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September/October 2017

Cheese Planes

Sometimes a knife just doesn’t cut it.

How We Tested

A good cheese plane makes it easy and safe to produce consistently thin, even slices from semihard cheeses. A cheese plane is essentially a small trowel with a blade embedded in the flat head; using even pressure, you simply pull the blade across a cheese wedge or block in order to get a uniform slice of cheese. To find the best cheese plane, we bought nine models priced from $6.75 to $28.00 and put them to work slicing solid blocks of two semihard cheeses, dense cheddar and more-porous Manchego.

We found that all the blades were plenty sharp. But straight blades were better—the one model with a serrated edge cut corduroy-like ridges into the cheese, making for less pleasant eating. We also liked blades that were around 2.25 inches long. Shorter blades couldn’t cover larger wedges of cheese in a single pass, and longer blades were sometimes ungainly.

The thickness of the cheese slices produced by the planes—determined by the angles of the blades themselves—proved critical. We found that cheese slices 0.08 to 0.09 inches thick (slightly thicker than a nickel) were ideal. Anything thinner made it hard to get a sense of the cheese’s texture; any thicker and the slices felt a bit unwieldy and overwhelmed delicate crackers.

Certain models were also easier to use, making it simple to produce clean-cut, smooth slices with no broken tips or edges and fairly little variation in thickness from piece to piece. The metal heads surrounding the blades came into play here. We preferred models with thin (0.02 to 0.03 inches thick), flexible heads because they hugged the surface of the cheese and were easier to maneuver.

Finally, we liked models with relatively large, cushioned, textured handles. Narrow or slick handles were hard to grip and sometimes slipped during use, resulting in uneven slicing.

Our winning cheese plane, the Wüsthof Gourmet 4 3/4-inch Cheese Plane ($19.95), produced perfect 0.08-inch-thick slices every time. It had a comfortable handle, a relatively long and sharp blade, and one of the thinnest and most flexible heads in the testing, making for effortless, responsive slicing.

Methodology

We tested nine cheese planes priced from $6.75 to $28.00, using them to slice blocks of sharp cheddar and wedges of Manchego. We evaluated each model for ease of use and performance. All products were purchased online and appear in order of preference.

Performance: We evaluated the planes to see how thinly and smoothly they sliced different kinds of cheese. Planes that could easily slice both dense (sharp cheddar) and porous (Manchego) semihard cheeses received higher scores.

Ease of Use: We rated the planes on how comfortable they were to grip and how easy they were to use.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

$33.31*

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.