the quality of the remaining cheese, everything. Getting that right cut is a definite must. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you with cutting your cheese right.
- How and why is it important to cut cheese the right way?
If you and others on the table don’t like the end result, you are probably not doing it right. How you cut cheese, is not only about the etiquette, but also about the flavours and the entire experience of having cheese. How you cut cheese also affects the experience of other people who are going to have the cheese after you. To really enjoy that experience, it is important to cut the cheese correctly.
- What is the right way to cutting the following shaped cheese and why?
Small wheels, discs, pyramids, or squares:
Small wheel, disc, pyramid and square shaped cheeses need to be cut into wedges. The general thumb rule at the table is to ensure that everyone gets at least an equal portion. When cutting a wedge, position the knife at an angle and cut out a smooth wedge. Avoid leaving rough edges behind; nobody likes a rough cut wedge of cheese. After making the two cuts, put the knife below the piece you have cut and slide it out. This is similar to how you would cut and serve cake. Cheeses like Camembert, Brie, Double Brie, Reblochon, etc can be cut in this manner.
Wedges of soft to semi-soft cheeses:
If you have a wedge shaped piece of a soft to semi-soft cheese like triple cream cheese, or Camembert or brie cheese, put the wedge with the angular side parallel to the cutting board, like you would place a slice of cake. Then cut out thinner wedges from the large piece. It is like cutting thinner wedge shaped pieces, from a larger wedge. Ideally, etiquette dictates that each piece should be equal, so nobody gets a bigger piece of the outside or inside than the others.
Wedges of semi-firm to hard cheeses
Semi-hard to hard cheeses like Cheddar, Colby, Swiss cheeses, Parmesan, Romano, Gouda, etc. have a different way to be cut than semi soft to soft cheeses, even if you have a wedge shaped pieces of both. For these cheeses, place the wedge in a manner that the angular corner and curved side are perpendicular to the cutting board. Cut equidistant pieces vertically. The pieces will not be equal here, since they are vertically cut along the width and not the length.
For cheeses that come in logs, like say a goat cheese, put the log length-wise on the cutting/chopping board, and cut out equal slices from it. The slices should be across the log to form smaller, thinner coins or cross sections.
For blue cheeses like Blue Stilton, Gorgonzola, Danish Blue, Roquefort, etc, slice into the blue cheese wedge points from the bottom centre of the thin edge. This is to ensure that each piece gets a portion of the all the surfaces.
Cheese that comes in a box.
Cheeses like the Epoisses come in boxes. To cut these cheeses, cut the ‘lid’ from the top of the cheese and set it aside. After that, scoop out the contents from the box using a spoon. You can replace the ‘lid’ back once done.
- Also, what knives are used for the above type of cheese? Give some examples from the cheese you make and how would you recommend cutting those.
The thumb rule for cutting cheese is that each cheese should have a different knife for each cheese. Do not use the knife used to cut one cheese to cut another cheese after. Also, never saw the cheese, always cut in a swift fluid motion. Sawing ruins the texture of not only the piece being cut but also of the remaining cheese block. Avoid pre-cutting the cheese, it causes drying of cheese and also damages and tampers with the flavours of the cheese.
Semi-soft to semi-hard cheeses should be cut with a wire slicer. The thin stretched wire and the sturdy handle of a wire slicer will carve out thick and even slices. The wire slicer is ideal to cut cheeses like Emmental, Raclette, Morbier, etc.
For crumbly cheeses like Roquefort, and the blue cheeses, using wide, rectangular, open surface blades, which have a lesser surface area, plus it is good for avoiding sticking of the blue veins to the blade and helps maintain the structural integrity of the cheese.
For soft ripened cheeses like Camembert, creamy Brie or Mont d’Or, use a blade with a hollow edge. These blades have evenly spaced vertical indentations which helps to avoid the cheese from sticking.
A tear shaped knife works best for cheeses like Gruyere, Cantal and Beaufort. To cut these cheeses, slide the tip of the knife in first and then push down with force. One would need to be a little careful, as sometimes, these cheeses would crumble into chunks under pressure.
- Should the rind be eaten or not? You can tell me with respect to bloomy, washed and natural rinds.
Most rinds are eatable, but they may not always be palatable. When it comes to bloomy rinds and washed rinds, and even goat cheeses and blue cheeses, definitely eat the rind. Their rinds are full of flavour, and are definitely eatable. However, when it comes to rinds like those of say a wax-wrapped Gouda or a cloth-wrapped cheddar, they are safe to eat, but may not be very palatable. Bloomy rinds are made from a combination of mould, yeast or yeast-like fungi that blooms into little flowers, forming a cohesive skin. The rind is thus composed of live organisms, and it breaks down the cheese on the interior, making it creamy and giving it a distinct flavour on the inside. If you consider Parmesan cheese, then the tastiest part of the cheese is the one closest to the rind; but the rind in itself could actually spoil your whole cheese eating experience so it might be best to avoid it. Plus it is rock hard tough and very difficult to bite into. Most washed rinds, no matter how stinky they might be, are generally good to eat. They key is if the rind is soft and creamy, go on and have it, but if it is rock hard, then bite carefully. More than that trust your tongue, what feels right to your tongue, would mostly work. Natural rinds form without any significant manual intervention. They form by natural drying of the cheese, and sometimes get rubbed with oil or other natural ingredients. Natural rinds could generally be flavourful, but could be hard and difficult to eat as well. However, they can be used for flavouring soups and stocks.
One tip cheese tasters always follow is, to dig into the heel, to bite into the portion between the rind and the paste, which is almost every cheese’s most vulnerable spot. This bite will lead you to discover the true identity of the cheese – its true flavour profile and nature.