Cheese Grater vs. Shredder

Whether you're an experienced home cook or just starting out in the kitchen, having the right tools can make all the difference.

Cheese Grater vs. Shredder

Two tools that often cause confusion are the cheese grater and the shredder.

Though they sound quite similar and can even look alike, there are some notable differences between the two.

What is a Cheese Grater?

A cheese grater is a kitchen tool designed specifically for grating cheese and other foods into fine pieces. The distinguishing feature of a cheese grater is that it has sharp, raised edges or small holes across its surface that allow it to shred soft and hard cheeses with ease.

Cheese graters come in a few common varieties:

  • Box graters - The classic stainless steel box grater with different grating surfaces on each side. Allows for coarse and fine grating.
  • Flat or rotary graters - Handheld graters designed for grating small amounts of cheese or other ingredients directly over a dish.
  • Rasp graters - Specialized graters with very fine etched surfaces, best for grating hard cheese like Parmesan into a fluffy powder.

Cheese graters work through a straightforward grating motion - the cheese is firmly rubbed against the sharp, abrasive surface to shred it into thin, fluffy pieces or powder.

Key Takeaway: A cheese grater uses sharp raised edges or small holes to finely grate cheese and other ingredients.

What is a Shredder?

A shredder is a kitchen tool made to cut foods like cheese, vegetables, and meat into long, thin strips rather than a fine powder. Broadly speaking, any tool that produces shredded food could be considered a shredder.

Some common types of shredders include:

  • Box graters - Most box graters have a shredding surface with large holes that produce long shreds.
  • Food processors - The shredding disc attachment can shred many foods neatly and quickly.
  • Mandolines - Either manual or electric, mandolines neatly slice vegetables and other foods into perfect shreds.

The shredding action tends to work in one of two ways:

  1. Food is carved into strips by sharp blades – e.g. the shredding disc on a food processor.
  2. Food is pushed through holes that slice it – e.g. box graters or mandolines.

Key Takeaway: A shredder cuts foods into long thin strips rather than a fine powder. Common examples include box graters, food processors, and mandolines.

In both cases, the food comes out in long thin strips rather than breaking down into a powder or paste.

ParameterCheese GraterShredder
ResultFine powder or flakesLong thin strips
Best UsesGrating hard cheese, garlic, ginger, nutmegShredding cheese, veggies, meat
ToolsBox grater, rotary grater, rasp graterBox grater, food processor, mandoline

Key Differences Between a Cheese Grater and a Shredder

Now that you understand the basic purpose and design of each tool, let’s look at some of the key differences between cheese graters and shredders:

Grating vs Shredding

The terms “grating” and “shredding” refer to the size and texture of the food pieces each tool produces:

  • Grated food is reduced to a fine powder or very small flakes. It may be similar to breadcrumbs or sand in texture.
  • Shredded food maintains its fibrous structure in long thin strips, similar to pulled cotton or string cheese strands.

So graters are optimized for turning solid ingredients into fine particulate, while shredders preserve more of the ingredient's shape and fibers.

Hole and Blade Design

Related to the above point, cheese graters and shredders have very different hole and blade designs:

  • Cheese graters use small, sharp holes or raised grating surfaces that pulverize the food into tiny grains.
  • Shredders rely on larger openings with blades that slice the food neatly into strips as it passes through.

So if you look closely at a box grater, for example, the “shredding” side has wider openings and sharper blades compared to the “grating” side designed for fine particulate.

Food Uses

Due to their different grating actions, cheese graters and shredders each work best on certain foods:

Cheese graters excel at processing hard cheeses into a light powder, like Parmesan, pecorino, aged gouda, and cheddar. The fine texture melts beautifully. Graters also work well for ginger, garlic, nutmeg, chocolate, and coconut.

Shredders are ideal for semi-soft and soft cheeses like mozzarella or young cheddar. The long fiber strands retain moisture and shape better during baking and cooking. Shredders also suit vegetables, chicken, pork, pasta, and dough.

Of course there is some overlap in what you can grate versus shred. But in general, reach for the grater when you want a fine dust, and the shredder when you want stringy strips.

Key Takeaway: Graters excel at hard cheeses, garlic, ginger etc while shredders are better for soft cheese, produce, meat and other foods needing sliced strips rather than powder.

Features and Capabilities

Beyond their fundamental grating differences, cheese graters and shredders each have certain convenient features and capabilities for the kitchen:

Cheese Graters

Offer fine control - A handheld cheese grater allows you to grate precisely the amount needed right onto your dish. No extra plates or tools needed.

Easy to clean - Most cheese graters have simple, streamlined designs that rinse clean with little effort. No complex parts or attachments.

Compact size - Cheese graters are slim and take up little storage space. Easy to stash in a drawer between uses. Some handheld graters are small enough to pack for picnics.

Cheap and durable - Quality stainless steel cheese graters last for years and cost just a few dollars. An economical investment for most kitchens.


