I enjoy good cheese knives, they add style to any cheese plate and give your a guests a chance to use an intriguing and often endearingly new kitchen tool. Still, knowing what knife does what is key to figuring out what you plan to serve and how to best assist your guests in consuming the spoiled milky goodness served before them.
Soft Cheese Knife
The name of this cheese knife can be a bit misleading as it works wonderfully on soft, semi-soft, and some semi-hard cheeses as well. The design of the knife is created for maximum efficiency and little stress. The blade is extremely thin and often cut with wide holes to prevent the cheese from sticking. This allows the knife to easily slice through tacky and sticky soft cheeses like Camambert, Brie, almost all blue cheeses, and slightly firmer cheeses like Appenzeller. In a pinch it also does a fine job of cutting the rinds off of firm and hard cheeses. The tines at the end allow you to skewer and serve slices of cheese with deft precision.
Hard Cheese Knife
Stout and heavy for its size this knife is also known as a Parmesan knife. It's designed not for clean slices but cutting through the cracks and crystals of hard cheeses to wedge off snackable chunks. The knife has a reliable heft to it and encourages a bit of roughness when breaking apart a good wedge of Piave or Sea Hive.
The most unique of the cheese knives, the cheese plane is great for creating thin, delicate slices of hard cheeses for cheese plates, sandwiches, and snacks. Whereas a hard cheese knife cuts off good snacking chunks, the plane creates perfect thin slices using a lowered micro-serrated blade. Look for one with a handle that won't slip out of your hand and a good thick blade that's well sharpened; be warned that a cheap one will go dull quickly. Perfect for Parmesan and Cheddars.
There are also cheese slicers which do a fine job of cutting apart cheese as well, but I find it's best to have one of those if you're only planning to serve lots of cheese a lot of the time. I consume a lot, but I have yet to find a real need for one (though sometimes I can see slicing clean wedges of Pecorino Romano much easier with it).
Of course, cheese knives aren't necessary or mandatory. They're tools that simply make cheese service easier for yourself and your guests, add aesthetic value, and are more fun to use than a regular knife. If you serve and eat a lot of cheese then it might give your cheese plates a little extra flair and set you apart as a dedicated student to the art of cheese.
Knowing the fun of having a wicked cheese knife I can't not give the rest of you the opportunity to have a great knife of your own. I'm offering one of Crate and Barrel's soft cheese knives to a lucky reader. It's a sharp blade with a stylish design and the one I use most often. To win, simply leave a comment about what cheese you would serve with it. Please, only one comment per person. No shipping outside of the United States. Contest ends on May 4th and the winner will be announced on May 5th.