Graters

Published May 1, 2012. From Cook's Illustrated.

A box grater has always been the go-to tool for shredding cheese and vegetables by hand. But given that most of us only ever use one side, shouldn’t there be something better?

Overview:

Update: September 2014

Our top-rated grater from Rösle was temporarily discontinued by the manufacturer, but it has been put back into production.

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The last time we looked at graters, we selected a classic four-sided box design sporting the usual large and medium holes, a slicing blade, and pinhole-style bumps for fine grating. However, we can’t even remember a time when we used this (or any) box grater’s slicing blade, and for fine grating, we always turn to the super-sharp etched holes of our former winning rasp-style grater.

We got to thinking: Does it really make sense to buy a tool with as many as three out of four functions that you never even use? We decided to revisit the category, selecting nine contenders priced from $12.99 to $35. Holding out the possibility that something extraordinary in a box grater might still compel us to want one, we included a few standard four-sided models. We also singled out two flat paddles and designs with just two or three sides.… read more

Update: September 2014

Our top-rated grater from Rösle was temporarily discontinued by the manufacturer, but it has been put back into production.

___________________________________________________________

The last time we looked at graters, we selected a classic four-sided box design sporting the usual large and medium holes, a slicing blade, and pinhole-style bumps for fine grating. However, we can’t even remember a time when we used this (or any) box grater’s slicing blade, and for fine grating, we always turn to the super-sharp etched holes of our former winning rasp-style grater.

We got to thinking: Does it really make sense to buy a tool with as many as three out of four functions that you never even use? We decided to revisit the category, selecting nine contenders priced from $12.99 to $35. Holding out the possibility that something extraordinary in a box grater might still compel us to want one, we included a few standard four-sided models. We also singled out two flat paddles and designs with just two or three sides. Some folded, twisted, or flattened shut, and many came with attachable containers for capturing shreds. Our criteria: a sturdy tool that could easily produce intact shreds of everything from soft and hard cheeses to carrots and potatoes on its large holes. But if the grater included a side for fine grating, we wanted this plane to vie with our rasp-style grater, creating fine wisps of Parmesan or ginger instead of just trapping the food in its holes. If it did away with the superfluous slicing blade, all the better.

Sizing Up the Situation

We began by shredding 1-pound blocks of mozzarella on the largest holes of the graters to see how fast each would finish the job without letting the cheese ball up or shear off in crumbles and quickly made an important discovery: A generous-size grating plane mattered more than the sharpness of the grater’s teeth. This was particularly evident in the bigger of the two paddle models, which boasted larger-than-average holes and a grating surface that demolished the block of cheese in less than two minutes, producing long, perfect strips.

While the grating surface on one box model, a remake of our former winner, was a good size, an unfortunate new design twist put a snag in its ability to shred: holes that open in two directions to enable grating upward and downward. According to the manufacturer, this innovation should “cut the grating time in half,” but it left us with cheese crumbles instead of shreds. We got much better results with this tool by sticking to grating down, with gravity.

Design flaws in other models also impeded efficiency. One foldable model refused to stay unfolded. Another, which opened like a fan, rested on a base that walked and wobbled on the counter, thwarting our ability to grate. A tall, slender two-sided grater was hopelessly prone to tipping over—a deal breaker, since grating is a potentially hazardous task, and a grater needs first and foremost not to budge. Some of these nontraditional designs sported absurdly narrow grating surfaces that prolonged shredding time and had smaller capacities that forced us to constantly stop and off-load the shreds.

This test showed us that we preferred plainer designs with uncomplicated features: comfortable handles that eased the repetitive motion of grating and wide, rubber-lined bases or feet that kept the grater securely anchored to the work surface.

Stamped or Etched?

The next contest: grating carrots and potatoes. With these hard ingredients, the most critical feature turned out to be hole design. Grater holes come in one of two styles: stamped or etched. Stamped designs have thicker, more rigid grating surfaces that didn’t budge when we pressed firmly against them in an effort to produce thick, uniform shreds. Etched graters, made by corroding thin, flexible steel with a caustic salt called ferric chloride, have super-sharp teeth that indent just enough to snag foods—and they posed the same danger to thumbs and knuckles. Their thin surfaces also bent with a slight press of our fingers, resisting the hard, dense produce so that the vegetables bounced away, making less contact and resulting in shorter, paper-thin shreds that practically disappeared in cooking. In this test, the stamped surface of the big paddle grater had a definite edge over the flimsier etched surfaces of our other top contenders.

That said, etched surfaces did have the upper hand when it came to grating on the fine holes. Just as they do on our favorite rasp-style grater, the razor-sharp blades effortlessly wore down chunks of Parmesan and knobby fresh ginger. Meanwhile, the multisided stamped designs had the usual useless small pinholes that trapped more shreds than they created.

The Grater Good

The more we considered it, the more we were drawn to the paddle grater. With its sharp, extra-large holes and whopping 22 square inches of inflexible stamped grating surface (the second biggest in the lineup), it whizzed through cheese, potatoes, and carrots faster than any other model, and its rubber-bottomed feet ensured that it stayed put at any angle—a boon for shorter testers, who appreciated the adjustable leverage point. Its bent legs hooked around the lip of large and medium bowls, and without the enclosed tower design we never had to worry about unloading shreds. Another big plus: Its flat design stored easily, even slipping into a jammed 3-inch-high kitchen drawer. We can’t use it for making fine wisps of ginger or Parmesan, but the rasp-style grater we already own fulfills those functions. At $35, our winning grater isn’t cheap, but we think its superior performance is worth every penny. In fact, it’s the only grater in our lineup that we highly recommend.

