For the Love of Cheese

This week we’ve gathered all the tools you need for cooking with and enjoying cheese in any way you choose.

Is there a more beloved food than cheese? Just say the word “cheese” out loud, and you’ll see a smile come across most faces. It's an incredibly versatile ingredient: It’s tasty on its own, served with crackers and jam on a cheese board, tucked into grilled cheese sandwiches, sprinkled on top of soup, dolloped on pizza, melted on burgers, rolled up in enchiladas, or mixed into a salad. Whether you’re looking for a cheese plane for thin, even slices; a perfect saucepan for making macaroni and cheese; or a fondue pot for heating cheese, we have you covered.

—Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, ATK Reviews

These 11 by 6½-inch wax-coated bags resemble bakery bags, but their insides have the same porous plastic layer used in Formaticum Cheese Paper. The bags kept Brie, cheddar, and goat cheeses free of mold and dryness for three weeks, letting the cheddar dry out just slightly in the fourth week. Slightly more convenient to use than the cheese paper, the bags didn’t need stickers to seal: We just folded over the ends a few times to close them.

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Our favorite model consistently grated Parmesan more quickly than all the other models. While it was small enough to pass around the table easily, it had a relatively large hopper that accommodated big chunks of cheese. Rubberized grips on the handle and crank made it especially easy to hold. And its crank could be installed on either the left or the right side of its rotating drum, so both lefties and righties can use it.

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With a powerful, quiet motor; responsive pulsing action; sharp blades; and a simple, pared-down-to-basics design, our old favorite aced every test, surprising us time and again by outshining pricier, more feature-filled competitors. It was one of the few models that didn’t leak at its maximum stated liquid capacity. It’s also easy to clean and store, because it comes with just a chopping blade and two disks for shredding and slicing. Additional blade options are available à la carte.

NOTE : Cuisinart has announced a recall of the older riveted S-blade of our winning food processor, which was included in models sold from 1996 through December 2015. Cuisinart will replace the blade free of charge, and the new blade will fit old machines. Anyone with this older blade should contact Cuisinart at https://recall.cuisinart.com (or call 1-877-339-2534).

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The smooth, well-proportioned surface of this cast-iron press seared single steaks, salmon fillets, and burgers to perfection. Because it’s a tad heavier than other models, it flattened our grilled cheese sandwiches more than we would have preferred, but otherwise its performance was excellent. And while slightly slippery, its coated steel handle stayed surprisingly cool, at least for short stints on the stove. Arriving preseasoned, this press needed no maintenance, though you’ll have to wash and dry it by hand to prevent rust.

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This Microplane grabbed the top spot thanks to its great performance and its soft, grippy rubber handle that was slightly more comfortable and secure than that of our old winner. Otherwise, their grating surfaces are identical, so they both shredded cheese, zested lemons, and grated nutmeg, garlic, and ginger with ease. The Premium Classic came sharp, stayed sharp, and looked as good as new after testing. We do wish it had a wider surface so it didn’t form a trench in our cheese while grating, but it’s still the best option out there.

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Lightweight, and with a medium-size handle, this petty knife felt great in our hands, maneuvering nimbly around chicken joints and bones and making quick work of mushrooms and shallots. It sported the sharpest blade straight out of the box; thin, keen, and just the right length, it was capable of producing near-surgical incisions. One tiny quibble? The plastic handle was just a touch slick when wet.

Available for purchase at: www.bernalcutlery.com

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This petty knife felt and performed almost exactly like our winner—perhaps not surprisingly, since they share most of the same specs. Just as agile and nearly as sharp, it made quick work of every task, and felt great in our hands as well. Like our winner, its handle can be a little slick when wet.

Available for purchase at: www.korin.com

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Very sharp and thin-spined, this knife sailed through food cleanly and precisely. We liked it almost as much as our winner; its blade is just a hair longer, giving us a bit less control, and there’s a tiny bit less clearance for your knuckles under the handle. But these are really minor quibbles; this is a great knife, and larger-handed testers will appreciate that its handle has a little extra room for them to grip.

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With one of the largest, longest grating surfaces and ultrasharp teeth, our previous favorite effortlessly shredded foods of all sizes and textures, taking the least time to do so and generating virtually no waste. While testers wished this paddle-style grater’s wire handle was a bit more comfortable to hold, its length made it easy to grip in a number of ways. Rubber-tipped feet kept the grater from slipping, and testers also loved how easy the grater was to clean and store.

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This box grater had a large, long grating surface studded with stamped holes. Its teeth were just a hair less keen than those of our favorite paddle grater; nevertheless, it grated hard vegetables and soft cheese quickly and efficiently. Testers liked how stably this grater sat on the cutting board, thanks in part to the grippy plastic bumper around its base. And it had a large plastic handle that was comfortable to hold in different positions.  More on this test

This electric model heated every type of fondue evenly and consistently and its wide crock made simultaneous dipping frustration-free. Its temperature controls were clearly labeled with both degrees and type of fondue, allowing us to set the perfect temperature without looking at the manual. Its electronic parts detached so the crock could be washed in the sink, and fondue wiped easily off its scratch-resistant nonstick surface.

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Our old favorite wins again: Its smooth, medium-hard, reversible teak surface provided plenty of room to work, was a pleasure to cut on, and required the least maintenance. It was light enough to lift comfortably (especially since it had finger grips on the sides) but heavy enough to be stable for most tasks, though a few users noted that it wobbled occasionally. It picked up some knife scars but was otherwise highly durable, resisting cracking, warping, and staining, thanks to naturally oily resins that helped condition the board. And it's a stunner: Sleek, elegant, and richly colored, it was, as one tester noted, “less like a Toyota and more like a Corvette.” One caveat: Because teak contains microscopic bits of silica, it can wear down blades faster than other types of wood. But in our opinion, this fact doesn't detract from this board's stellar performance.

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This thin, lightweight plastic model was easy to hold and lift but was also stable on the counter thanks to its grippy rubber sides. It’s dishwasher-safe, and while it got a bit scratched by the end of testing, it was otherwise intact, resisting warping, cracking, or staining and retaining no odors. Testers liked cutting on its textured plastic surface and appreciated that one of its sides had a small trench for collecting juices from roasts or wet foods.

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Our longtime winner excelled, with uniform, steady heating and good visibility inside the saucepan to monitor browning. Its cup-shaped stay-cool handle was easy to grip, and a helper handle provided another grabbing point when the pan was full. Even after brutal whacking on concrete, this model emerged with only tiny dents inside and one slight dent on the bottom, and it still sat flat on the counter.

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Testers raved about this classic wooden spoon. Light, long, and maneuverable, it kept our hands far from the heat, and its rounded, tapered handle was comfortable and easy to grip in a variety of ways as we worked. It also suited both right- and left-handed testers. The slim tip of its nicely scooped-out oval bowl was easy to maneuver under food for turning and scooping, and when angled slightly, the head provided sufficient area for scraping fond. Made of teak, the wood resisted staining or drying out, retained its color, and never became rough to touch, even after 10 cycles through the dishwasher. 

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