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Sometimes a knife just doesn’t cut it.
A good cheese plane makes it easy and safe to produce consistently thin, even slices from semihard cheeses. A cheese plane is essentially a small trowel with a blade embedded in the flat head; using even pressure, you simply pull the blade across a cheese wedge or block in order to get a uniform slice of cheese. To find the best cheese plane, we bought nine models priced from $6.75 to $28.00 and put them to work slicing solid blocks of two semihard cheeses, dense cheddar and more-porous Manchego.
We found that all the blades were plenty sharp. But straight blades were better—the one model with a serrated edge cut corduroy-like ridges into the cheese, making for less pleasant eating. We also liked blades that were around 2.25 inches long. Shorter blades couldn’t cover larger wedges of cheese in a single pass, and longer blades were sometimes ungainly.
The thickness of the cheese slices produced by the planes—determined by the angles of the blades themselves—proved critical. We found that cheese slices 0.08 to 0.09 inches thick (slightly thicker than a nickel) were ideal. Anything thinner made it hard to get a sense of the cheese’s texture; any thicker and the slices felt a bit unwieldy and overwhelmed delicate crackers.
Certain models were also easier to use, making it simple to produce clean-cut, smooth slices with no broken tips or edges and fairly little variation in thickness from piece to piece. The metal heads surrounding the blades came into play here. We preferred models with thin (0.02 to 0.03 inches thick), flexible heads because they hugged the surface of the cheese and were easier to maneuver.
Finally, we liked models with relatively large, cushioned, textured handles. Narrow or slick handles were hard to grip and sometimes slipped during use, resulting in uneven slicing.
Our winning cheese plane, the Wüsthof Gourmet 4 3/4-inch Cheese Plane ($19.95), produced perfect 0.08-inch-thick slices every time. It had a comfortable handle, a relatively long and sharp blade, and one of the thinnest and most flexible heads in the testing, making for effortless, responsive slicing.
We tested nine cheese planes priced from $6.75 to $28.00, using them to slice blocks of sharp cheddar and wedges of Manchego. We evaluated each model for ease of use and performance. All products were purchased online and appear in order of preference.
Performance: We evaluated the planes to see how thinly and smoothly they sliced different kinds of cheese. Planes that could easily slice both dense (sharp cheddar) and porous (Manchego) semihard cheeses received higher scores.
Ease of Use: We rated the planes on how comfortable they were to grip and how easy they were to use.
This cheese plane produced perfect, clean-edged, even slices of ideal thickness every time. With a comfortable handle, a relatively long blade, and one of the thinnest and most flexible heads in the testing, it was a pleasure to use.
This inexpensive cheese plane performed nearly as well as our winner, consistently producing cheese slices of the ideal thickness—but the edges of the cheese got stuck and broke off on the blade a little more frequently. Still, it had a flexible and responsible head, a relatively long blade, and a cushy, grippy handle, making it easy to use.
The wood handle of this inexpensive model was attractive and easy to grip, and its long blade nimbly cut through the cheese, creating beautiful, perfectly even slices. Still, users’ opinions were divided on the thickness of those slices. While some loved the gossamer-thin pieces, others felt they were too delicate and prevented tasters from getting a good sense of the cheese’s texture.
With a thin, flexible head and a relatively long blade, this plane did a good job of cutting through cheese, making even slices with no breakage. But the slices themselves were on the thick side, and the plane’s handle was narrow and a bit slick, making it harder to grip.
We liked this cheese plane’s cushy, rubbery handle, but its head was a bit thick and rigid, making it a little harder to use. In addition, it made some of the thickest slices in the testing, and they tended to get stuck and break off on the blade, producing less-than-picture-perfect results.
If anything, this cheese plane was too big—its blade too long and its head too thick—making it clumsy and awkward to navigate smaller wedges of cheese. And we didn’t have much of a use for its “dual edge,”an extra blade at the edge of the head meant to cut off larger chunks of cheese. But most problematic, it sliced the cheese into such thick pieces that they seemed to overwhelm small crackers. Still, its silicone handle was comfortable and easy to grip.
This plane made even and consistent—if slightly too thin—slices, but there wasn’t much else to like about it. Its serrated blade cut unappetizing grooves into cheese, compromising the cheese’s natural texture; its handle was narrow and made of slick steel, making it hard to grip; and its head was on the thick side, making it slightly trickier to maneuver.
We loved the concept behind this cheese plane, which allowed you to adjust the thickness at which you sliced. Unfortunately, every single slice of cheese got stuck between the blade and the plastic guide that adjusted the thickness, making this plane an utter pain to use.
This expensive, high-design cheese plane looked like a minimalist sculpture—and it sliced cheese about as well as one, too. Its head was the thickest in our lineup, rigid and inflexible; worse, the blade was short and awkwardly positioned to the side of its smooth, hard-to-grip handle, making us exert an unpleasant amount of force in order to slice the cheese.