You will notice I said “how to cut cheese”, not “cut the cheese”. I say this because my grammar-checker is currently trying to tell me I’m writing it incorrectly.
Grammatical issues aside, there is an art to cutting French cheeses at a dinner party that is not to be taken lightly.
Generally, the rules around cutting the cheese all center around not leaving one unfortunate person with all the crusty cheese rind. You don’t want some people to get all the creamy bits, and one person to be left with the rind. Unless you have the ol’ square block of cheddar that comes with no rind. Cheddar can be happily cut into cubes and your guests will love you for it.
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1. Round Cheeses
For round cheeses like camembert or coulommiers, the easiest way to remember how to cut them is like a cake. Start in the center, and work your way out.
No points for putting a candle on the cheese. You can make a wish however.
2. Pyramid-Shaped Cheeses
Valençay is a type of goat cheese and is absolutely delicious. So you might as well learn how to cut it properly. Similar to the round cheese, cut it as if you were cutting a cake, in long and narrow slices.
3. Small round Cheeses
Chavignol is another goat cheese, this time from the Loire Valley. It is very small and should be cut in 1/3, again like a cake.
4. Hard Cheeses
Hard cheeses like the comté or emmental don’t have much rind, except right at the end. And with the front being quite narrow, the “cheese gods” have deemed that this is the best way to ensure that everyone gets a fair share and the cheese is cut properly.
5. Soft Cheeses in a point
If there ever was a cheese controversy, this is it. Soft cheeses that end in a point can either be cut like the hard cheese version above, or they can be sliced length-wise.
One school of thought says you should never cut off the point, while the other school of thought says cutting lengthwise is impractical and leads to an unwieldy portion of cheese.
A debate topic for your next apéro get-together?
6. Blue Cheeses
Blue cheeses are quite strong and eaten at the end. (Yes, there is a cheese etiquette order in how you should eat the cheese.)
French dining etiquette says you should always finish your plate, so to do that, it is wise to cut in the fountain formation above.
This way you can cut as big or small a sliver as you wish.
7. Cheeses in a Wooden Box
Example: Mont d’Or
Now, you will point out to me that the camembert also comes in a wooden box, but I wrote above that the camembert should be cut like a cake above.
Unlike the camembert however, cheeses like Mont d’Or are very soft and can be scooped up directly with the spoon.
If you are making a baked camembert though, do leave it in the box and scoop up with cutlery.
8. Cylindrical Cheeses
Example: Saint Maure
Cylindrical cheeses are one of the easiest, because there are no two ways to cut them. Unless you want to be really creative that is.
9. Square Cheeses
Example: Carré Mirabelle
It will be tempting to cut a square cheese like the carré mirabelle length-wise, but we go back to Rule #1. You don’t want to leave anyone with the majority of the rind.
So again, like a cake, clockwise or anti-clockwise!
10. Heart-shaped Cheeses
Yes, there are heart-shaped cheeses, the nêufchatel is a protected specialty from Normandy. But really, this is meant to stand-in for any type of oddly-shaped cheese that you may be unsure of how to cut.
Like a cake, start in the middle and work outwards.
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And there you have it, the cheatsheet to how to cut a piece of cheese. Any other types of cheeses I missed? If you enjoyed that, you may want to read more about wine and cheese pairings here. A bientôt!