What this is: A deeper look at breaking down cheese into fun shapes for both cheese and charcuterie boards.
Who it’s for: People who like to play with their food (especially cheese!)
If you already read our lesson on cutting wedges and wheels, you will know there are some industry standard ways to break down a piece of cheese into smaller pieces. So if that lesson was your standard “English Class”, then you can think of this one as the start of your “Creative Writing” curriculum, where you get to show some artistic flare.
We eat with our eyes, sometimes even more so than we do with our mouths—think about all that drooling you do on Instagram! And while we’re talking about Instagram, let’s talk a little about the phenomenon of creating food that looks better than it tastes. Those cheese boards in your Instagram feed—they’re beautiful, right? But they’re not always delicious! Many of the boards out there put aesthetic appeal above gustatory consideration—for example, who wants to eat cookies soaked through with olive juice from the bowl-less olives right next to them, or cheddar that’s slimy from being layered with orange slices? Not us, that’s for sure. And that’s really the whole reason we started boards&co, to help you make boards that are as delicious as they look. We’re here for you and we’ve got your back, so come with us and you, too, can make a droolworthy Insta-star cheese board.
- Gather: The first step is to gather food that actually tastes good together. We’ve done the legwork already for you with our collections, or if you want to choose your own cheeses and pairings, you can check out our Cheese Basics lessons, specifically with the Cheese Types and Flavor Profiles overview, which are the pillars of our very own system for developing delicious cheese and pairing combinations.
- Plan: Next is taking stock of what you want to put on your board and how you want to present it. Which cheeses do you want to cut and which ones will remain whole? Will you put the nuts in a bowl or tuck them around some Brie?
- Cut: Once you know which cheeses need to be cut, it’s time to decide how you want to cut them. Our recommendation is to cut each cheese differently so that it’s clear to the cheese eaters that there are multiple types of cheese. And, like a diverse flower arrangement, it is more appealing to look at.
What follows are four different types of cuts, along with some tips on when and how to use them. For more info on how to layout cut cheese, check out our Cheese Layout lesson.
For us, sticks are anything other than triangles, cubes, or nuggets. They can be long, short, skinny, fat, or somewhere between! This is a good category to use multiple times on a board because you can use the same technique but still make the different cheeses look distinct from each other.
How to cut sticks: Cut your cheese down to the thickness you want your sticks and then cut down the individual sticks. You may be tempted to stack your cheese so you can cut twice as fast, but sometimes the pressure of the cheese knife can make the cheese stick together. Best to go slow and steady and just enjoy the process.
Good for: semi-firm to firm cheese
Not good for: cheddar, soft cheese, hard cheeses
Tip for Cutting SticksIf you are trying to cut a cheese into sticks and the sticks keep breaking, you probably have a cheese that would rather be turned into nuggets (see below). If you are determined to cut into sticks, make them thicker and shorter so they are more likely to hold together. (It’s the curd formation and the dryness of the cheese that is causing this problem, so the problem is structural.)
Triangles are some of the most beautiful shapes on a cheese board. They add a visual texture that everyone loves—as long as they are not over done. If you want to cut two cheeses into triangles, consider making one long and skinny and the other short and squat.
How to: There are two good ways to cut triangles. One is to cut down a wedge of cheese that is already a perfect triangle shape. If you’re lucky enough to get a wedge like this, go for it! But it’s pretty easy to cut a big square block of cheese into triangles too. You just have to start by cutting it into squares (thin squares—not cubes) first, and then cut the squares in half. See how our illustration has you break it down into smaller squares, and thinner squares to get the perfect triangle shapes.
Good for: semi-firm to firm cheeses
Not Good for: Cheddar (crumbles), soft cheese (they ooze), hard cheeses (they crumble)
Tip for Cutting TrianglesYou may be tempted to cut big huge triangles, but keep in mind that your cheese may not cooperate. You need a cheese that is firm enough to not look saggy when cut, but not too hard that it breaks apart (basically, a Goldilocks cheese).
Wedges can be super fun. You can pre-cut a whole wheel into wedges, but still leave them in their original placement in the wheel, or you can stand them up on end like little tents or fan them out into fun shapes on your board. If these little cheeses have color to the rind, it makes fanning them out even more beautiful!
How to: Use a soft cheese knife to cut your piece like a cake or pie. If cheese starts to build up on your knife, wipe it off with a paper towel before continuing.
Not Good for: Super runny cheese of any type, hard cheese
Tip for Cutting Wedges
Sometimes you just want people to know how to serve themselves this cheese but it’s too ripe to cut fully. You can start the process by cutting the piece in half, and that half in quarters, and one quarter into wedges but without removing the wedges from the wheel. This will make it easy for people to start serving themselves, but will help mitigate the risk that the cheese will run all over the cheeseboard.
Nuggets are irregularly shaped bits of cheese that have broken according to however the cheese feels. Nuggeting works better for older, drier cheeses and also for cheddar, all of which are more likely to put up a fuss when you try to cut them into neat shapes.
How to nugget: Lightly insert the tip of a sharp knife into a block of cheese and wiggle it as you slowly push down. The paste (the body) of the cheese should break apart. Continue with the rest of the cheese. If a piece that breaks off is too big, go ahead and break it in half the same way. Don’t make the pieces too small or it will look like cheese crumbs.
Good for: Cheddar, Hard cheese, aged gouda, Feta, bold&blue cheese
Not Good for: soft cheese, young cheese
Tip for NuggetingThis is a great way to cut a lot of cheese fast. You can also just cut half of a wedge of cheese and leave a Parm knife next to it so that people can chunk off their own piece when the pre-nuggeted pieces are gone.
Planning out a cheese board will help you make the right design decisions for cutting your cheese.
|Let’s draw a cheese board. Draw a big cheese board circle on a piece of paper. Imagine you have a wheel of Brie, a hunk of cheddar, a wedge of blue cheese, and a hunk of a firm smooth&melty cheese. Draw out how you’d cut each of your cheeses on your board. Keep the shapes simple. This is a great practice to do before you create any board, especially if you’re intimidated to get started.|
Click the icons to download a pdf of this lesson and our two handy guides: How Cheese is Made and Cheese and Pairing Types.