Methodology:

We tested nine graters purchased online.

Ease of Use

We assessed how comfortable a grater was to grasp and whether it had a stable base that made grating feel safe. We also evaluated how easy each model was to clean by hand and to store.

Performance

We shredded mozzarella, carrots, and potatoes on the large holes of each grater, and ginger and Parmesan on the fine holes of the models that had them. We gave highest marks to tools that grated these items quickly and easily and with minimal waste, producing long, thick shreds on the large holes that held up in carrot cake and potato pancakes, and fine wisps on the small holes.

Durability

We ran dishwasher-safe graters through the dishwasher 20 times; cleaned hand wash–only graters in hot, soapy water 20 times; jammed them into nearly full kitchen drawers; and rinsed and left them overnight without drying before inspecting them for rust, dents, and warping.

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  • Product Tested

    Results Key:

    Good ★ ★ ★ Fair ★ ★ Poor
  • Prices are subject to change.
  • Highly Recommended - WINNER

    Rösle Coarse Grater

    This easy-to-store, flat grater made shredding a breeze, thanks to big, sharp holes; a large surface for better efficiency; and a solid, rigid frame that enabled continuous grating (rather than short bursts). It fit over medium and large bowls, or test­ers could hold the grater at any suitable angle; grippy rubber feet stuck securely to the work surface. Since most recipes call for coarse shreds—and we have a rasp-style grater for fine grating—we don’t mind that it grates only in one size.

    • Durability ★★★
    • Ease of Use ★★★
    • Performance ★★★

    $35.95

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended

    Microplane Specialty Series 4-Sided Box Grater

    From the originators of chemical etching technology, this model frames four super-sharp grating planes with tough plastic, making it easier to handle than other etched graters. It quickly and flawlessly grated mozzarella on its large holes and rendered perfect shreds of ginger and Parmesan on its fine holes. But hard carrots and potatoes bounced off its thin metal surface, shortening the shreds.

    • Durability ★★★
    • Ease of Use ★★★
    • Performance ★★

    $34.95

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended

    Cuisipro 4-Sided Box Grater with Bonus Ginger Base

    With ultra-sharp etched teeth, a sturdy base, and a comfortable handle, this four-sided grater zipped through mozzarella, Parmesan, and ginger. But as with the etched Microplane grater, its thin surface bent under pressure, making it hard to create the thickest possible shreds of carrots and potatoes. Its razor-like teeth were tricky to clean—and it’s not dishwasher-safe. The removable base doubles as a ginger grater.

    • Durability ★★★
    • Ease of Use ★★
    • Performance ★★

    $29.95

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Not Recommended

    OXO Good Grips Box Grater

    The holes on this grater, a remake of our former favorite, open in two directions to enable upward and downward grating—an “improvement” that left mozzarella stuck to the surface and turned carrots and potatoes into mince. Grating downward alone produced decent shreds, but forget about cleaning: The dual openings trapped food. Its pinholes for fine grating made a mess of ginger and Parmesan.

    • Durability ★★★
    • Ease of Use
    • Performance ★★

    $17.95

  • Not Recommended

    Oneida Large Oval Shaped Grater

    Shaped like a flattened box grater, this oval model was ­narrow and tippy and made grating feel like a dangerous operation. One side sports strips of both fine and medium holes, cutting grating space in half. This made channels in blocks of Parmesan, slowing down grating as testers stopped to reposition the cheese.

    • Durability ★★★
    • Ease of Use
    • Performance ★★

    $12.99

  • Not Recommended

    Joseph Joseph Fold Flat Grater

    This dual-sided grater uses sharp stamped metal teeth that render medium and coarse shreds (but no fine grating) and folds completely flat for storage. But its grating surface was smaller than most other boxes, and the grater itself refused to stay unfolded for stable, comfortable use.

    • Durability ★★★
    • Ease of Use
    • Performance ★★

    $20

  • Not Recommended

    Microplane Twist ’N’ Grate Dual Sided Grater

    The narrow planes of this round, collapsible grater made semicircular carvings in foods and slowed testers down. Worse, these curves were dangerous, enabling the teeth to snag testers’ hands. The twist-close mechanism let us tuck the grater into tight kitchen drawers, but the mechanism loosened with use.

    • Durability ★★★
    • Ease of Use
    • Performance ★★

    $19.95

  • Not Recommended

    Zyliss Coarse Grater

    Despite rubber base pads and a comfortable, easy-to-grip handle, this paddle scooted on flat surfaces. It sailed through mozzarella, but its thin surface buckled under hard carrots, making shreds too short and fine. Micro-thin potato shavings collapsed together, yielding a mushy potato pancake.

    • Durability ★★★
    • Ease of Use
    • Performance

    $13.08

  • Not Recommended

    Progressive International Fan Grater

    The plates on this collapsible, three-paneled grater swivel out for use but don’t lock in place, which made for wobbly, unstable shredding—a scary flaw for a sharp tool. As the grater slid around with the least pressure, it trapped shredded foods under its “feet,” smashing it. The small grating plates slowed all jobs. Weak hinges loosened during testing.

    • Durability
    • Ease of Use
    • Performance

    $14.99

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