What this is: A list of how to decide when to cut cheese for a cheese plate and when to leave it whole.
Who it’s for: The cheese board maker that wants options.
Let’s be honest, we’ve provided you with a lot of information on how to cut cheese into fun shapes and neat formation ideas, but you don’t actually have to cut the cheese you put on your cheese board.
Here are our top 5 times to cut cheese and when to leave it alone.
Cut the cheese when...
There are children around: When there are kids about, it’s best to err on the side of caution and not have a knife lying around, instead cut perfect kid-sized bites ahead of time.
It’s a cocktail party: Pre-cutting the cheese makes it easy to serve yourself when you have a drink in one hand.
You have cheeses that are hard to cut: If you have hard cheeses that are difficult to cut without touching the cheese, then pre-cut them ahead of time so each bite won’t have been touched by several of the guests first.
You have shy Guests: If there’s a chance your guests would be too intimidated to cut a piece of your own, then pre-cut cheese is less intimidating and invites more nibbling.
You want to make the spread look fuller: This is a great trick when you’re making do for a last minute drop by with the neighbors.
Don’t Cut the Cheese when...
- It’s really ripe and runny. Trust us on this one—don’t mess with the magic more than you have to.
- You’re short on time. Put them on the board and add some knives and voilà! Instant cheese party.
- Cutting the cheese is part of the experience: Seeing the larger piece and then cutting your own can help your guests engage with the cheese, so leave it whole if you want cutting and eating to be a full experience.
- It looks nice as a whole piece. Sometimes, cheeses are almost too pretty to cut (we see you, blue and ash-lined cheeses!)—leave the whole piece out if you want everyone to ooh and ahh over your beautiful piece of cheese.
- You want it to hold up for a long time out on a board. Because they have less total surface area, whole pieces will stay nicer for longer than smaller pieces.
Cutting the cheese is not all or nothing. We like to mix it up. Usually we’ll keep our bloomy&brainy and bold&blue cheese whole with a knife, but we’ll add cuts to get it started so people are comfortable giving it a try (like that old trick of putting a couple dollars in the tip jar so that others will, too). Our hard cheeses and cheddars usually get a nugget as they look best that way, and it can be a fight to get them into nice triangles or sticks. The rest of the cheeses we try to mix up the shapes based on the size and shape of the wedge, or honestly just how we are feeling that day!
There are good reasons to cut or not cut cheeses but they are only suggestions.
Try creating an A/B test at your next party: use half of your cheese on one cheese board and half on another. Cut all the cheese on one of the boards and none of it on the other. What was eaten first? Was anything left untouched? What did you learn about these two cheese boards and what would you do differently if you made just one?
Click the icons to download a pdf of this lesson and our two handy guides: How Cheese is Made and Cheese and Pairing Types.