Until 1990, the world shredded its cheese using graters that are, essentially, metal boxes with holes punched out that tear your cheese into ragged pieces. They’re hard to clean (chewing apart your sponges in the process), and easily mangle your knuckles and fingernails. Enter the Microplane.
This long, slender rasp made from sharp industrial printer parts was invented as a woodworking tool. Lorraine Lee, the wife of a Canadian hardware store owner and a home baker, first used the tool in 1994 to zest oranges. The Lees began to market the Microplane as a baking tool in their catalog, and soon the company began catering to cooks with its products. Chefs everywhere quickly saw that the Microplane could also be used to finely grate cheese. It transforms a hard hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano into feathery flakes.
The secret to the Microplane’s success is its unique grating holes. Through a process called photoetching, metal is chemically dissolved to create holes with tiny, razorlike teeth. They finely slice, rather than tear and shred, your cheese (or your zest). And they’re safe to lightly hold and run your hands across and sponge off.
It transforms a hard hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano into feathery flakes.
Now a Specialty Series has quietly joined the classic Microplane that will allow you to grate cheeses and other foods in new ways. As with the first rasp models, these are the best in the biz.
(By the way, one thing I’ve noticed in home and pro kitchens around the world is that most people hold a Microplane in the wrong hand and upside-down. They hold the cheese in their dominant hand and grate it against the Microplane, letting the grated cheese fall into the pasta—and most likely around the edges of the plate and onto the table. The Microplane was designed to be held in your dominant hand, with the blade down, and has a channel or slight concave to collect your grated food. This way, you’re grating on the underside of the Microplane, allowing you to dump your grated cheese directly onto your pasta—rather than the table.)
Better Box Grater
By Microplane, $24.95
The Better Box Grater is Microplane’s tool for finely and coarsely grating (think cheddar cheese for tacos). It looks just like the dreaded knuckle shredder of kitchen nightmares past, but it’s much more refined. T-sided, with large, 5.25-by-4.25-inch blade faces on each side—extra-coarse and fine—it has a chunky plastic handle on top and four rubber feet on the bottom. The Slider Attachment knuckle guard lets you slide your cheese chunk up and down easily against the blade without hurting your fingers or knuckles.
By Microplane, $24.95
Put your cheese chunk against the little cylinder, crank the handle, and out comes the cheese in thin strips. This grater is perfect for dinner parties: Guests can grate their desired amount of cheese without getting their hands dirty. No need to wrap a hunk of Pecorino Romano in a cloth napkin (the way they do it in restaurants).
Microplane’s spin on the rotary grater comes with two drum blades—fine and coarse—a plastic housing that holds the drum blades and the food, and two removable crank handles. Unfortunately, the ends of the crank handles are flat and fixed, rather than rotating. They can get a little uncomfortable on the fingertips. It might look like other rotary graters on the market, but everything comes back to those great Microplane grating blades.