One rising trend in entertaining is the creation of a charcuterie, an appealing display of meats, cheeses, and fruits that will impress guests as an elegant appetizer. Many cheeses are sold in block or wheel form and must be sliced into manageable portions for serving. Some kitchen tools are capable of performing this task but employing a dedicated cheese slicer is a safer and more consistent way to go.
A cheese slicer can take several forms; the slicing is either performed by a strong, thin wire or a solid blade. Some have a marble or wooden cutting board to hold the whole cheese in place, while others trim off slices much like an office paper trimmer. There are even handheld cheese slicers that strongly resemble vegetable slicers. Some are designed for cheese only, while others can be used to slice meats, fruits, or vegetables.
Considerations when choosing cheese slicers
Handheld vs. cutting board
A handheld cheese slicer often resembles a bladed vegetable peeler, but it can also feature a thin cutting wire. The main advantage of a handheld cheese slicer is a personal preference. The blade or wire on a handheld slicer may be adjustable depending on its structure and some may find it simpler or more comfortable to use.
A cheese slicer featuring a solid cutting board base and a fixed slicing wire or blade can cost more, but it adds stability to the process. The block or wheel of cheese rests securely on the cutting board while the slices are made. Some models have adjustable wires or blades that create thicker or thinner slices on demand. Another advantage of a cutting board cheese slicer is aesthetics, presenting sliced meats and cheeses on a marble or wooden cutting board adds a functional elegance.
Durability is a major consideration with cheese slicers, because they should provide years of reliable service. Handheld models should be made from high-quality stainless steel or another rust-resistant metal. Cutting wires commonly fail after extended use, but replacements should be readily available. The cutting board should be easy to clean and store, even if it's not dishwasher-safe. Marble is perhaps the most durable choice for cutting boards, but properly treated hardwoods, bamboo, or food-grade plastic are also good choices.
Handheld cheese slicers should be small enough to fit comfortably in the hand, much like a vegetable peeler. Cutting board cheese slicers need to be large enough to hold an entire block or wheel of cheese, but they don't need to be oversized like a general purpose meat and vegetable model. Some cheese slicers have enough aesthetic appeal to be put on display between uses, but others need to fit inside kitchen cabinets or drawers.
Ease of use
Because the blade or wire on a handheld cheese slicer is extremely sharp, a model with a protective blade guard is always a good idea. It also protects the blade from damage during storage. The cutting board should be easy to clean with soap and water if it's not dishwasher-safe. An adjustable blade or wire should be easy to set to the right depth and remain at that setting without slippage.
QUESTIONS TO PONDER
Q. Can a cheese slicer be used to slice other foods, such as meats or breads?
A. It depends on the cheese slicer's design and blade style. A cheese slicer with a cutting wire may not be able to slice through a hard meat such as salami, but a model with a metal blade should be able to cut through other types of foods, including meats and vegetables.
Q. Should I buy a cheese slicer with a marble or wooden cutting board?
A. This also is really a matter of personal preference. Some users prefer the appearance of a marble cutting board on the counter, while others choose wood for it’s more rustic look (see Libber Acacia Bark Slab wood cheese slicer) at www.cheeseslicing.com . A marble cutting board may be easier to clean, dishwasher safe; however, a wooden cutting board is generally less expensive and easier to transport.