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Rotary Graters

Published April 2020

How we tested

Rotary graters purportedly make it easier and faster to grate hard cheeses such as Parmesan and pecorino. Some models come with additional inserts that allow you to grate or slice other foods more coarsely as well. To use a rotary grater, you insert the food you want to grate into the hopper and close the lid. With one hand, you press down on the lid so that the food is forced against a rotating drum studded with sharp teeth; with the other hand, you turn a crank, rotating the drum and grating the food. Since we last tested these gadgets, many of the models we examined have been discontinued or redesigned. And, dubious of tools that perform only a few tasks, we wanted to know if we still even liked rotary graters at all. So we tested six models, priced from about $11 to about $55, using them to grate different amounts of Parmesan (1, 2, 4, and 6 ounces)—the food we’d be most likely to grate in a rotary grater.

Rotary Graters Are Safe, Efficient, and Grate Cheese Quickly

As it turned out, we liked the rotary graters a lot. Anyone who’s ever accidentally cut their fingers on a rasp grater knows how painful the experience can be. Rotary graters, on the other hand, make it nearly impossible to injure yourself—because the food is completely enclosed inside the hopper, your fingers never come anywhere near the sharp teeth of the drum. This clever design also means that rotary graters are safe for even children to use. And these graters let you grate Parmesan cheese down very close to the rind without fearing for your hands, so that you can get more out of every piece you buy.

We were also impressed by how well all the rotary graters performed. Each did a good job of finely grating mounds of Parmesan—and in much less time than our favorite rasp-style grater, which is what we’d ordinarily use for the task. On average, the rotary graters took about half a minute to finely grate an ounce of Parmesan; the rasp-style grater took more than twice that, at about 1 minute and 20 seconds. 

Hopper Dimensions and Shred Size Help Determine Speed

Still, a few features made certain graters faster to use than others. The dimensions of the grater’s hopper were critical. The bigger the hopper, the bigger the piece of cheese we could fit in it, speeding up the grating process and requiring us to reload less frequently when grating larger amounts of cheese. The dimensions of the hopper’s bottom opening were particularly important, since they determined how much cheese made contact with the teeth on the rotating drum; here again, larger openings allowed for quicker grating. Bigger hoppers had another advantage: They were easier to load. Smaller hoppers required us to fuss more to whittle chunks of Parmesan down to a size that would fit inside. 

The speed of each model also depended on how thickly it grated the cheese. Models that produced slightly thicker Parmesan shreds grated them more quickly than models that produced finer shreds, simply because they were shaving off more cheese with each rotation of the drum. Ultimately, we didn’t have a strong preference where the thickness of the cheese itself was concerned, though, since all the models grated the cheese finely enough to melt evenly into sauces such as the one in our Fettuccine with Butter and Cheese recipe. 

A Good Grip Is Important

Performance and speed aside, some of the models were simply easier to use than others. Three had a design similar to that of a potato ricer, with a lever-like handle extending toward a lid that sits on top of the cheese in the hopper. Within this style, however, we found that handles made purely of slick plastic were more slippery to hold than handles featuring rubbery grips; those slick plastic-only handles also felt flimsier and occasionally made worrisome cracking noises when we squeezed them. (None broke during testing.)

The other models all had different designs—and different problems as a result. One grater required us to stretch our hands uncomfortably around both the hopper and drum to press down on the lid and get the cheese to make contact with the grating surface. And because both this model and another had lids that were firmly attached to the top of the hopper, there was a limit to how tall each piece of cheese could be, requiring us to carefully trim the pieces not only for their length and width, but also for their height. We much preferred the potato ricer–style models, as their lids were attached to their handles, not to the hopper; with these models, we could fit cheese of nearly any height into the hopper, swing the lid down, and get to grating. 

We Prefer Smaller, More Portable Graters

Another grater had to be anchored to the table in order to be used, but its locking mechanism didn’t always work for us, so we sometimes had to fight with it to keep it stable enough to grate the cheese. Since this stationary grater sat upright, much of the cheese stayed put inside the rotating drum after it was grated, requiring us to tip the grater over or use a spoon to extract it. Worse, at about the size of a meat grinder, it was the largest of the models we tested; we much preferred the smaller profile and portability of the handheld models, which makes them easy to store and pass around the table at mealtimes.

Flexible Construction Makes Some Models Ambidextrous

We were surprised to find that not all graters were made for all users. Some models require you to install the crank on the right side of the rotating drum, a position that’s awkward for lefties, who had to contort their hands to use these models properly. We preferred ambidextrous models that could be assembled with the crank on the right or the left side of the rotating drum so that they could be used by both righties and lefties. 

Durability Matters

Durability was also a concern. Some of the graters were built less solidly than others. While most were able to grate many ounces of cheese with no issue, the thin plastic struts that supported one model’s drum insert snapped off while grating a small, ½-ounce chunk of cheese at the end of testing; the entire grater was useless afterward. For obvious reasons, we preferred models that were more durable and would last a long time.  

Cleanup Is a Pain

One reason you might want to stick with a rasp-style grater? Cleanup. Rotary graters just have more parts than the simple rasp-style grater and are thus a bit more of a pain to clean. During extended use, every one of those parts will get greasy or collect crumbled bits of cheese. All the models are dishwasher-safe, or have at least some dishwasher-safe parts, but if you don’t have a dishwasher, you’ll need to detail these graters carefully with a brush to extricate all the cheese. 

The Best Rotary Grater: The Zyliss Classic Cheese Grater

We think that the Zyliss Classic Cheese Grater is the best option. Compact, but with a relatively large hopper that accommodated good-size pieces of cheese, it consistently grated cheese faster than any other model. Its plastic handle has rubbery grips that make it particularly easy to hold, and its crank can be installed on either side of the drum, so both righties and lefties can use it. If you grate a lot of hard cheese at home, we think you might really appreciate having one of these handy gadgets. As a bonus, we found that it’s also good at grating chocolate.


Methodology

  • Test six models, priced from about $11 to about $55
  • Grate different amounts of Parmesan
  • Wash according to manufacturer’s instructions 5 times
  • Grate chocolate (winner only)

Rating Criteria

Performance: We rated the models on how quickly they grated cheese.

Ease of Use: We evaluated how easy the graters were to fill, use, and remove cheese from. We also considered how big they were and how comfortable they were to grip and stabilize for both left-handed and right-handed users.

Ease of Cleanup: We considered how easy each grater was to clean.

Durability: We considered how well each model withstood long-term use.


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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*