What it is: Learn how different wheels and wedges of cheeses should be cut down.
Who it’s for: The Wedge Enthusiast, or anyone that's serving cheese
Ideally, when we serve cheese to our friends and family, we want to cut it such that everyone gets fairly equal pieces—not just in size, but also in how much rind is included and how much paste is in each piece. We don’t want one person getting all interior paste, while one person gets all rind. That sounds straightforward enough, but because cheese comes in so many shapes, big and little, it can get a little tricky. In addition, you’ll need to take into account the type of cheese, because a hard wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano behaves very differently than a very ripe Brie.
In this lesson, we’re going to show you how to cut down different wedges of cheese. Your best tool here is going to be your eyes, and the next best tools are your knife and cutting board. (Learn more about cheese knives here.)
Ultimately, whenever possible we want to first try cutting the cheese like a pie or cake with a bunch of wedges radiating out from a center point—this is for both round and non-round cheeses. If that isn’t possible (say, for a long rectangular cheese), we turn to cutting slices, and sometimes we employ both tactics. This may seem like a lot, but it’s really easier than it seems, so let’s look at some examples.
But first a quick message about rinds. Before you begin, you need to decide if you are going to keep the rind on or not—either to eat or for decoration. If you’re going to be taking it off, do it now (one exception is for Brie-style cheese, leave those babies dressed in their rinds, even if you don’t want to eat it!)
PIE AND CAKE CUTS
This cut is great anytime you have a relatively uniformly-shaped cut or wheel of cheese. Below, you can see the pie and cake cuts being used on short round wheels, short square wheels, and even a pyramid These wheels could be 12” across or just a couple inches—the same rules apply.
- Cut across the cheese to cut the piece in half. (Tip: for square cheeses, cut corner to corner, shown below)
- Cut perpendicular to the first cut so that the half is now cut into quarters.
- Cut one of the quarters into serving sizes.
If you want to cut the whole cheese down, repeat 1-3
Warning: if your cheese is soft and gooey, you might not want to cut this beauty down ahead of time for your guests, because the paste might just make a run for it and ooze all over the board. In this case, just put it on your board and wedge a spreader knife into the paste so that no one is afraid to make the first cut. This will keep your oozing goodness in check as long as possible.
This cut is going to come in handy whenever you want sticks, triangles or even cubes. You can cut down a flat wedge (below, left) and a triangle wedge (below, right) with simple slices. Is your wedge too thick to be sliced? Cut it down lengthwise to get 2 (or three) smaller wedges and then get slicing. This is when a good solid cheese knife or cheese hatchet will do nicely.
- Before you put knife to cheese, first consider the kind of cheese you’re working with. While many of the friendly&flexible and smooth&melty cheeses can be made into neat slices (Comté, e.g.), others tend to crumble instead (cheddar and blue cheese, we’re looking at you!). Check out our Cheese Board Geometry to learn more about cheese shapes beyond these basics. Have an aged cheddar? Nuggeting might be what you’re actually looking for.
- Determine how many cuts you will want to make and if you’ll be cutting long or short sticks, etc.
- Get slicing.
Combo cuts work on cheeses that have shapes that aren’t as straightforward and so make it just a teensy bit more difficult to cut so that everyone gets the same ratio of rind to paste.
This first example (below, left) can really be looked at like half a pie tacked onto a wedge, so you can use both pie cuts and slices. If you imagine a really tasty rind on a cheese shaped like this, you can understand why cutting it this way makes everybody happy with their piece. This works especially well with cheeses that have rounded sides, such as Gouda.
Our round cylinder shaped piece (below, right) is usually seen in soft-ripened goat cheese. These cheeses can be delicate, so in order to avoid squishing them with a knife, we like to use a wire lyre or a slicer.
A rounded log like this gives you three choices:
- If there is no rind on the ends of the log, cut down the whole log in slices.
- If the log has a diameter too large for a single-serving round slice, then cut thicker slices and then cut each of those into 4 wedges (shown below, right).
- For cheeses with beautiful (and delicious) rinds, cut thick slices off at each end to create evenly-rinded wedges like #2 above, and then slice the rest of the piece into even slices.
Ever wonder how mongers cut down big wheels of cheese? Take a look at the illustration below. This works for tall wheels (known as “truckles”). We can cut the wheel across the width into 2 or three pieces and then we “break down” each ring of the cheese to create smaller wedges.
Just because a cheese might look like it could be sliced, doesn’t mean it should be. Jasper Hill’s Harbison is one of several cheeses that’s wrapped in a spruce bark that might not come off. Rather than doggedly sawing through the bark to make wedges, this cheese can be left whole and be spooned out from the top. Other cheeses, like St. Albans, might take a detour through a hot oven before they reach their culinary zenith.
Start by looking at your cheese wedge or wheel and decide the best way to cut it down so that everyone gets a similar piece.
Take a trip to a cheese store (or the cheese department at a grocery store) and try to guess how the different wedges were cut down, and how you would cut them down to serve. What cheese looks like it would make the best triangle wedges? What looks too creamy to cut? Next, host a cheese party with wedges and logs and try these techniques out yourself!
Click the icons to download a pdf of this lesson and our two handy guides: How Cheese is Made and Cheese and Pairing Types.