Ages ago, in a place and time long forgot, I acquired an old-school cheese lyre. It was, essentially, a Y-shaped piece of steel with a stiff wire across the opening. It did not have one of those roller bars that dictate the thickness of your slice of cheese; the makers assumed you were an adult, and could decide for yourself how thick you wanted your cheese, from wafer-thin to inch-thick hunk. It was a marvel of low-technology—a bent piece of steel with a wire—and it lasted nigh on twenty years.
Two years ago, it broke. Since then, I’ve been looking for another one, but it’s impossible.
It’s totally understandable, of course; where’s the profit in making a simple, inexpensive tool that lasts for 20 years? Much more profit in making things that break after a year or two. Oh, I can find an industrial sized one, with a nine-inch aperture, but that has its own drawbacks. I might as well buy a coping saw and some piano wire; it’d be just as good, and I could replace the wire myself…
So, I gave up. I gave up on my search for the perfect tool and decided to look at other options. When I came across The Cheese Knife, I knew I’d found a contender.
First clue? Three-figures’ worth of rave reviews and a five-star rating. You don’t see that too often on Amazon. Second clue? It wasn’t like anything else on the market. It was a bit pricey, but if it lasts, it would be worth the shot.
I bought one, in black (I can’t abide brightly colored utensils) which, with shipping came to about $20. I bought the small one, which has a blade that’s about 4 inches along the edge. It is a plastic knife; I knew this beforehand, so I wasn’t surprised by it. There is a larger model, but I didn’t think I’d need it.
The blade is the key to this tool’s success. As I said, it’s plastic, but this keeps it from “grabbing” the cheese as you cut. It also has “shoulders”: look at the picture and you’ll see that there are three flares along the blade where it widens and then cuts back, like three wedges stacked atop the other. These also help the knife slip through the cheese. The “shoulders” push the cheese away from the blade and reduce the contact surface, reducing friction with the cheese.
I tried this cheese on standard, run-of-the-mill cheddar, Beecher’s Flagship, a Double Gloucester, and some mature, aged, coastal Cheddar. On each one, from soft to stiff, it cut through the cheese just fine. On drier cheeses (the mature Cheddar) that tend to fracture, thin slices (1/8th inch) tend to fracture as they curve off the blade, but thicker slices come off just fine. On the moister cheeses, the blade moved through easily, without pulling the cheese after it (due to the reduced surface area in contact with the cheese). I was able to make thin slices, thick cubes, all without the effort, slips, or pauses needed to clean a knife blade made gummy by cheese schmutz.
The handle was ergonomically angled, allowing for a downward angle of the hand, which provides a steadier pressure and surer grip. The handle was a bit small in my hand, but the force I had to use to slice the cheese was reduced, so that evened itself out.
Like my cheese lyre, this knife will not work on hard, dry cheeses like aged Parmesan or Myzithra, but for those a grater or a shaving blade is better anyway. At the other end of the spectrum, since it is a non-serrated edge, I wouldn’t recommend it for cutting through the rind of semi-liquid cheeses like brie. But then, I think you’re crazy for eating that stuff anyway, so…