Quickly shred batches - Food processors with a shredding blade make quick work of large volumes vegetables, cheese and meats. Handy for meal prep.

Neater presentation - The long uniform strands of shredded cheese, for instance, can create appealing melt patterns compared to fine powder.

Flexible applications - Shredders can handle most foods needing chopping from chicken to carrots to apples. Less limited than a grater.

Cuts uniform strips - Particularly mandolines, but most shredders will cut ingredient strips to an even size for consistent cooking.

So graters offer simplicity and control, while shredders provide speed and versatility when preparing shredded foods. Consider your needs and typical recipes when deciding which is more valuable for your kitchen.

Choosing the Right Tool

With a grasp on what sets cheese graters and shredders apart, let’s provide some guidance on choosing which tool best fits your cooking needs:

Pick a Cheese Grater When You Need:

  • Finely grated hard cheese as a garnish or ingredient
  • To finely grate ginger, garlic, nutmeg, chocolate, etc
  • A compact and durable tool for simple grating tasks
  • Precise control over small amounts of grated food
  • To save money over more complex shredder tools

Key Takeaway: Opt for a cheese grater when you primarily need to finely grate small amounts of hard cheeses or common baking ingredients.

Choose a Shredder When You Want To:

  • Shred batches of cheese, vegetables, or meat
  • Make shredded salads, coleslaws, sandwiches, pizzas, etc
  • Cut uniform shreds of vegetables for even cooking
  • Make pulled chicken, pork, or beef
  • Upgrade from manual grating for efficiency
  • Shred apples, citrus zest, or other delicate ingredients

In short, shredder appliances open up more versatility versus a humble cheese grater.

Key Takeaway: Choose a shredder for efficiently producing batches of shredded cheese, produce and meat, as well as powering through tougher foods.

ParameterCheese GraterShredder
PurposeFinely grate hard cheeses into powderShred soft cheese, vegetables, meat into strips
Best ForHard cheese, garlic, ginger, chocolateSoft cheese, produce, chicken, dough
AdvantagesCompact, controllable, simpleVersatile, batches, uniform shreds
DisadvantagesHand-powered, limited usesCostly, complex, slower than grater

Tips For Using Cheese Graters and Shredders

Whichever tool you choose, following some best practices will let you achieve better results:

For Cheese Graters

  • Chill harder cheeses before grating to avoid clumping
  • Apply even firm pressure when grating
  • Use a brush to remove grated cheese from the holes
  • Rinse residue off with hot water while still fresh
  • Opt for stainless steel over ceramic graters

For Food Shredders

  • Pat produce and meats very dry first
  • Chill butter and cheese 15 minutes before shredding
  • Shred in batches - don't overstuff the feed tube
  • Use the right shredder disc for the food item
  • Hand wash and air dry mandoline blades

And take basic safety precautions with both – hold ingredients securely, watch fingertips near sharp graters and mandoline blades, and shred away from your hands using a pusher whenever possible.

Following these simple best practices will keep these invaluable kitchen tools delivering perfect shreds and grates for years to come!


Can a cheese grater shred and can a shredder grate?

Technically yes, you can shred using a grater and grate with a shredder. However...

Cheese graters are optimized for fine grating powder, not shredding strips. You may get uneven, very fine shreds trying to shred on a grater.

Shredders can be used to grate somewhat coarsely in a pinch. But the shred size and texture will be inconsistent compared to a real grater.

So while there is some flexibility, your results will be inferior versus using the right tool - stick to graters for grating and shredders for shredding!

What can't be shredded with a food processor or mandoline?

Some foods are difficult or unsafe for food processors and mandoline shredders:

  • Cheeses that are sticky, creamy or prone to gumming up blades
  • Leafy greens and herbs
  • Small vegetables and fruits
  • Overflowing the feed tube with taller narrow items

Stick to graters for these problematic shredding candidates!

How do I clean a clogged cheese grater?

Frequent grating often leads to a buildup of cheese and food residue that can clog holes or gaps on a cheese grater. To clean:

  1. Fill a bowl with warm water and mix in dish soap
  2. Dip the clogged areas of grater in, let soak 10 minutes
  3. Scrub vigorously with a brush to dislodge the gunk
  4. Rinse thoroughly under the sink before drying

Soaking in soapy water makes all the difference for breaking down stuck-on cheese or other goop!


While cheese graters and food shredders may sound quite similar, understanding the differences between the two tools is highly valuable for your cooking endeavors.

From their purpose and hole/blade designs to ideal food uses, features, and basic care - become familiar with each type of tool.

Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀
Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀

I'm a total cheese fanatic! When I'm not busy studying to be a cheesemaker, you can find me scouring local farmers markets and specialty shops for new and exciting cheeses to try. Brie is my all-time fave, but I also love exploring aged goudas, funky blues, and rich creamy camemberts. Looking forward to sharing lots of melty, gooey cheese pics and reviews!