A cheese slicer is a device which is designed to facilitate the slicing of cheese. There are several variations on the basic slicer design, which generally works on hard to semi-firm cheeses. A cheese slicer ensures that uniform slices of cheese are produced, and reduces the amount of direct handling of the cheese. Most kitchen supply stores sell cheese slicers, and they are useful to have around.
The first cheese slicer design was developed in Norway by Thor Bjorklund. Bjorklund realized that the basic design of a carpenter's plane could be well suited to making thin slices of cheese for bread, and he patented his design in 1927. Commercial production of the cheese slicer began shortly afterwards, and the device quickly spread throughout Europe.
This style of cheese slicer has a typically wedge-shaped piece of metal with a single sharp blade embedded in it, along with an easily gripped handle. The metal is dragged along the cheese while the blade slices a thin layer off, and the slice of cheese slides through a hole in the top. The design is especially well suited to hard cheeses, and produces thin, uniform slices of cheese which are excellent for bread and sandwiches.
The other type of cheese slicer uses a piece of wire which is pulled through the cheese to slice a piece off. Unlike the plane-based cheese slicer, various sizes can be produced using this type. Some come as a standalone hand-held unit, while others are attached to a cutting board made from wood, plastic, or marble. These cheese slicers can handle softer cheeses, and are sometimes set out along with cheeses on a presentation platter so that guests can cut their own cheese.
Using a cheese slicer ensures that cheeses are uniformly sliced. In addition to creating a more appealing presentation, uniform slices are also easier to work with when cooking. When making foods like grilled cheese sandwiches and quesadillas, for example, a cheese slicer will produce even slices which will melt identically. As anyone who has struggled with making a good grilled cheese sandwich knows, this is very important. Evenly sliced cheese also contributes to a more pleasant mouthfeel in foods like sandwiches.
Caring for a cheese slicer properly is important, as the blade should not be allowed to rust. Both types should be hand washed, and dried after washing to ensure that rust spots do not appear. Most cheese slicers which are attached to boards are removable, so that they can be easily cleaned. Both cheese slicer and board should be allowed to dry entirely before the device is reassembled, and storing the pieces flat can help to prevent warping and damage.