What is a Cheese Grater?

A cheese grater is a kitchen utensil used specifically for grating cheese into fine pieces or shreds. Cheese graters come in different styles and have blades with holes or sharp edges that shred solid cheeses when pressed against them.

What is a Cheese Grater

Cheese graters are very useful for preparing dishes that call for shredded or finely grated cheese as an ingredient such as casseroles, pasta bakes, salads, pizza and more.

Using a grater saves time and elbow grease compared to cutting cheese into pieces with a knife. Graters also yield even shreds for smooth melting and better flavor incorporation into recipes.

Common Uses of Cheese Graters

Cheese graters have a few main uses in the kitchen:

  • Grating hard cheeses like parmesan, pecorino romano, aged cheddar, etc. A grater easily breaks down dense, firm cheeses into light and fluffy shreds or finely grated piles.
  • Shredding semi-soft cheeses such as mozzarella, monterey jack, gouda, etc. The sharp blades cut through softer cheeses cleanly.
  • Grating cheese toppings for dishes like pasta, pizza, nachos, baked potatoes, etc. Finely shredded cheese melts faster and more evenly.
  • Making cheese-based dips and spreads by shredding ingredients like cream cheese, goat cheese, etc.
  • Grating cold butter into flakes for baking uses like pie crusts, biscuits, scones, etc.

Key Takeaway: Cheese graters shred firm, semi-soft, and soft cheeses into uniform pieces and flakes for easier melting and incorporation into recipes.

History of the Cheese Grater

Cheese graters date back to the early 1500s when they were forged by metalworkers out of materials like bronze and pewter. These early graters were designed specifically for grating hard goat cheeses to produce Kykeon, an Ancient Greek beverage.

Cheese graters were invented in France in the 1540s by François Boullier. His pewter grater was created to shred hard aged cheeses into a more edible fine texture.

Over the centuries, new materials like stainless steel and engineering improvements have enhanced cheese graters. Modern varieties feature sharper, more durable blades in a range of sizes and styles.

Types of Cheese Graters

There are several common types, styles and designs of cheese graters available:

Box Grater

Box graters are the most widely used type of cheese grater in home kitchens. Box graters have a block-shaped body with different grating surfaces on each side:

  • Coarse shredding holes
  • Medium shredding holes
  • Fine grating holes
  • Slicing slot

The variety of blades makes box graters versatile for handling both hard and soft cheeses. These graters often have a non-slip base and handle for stability and comfort when shredding cheese blocks. Most box graters are made of stainless steel and dishwasher safe.

Handheld Grater

Handheld graters take the familiar shape of a standard kitchen grater armed with a handle for grasping. The grating surface may be flat or curved. Handheld graters provide excellent control when grating small pieces of cheese.

Look for handheld graters with comfortable, non-slip handles for best results. Some handheld models feature both coarse and fine grating holes for flexibility.

Rotary Grater

Rotary or drum graters utilize stainless steel drums engraved with grating blades that rotate against the cheese. Users turn a crank handle on rotary graters to spin the drums and grate cheese in a truly hands-free method.

These graters stand upright on the countertop and often suction to the work surface for stability. Rotary graters are available in both electric and manual versions. They excel at rapidly shredding extremely hard, dry cheeses.

Electric Grater

Electric graters provide powered assistance with minimal physical effort on the user's part. Electric cheese graters may operate similarly to food processors with interchangeable grating discs.

There are also specialized electric graters designed solely for cheese grating tasks, often with suction bases to secure them to the counter during use.


A microplane grater consists of an extra-long, super sharp blade etched with tiny grating teeth. Microplane graters create fluffy, feathery piles of finely grated hard cheese with ease.

The fine shreds generated by a microplane grater ensure excellent melting properties. These lightweight graters also excel at zesting citrus fruits and spices.

Mandoline Slicer Attachment

Some mandoline slicer kitchen tools offer drum attachments engraved with different size grating holes for adjusting shred texture. The handy attachments snap onto the slicer's vertical body for stable, rotary cheese grating.

Mandoline grater attachments match the appliance's overall aesthetic for a unified look. Like food processor discs, the cheese grating drums are removable for easy swapping and cleaning.

Features to Consider When Buying a Cheese Grater

Keep these factors in mind when selecting the best cheese grater for your needs:

  • Blade sharpness - Sharp, rigid blades easily shred cheese without requiring excess pressure or causing cheese to gum up in the grater.
  • Build quality - Choose graters made of durable stainless steel over plastic models likely to warp, crack or bend with repeated use.
  • Handle comfort - A padded, ergonomic handle prevents hand strain and slips when grating large volumes of cheese.
  • Dishwasher safe - Look for cheese graters labeled as dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.
  • Dimensions - Consider the size of cheese grater in relation to your kitchen storage space and cheese grating needs. Larger graters handle bigger tasks.
  • Special features - Nice extras include rubberized feet to prevent slipping, guards to protect hands from blades, removable catch trays to collect shreds and interchangeable grating drums.

Using a Cheese Grater

Follow these tips for best results when using your cheese grater:

  • Chill cheese in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes before grating to prevent gumminess. The firmer the cheese, the easier it shreds.
  • When buying cheese for grating, skip pre-shredded bags which often contain anti-caking agents affecting texture. Purchase wedge, block or wheel formats.
  • Adjust pressure on the cheese grater depending on ingredients - delicate items like cold butter or zucchini need less force. Hard cheeses require heavier pressure.
  • Work over a plate, cutting board, parchment paper or directly into your recipe vessel to catch all cheese shreds as they come off the grater.
  • Occasionally tap the grater against your work surface so shreds fall away while grating. This prevents clogs.
  • Clean graters thoroughly after each use, hand washing delicate models with non-abrasive scrub pads.


What are the different types of cheese graters?

The common styles are box graters, handheld graters, rotary graters, electric graters, microplane graters and mandoline attachments. Each has pros and cons.

What can you use a cheese grater for besides cheese?

Cheese graters work nicely for shredding vegetables like potatoes, zucchini and carrots. They also grate cold butter, chocolate, coconut meat and whole spices.

How do I clean stuck-on cheese out of my grater?

Use a small brush with firm, non-metal bristles to gently loosen stuck-on particles wedged in grater blades. Avoid abrasive scrub pads that can damage surfaces. Always hand wash delicate graters.

What is the best cheese grater?

The "best" cheese grater depends on your needs and budget. For overall everyday use, choose a stainless steel box grater with at least three interchangeable shredding surfaces plus a slicing blade. Box graters handle both soft and hard cheeses.


Investing in a high-quality cheese grater designed specifically for the task saves significant time in the kitchen.

Shredding cheese with the proper grater takes a fraction of the effort required using a chef's knife.

It also yields perfect results - from fluffy piles of finely grated parmesan to stringy mozzarella shreds ready for melting or uniform cheddar for topping casseroles.

AGAH Productions
AGAH Productions