Far from being simple, cutting cheese is an art… Even more so in France, where over 300 different types of cheese exist, making it hard to not get confused!
Thus, to make things easier for you and to avoid any embarrassing situations during a big dinner, La Belle Assiette will offer you the secrets of cheese cutting in this article…
Cheeses that are round and flat (such as Camembert, Munster, Coulommiers, Reblochon…) are to be cut like cakes. Thus, it is necessary to incise the cheese in the centre and then cut two radii from the centre to the edge. The result should be a small triangular with a sharp tip.
For pyramidal and cylindrical cheeses (like Valençay, Charolay, Pouligny-Saint-Pierre, Persilly des Aravis…), you must cut the cheese from the centre to the edge along the entire height of the cheese. You should therefore start from the top down, resulting into triangles, similarly to round cheeses.
Cheeses with original forms (including Murol, Dauphin, Neufchâtel…) make use of the same principle as cheeses mentioned above: starting from the centre to the edge of the cheese and cut into small triangles.
Small and round cheeses (such as Pélardon, Crottin de Chavignol, Picodon de la Drôme or Picodon de l’Ardèche…) are cut in half if you have a good appetite. If you want less however, you may want to cut the cheese in four quarters.
For cheeses shaped as logs (such as Sainte Maure de Touraine, Bondon, Bûche du Poitou…), the straws should be initially removed (if there is any) to make cutting them easier. Then the cheese should be cut into round slices, from one edge to the another.
For cheeses with a tip (Brie de Meaux, Brie de Melun…), you should never start cutting from the “nose” as that leaves the crust and it is considered rude to serve it that way…! You should therefore ensure that you cut them into small slices parallel to the sides of the cheese and by starting from the heel. Another option is to start by cutting slices across the width of cheese (but tapered) on the tip. Then, upon reaching a certain point, you should then start cutting it along the length to take the heel.
For “round” cheeses (Comté, Emmental, Beaufort, Abondance, Morbier…), when you only have a portion of the complete round it is recommended to cut the cheese into slices parallel to the crust. Then, when you get to half the piece of cheese and when it gets high enough, start cutting from the other direction, that is cutting it along the heel (the piece with the crust) into two or more slices, depending on your appetite.
As for blue cheeses (Bleu d’Auvergne, Roquefort, Bleu de Termignon, Fourme d’Ambert, Montbrison, Bleu des Causses…), they exist in two different forms, each of them requiring distinct cutting methods (which is generally carried out by using a wire or a long knife).
Finally, Parmesan, Sbrinz and other cheeses of the same type, that is to say with a very hard dough, are not cut but “broken” apart, usually with a cheese cleaver.
Now get to your knives and enjoy cheese the right way.